Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Academy of Art and the Good Neighbor argument

Yesterday at the Land Use and Economic Development meeting I saw what was the start of an investigation into the housing practices of the AAU. Last week the Chronicle talked about how this business was really in the business of slum lord ship and in violation of several building codes. I believe the outstanding code violations number 34. Several of these 34 codes are what are known as life codes; or codes that endanger human life. The other problem this giant land owner has that in a disproportionate amount of the buildings being used as dorms are actually rent controlled buildings or former SROs.
Lets start with the SRO buildings. The impact on one hundred and fifty units of SRO housing have been taken off the market by a company that grosses somewhere just over a billion a year. Many advocate groups lobbied David Chiu, Eric Mar, and Sophie Maxwell about the huge impact the loss of that many SRO units were lost. When a company buys a residence hotel and displaces the poorest environs in a city where do they go. Most likely onto the street and into shelters. The shelters are not a guarantee because nationally over 50 percent of homeless can not qualify for sheltered housing or benefits. To qualify for GA one must have a bank account and to have said account one must have money. Although care not cash is headed in the right direction it has run into snags along the way as well. This impact of 150 rooms gone makes the burden fall on not for profits and tax payers to house these new homeless. There are not enough rooms in SRO and the legislation allotting people to pay 15 to 30 % of their income in new construction just fuels the existing problems.
The academy of art also buys up many of the rent controlled buildings. In a city with so little affordable housing again the impact on the community is great. The AAU has 9 dorms, 17 properties used as dwellings and group housings. The AAU and Larry Badner call single kitchen single living space a dwelling. A single kitchen multiple living spaces a Group living space and then no kitchen dorm rooms. So they are taking rent controlled buildings and sticking 4 people in every room possible and sharing a kitchen and call it group housing for mostly wealthy foreign students. The code violations occur when too many people are forced in to small a living space and effectively turn a property into a dorm. Having lived at Bush and Post there are several such building and they are not pleasant to live around. Loud behavior, smoking on the cigarette butt strewn side walk, alcohol use and consumption on the sidewalk. I went to college so I'm not surprised at the student behavior but to impact a community in this way and then say that it is for the love of San Francisco is crazy.
Another issue brought up is that the AAU does not own these properties out right so they are still rent controlled buildings making huge profits by over charging and over crowding. When a property does not change ownership it remains at a 2% yearly property tax increase. So not only is the revenue going directly to the school but there is a loss of tax revenue for the city by skirting the issue of ownership change.
So lets see what else. The AAU kept reiterating that they are doing the city a service by creating a love by foreign students that go home and talk up San Francisco. Brad Paul pointed out that this may be true but many such students stay for jobs in Sf and where are they supposed to live? He also proposed measures to create some public funding fees to be placed in the hands of this university to offset this displacement and impact on the community. Personally I think all land purchasing should stop till all the EIR reports are filled and completed, building violations are brought up to code, and a fare back payment on environmental impact is made. This is exactly the accountability we need from large companies gobbling up land and power in this city. As Jeff Kotsitsky of the CHP stated, "If our buildings were under this many code violations then we would have real trouble from a committee such as this."
So why has the AAU gotten away with this? Where was representation from district 6? Why are the EIR reports not made a priority and pushed through legislation? It's time to find out and get answers and restitution from one of the biggest slum lords, taking advantage of over seas students, and enforce strict laws and adherence to all outstanding code violations.

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