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Monday, September 28, 2015

City Data Shows Academy of Art University is Operating Most of its Buildings Illegally

Posted By on Mon, Sep 28, 2015 at 10:21 AM

click to enlarge MISSY MARTINEZ/FLICKR
  • Missy Martinez/Flickr

File this under “no shit”: Academy of Art University, the for-profit art school cum real estate behemoth, may be operating several buildings illegally.

As SocketSite reports, 75 percent of AAU’s (more than) 40 properties are operating without the necessary approvals or permits. This is based on data from a Planning Department report that will be presented to the Planning Commission next week.

Even worse, at least nine buildings — which currently house some 330 student rooms — are ineligible to be legalized for their current purposes unless changes are made to the city planning code. These buildings include student dorms that are zoned for residential use, as well as athletic fields zoned for industrial warehouse use and classrooms zoned for light industrial use.

Last month, Forbes published a long, damning exposé of AAU and its president, Elisa Stephens. According to that report, the university generates $300 million in annual revenue and, as one of the largest landowners in the city, presides over a real estate empire worth an estimated $420 million. The most conspicuous of these buildings feature ground floor showrooms displaying the Stephens family’s classic car collection, valued at $70 million.

AAU is slated to submit a Master Plan to the city in November, while the university’s environmental impact report is due in April. The Planning Commission has said the Master Plan will determine how to best regulate or preserve AAU's buildings.


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Jeremy Lybarger

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