The long-simmering dispute between San Francisco and the real estate-gobbling Academy of Art University is headed for a showdown at the city Planning Commission on Thursday, a hearing that could provide a framework for an agreement that would bring dozens of properties into compliance with city laws. Sometimes criticized as a real estate investment firm masquerading as an educational institution, the university operates 33 buildings that violate zoning and housing laws, according to a new planning report. This is despite repeated warnings from city officials, including City Attorney Dennis Herrera, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. The university owns 40 properties, mostly clustered in Nob Hill and South of Market. All but seven violate some city regulations, according to planners. These include residential and tourist hotels that have been improperly converted into student housing, as well as retail and industrial spaces that have been turned into academic buildings. At 460-466 Townsend St., which is zoned for industrial use but is being used for classrooms, AAU has been accruing $250 a day in fines for years, which has added up to more than $500,000. The school also owes "a few thousand dollars" stemming from a parking garage… Read full this story
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