If you’re a rent-controlled tenant who lives in the “TenderNob,” and Skyline Realty
(a.k.a. CitiApartments) hasn’t bought your building yet, chances are that the Academy of Art will. That’s because the for-profit University doesn’t build new dorm housing for their students; they prefer to buy and convert existing buildings. On December 6th, the Planning Commission will hold a hearing about the Academy’s 10-year master plan
– where the institution anticipates doubling its enrollment in the next 10 years. Some of that is through online courses, but there will be 6,000 more on-site students – and they guarantee housing for all students who request it. By the Academy’s own estimation, they plan to acquire more buildings to accommodate another 250 students in the next five years – which will mean further headaches for low-income tenants struggling to get by.
Last year, I wrote about
the Academy’s acquisition of rent-controlled apartments – and how it affects the overall housing stock in San Francisco. At the time, I reported that they acquired nine apartment buildings in ten years – including 3 SRO’s that provided housing for the City’s most vulnerable tenants. The Tenderloin Housing Clinic (which publishes Beyond Chron) once represented the tenants at 1080 Bush Street, when their absentee slumlord let the building deteriorate. Today, it’s the Academy of Art’s Leonardo da Vinci dormitory.
By the Academy’s own admission, eight of their 17 dormitories were once either large apartment buildings or SRO’s – and says that they have a “history of purchasing existing buildings when need dictates, and then renovating or upgrading them in order to provide adequate housing facilities to the students. The school does not develop new housing units, it updates existing ones.” Unlike many schools, which build new dorms to deal with increased student enrollment, the Academy explicitly takes over existing housing.
But do they evict the long-term tenants? The Academy claims that they don’t, although they have a bad history of evicting others
to achieve their expansionist tendencies. Recently, they announced plans to close down the historic Lorraine Hansberry Theatre – and replace it with a gym for their students.
The Academy says they specifically target under-utilized buildings, “thereby giving the University immediate access to an effective amount of usable space without having to ‘force-out’ any tenants.” In their report, the Academy boasts a whopping 22 non-student residents who live in their buildings – and are “allowed to remain … for as long as they wish.” If you break it down, that’s about 3 tenants per building – who are probably not welcome in a building full of new students.
But even if they tolerate the few hold-over tenants who didn’t move out, the Academy’s practice puts further pressure on the insane rental market
– as potential tenants who are not enrolled at the Academy (or for that matter, the school’s graduates who must move out at the end of the semester) scour the area for available rentals. The shrinking number of available rentals exacerbates an already tight market.
Incredibly, the Academy claims that their Master Plan satisfies the City’s Housing General Plan: “Having such housing available to students,” they wrote, “decreases student demand on traditional housing resources and provides a short-term housing alternative to students that may not be generally available in the San Francisco housing market.” They temporarily accommodate their own students, so the rest of the City doesn’t have to. But options for all other tenants in the City become more difficult.
The Academy anticipates doubling their student enrollment in the next ten years. Even if you take out the increase among online courses, that would still be an increase of 6,000 students who will attend the San Francisco campus in person. Part of the problem may be the school’s “no-barrier undergraduate admissions policy” – where they seem to take anyone who’ll pay tuition. The Academy says their students come from 103 countries – which illustrates another problem: most of the students who will need their housing are international students. And as a friend of mine who worked for the Academy explained, “it’s a lot of money to attend, but the degree isn’t even that valuable.”
The Academy plans to add 250 dorm rooms in the next five years to accommodate their planned growth. “While the University’s preference would be to obtain these rooms within a single building,” they wrote, “the vagaries of San Francisco’s real estate market may require multiple acquisitions to accommodate student residents.” Specifically, they hope to get buildings close to where most of their classes are located – which means the Tenderloin, Union Square and Lower Nob Hill. If you’re a tenant in that area, beware!
Fortunately, the Academy of Art is a private institution – which means that unlike the University of California and other state schools, it must fall under local jurisdiction. The San Francisco Planning Commission will hold a hearing on December 6th to assess the Academy’s proposed Master Plan. Everyday San Franciscans should get involved in the process to demand that our City government do everything in its power to put an end to this corporation’s expansion.
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