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Going for Gold 

Academy of Art’s new sports program is about spirit, marketing — and the chance to break even more rules.

Wednesday, Aug 27 2008

Page 5 of 5

By that point, Commissioner Ron Miguel had heard enough. He abruptly curtailed the debate and moved to vote on the project. "In my mind, you have thumbed your nose at the city and have done so for some time. You've been able to hire excellent counsel over the years, but it seems that you change counsel rather than comply with the law," he said, shooting a glance at David Cincotta, the school's third attorney in roughly a year.

One by one, the commissioners rebuked the academy before giving it the thumbs down. "You've improved the property, but it's a terrible precedent we set when an institution continues to break the law and we support that," said Gwyneth Borden, setting off a bout of head-nodding among her colleagues. The academy's application to convert the Star Motel was spiked 7-0. "That," said Hestor moments after the final tally, "was a kick in the teeth."

Correa is unsure if the school will appeal the decision to the Board of Supervisors, and says he now has no idea how to persuade the commission to approve conversions in which the city actually lost housing stock. Sanchez predicts it will take years to deal with the academy's 13 remaining contested properties. But he adds that if its retroactive applications to convert buildings into dorms are eventually denied, there's no reason the school should be allowed to continue operating those dorms.

The debacle at the Planning Commission was just one of several recent setbacks befalling the academy. In late July, the NCAA Division II Membership Committee officially informed the school that its request to begin the process of becoming a member had been denied. While the NCAA would not disclose its rationale, Hogue said the governing body wanted to observe the school's sports teams in action for a year before offering an invitation. The academy has filed an appeal, but it's likely the three-year process of gaining membership won't even start until next season — if then. And on Aug. 11, Supervisor Chris Daly introduced an "urgency ordinance" which would temporarily forbid the conversion of residential rental units into student housing. That legislation could be reviewed as early as mid-September at the next meeting of the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee.

The day before the planning commission meeting, academy coaches Peter Thibeaux and Lindsey Yamasaki ran a dozen men's and women's basketball players through a full practice at the Treasure Island YMCA. And a notable thing happened at that workout — aside from the fact it took place more than two months earlier than the mandated NCAA opening date for a hoops practice.

Thibeaux, a 6-foot-7 former Golden State Warrior, kept a watchful eye on his big men, both of whom towered over him as they banged bodies in the paint. Something — perhaps a lazy lob pass or bad footwork — caught his eye. "You're doing that shit again!" he shouted before banishing his team to run a set of punitive windsprints.

As Thibeaux' team lumbered back and forth across the hardwood, it was apparent the coach and players were well aware of a concept that is apparently only now dawning upon the academy: If you behave badly, you may be punished for it.

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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