Portrait of the artist as an old cop - Page 2

Why is the city's police union lobbying for the Academy of Art?

In March 2007, the school was hit with a litany of alleged code violations, including 14 properties converted without conditional-use permits and seven made into group housing or modified for other school uses without building permits, Planning Department records show.

Before last year the academy had never submitted an institutional master plan to the city, even though San Francisco's Planning Code has required them from universities since the 1970s, particularly for a scattered campus that's in a position to dramatically alter the face of downtown, where the school is primarily located and its private transit buses are ubiquitous.

The academy finally turned one over in 2007 after city planners issued a citation in summer 2006. Afterward the department visited all of the school's properties and discovered multiple problems with use permits, plus an additional property the academy had recently acquired but didn't include in its plan.

Code enforcers tried to negotiate with the school, planning staffer Scott Sanchez told the commission. But after department personnel outlined the March 2007 violations for the academy, it simply continued onward, converting 601 Brannan for its own use without any building permits and doing the same at the Star Motel on Lombard, this time without a conditional-use application.

As the department worked to keep up, the academy purchased four new buildings and put its eye on another, all between spring and fall 2007.

"All of our information about their new facilities came from members of the public.... It wasn't actually through the academy, with whom we thought we had a dialogue about their institutional master plan," Sanchez told the Guardian. "We had something ongoing with them, yet they were not informing us of their new acquisitions, and they weren't obtaining proper permits for them."

The school, in fact, is accelerating plans to convert 575 Sixth St., known as the San Francisco Flower Mart, into studio space, despite opposition from the Mayor's Office, the Planning Commission, and the Board of Supervisors. The 30 floral business tenants that currently inhabit the building received eviction notices dated Christmas Eve 2007.

A future academy gymnasium is slated for 620 Sutter, but building it would result in the eviction of the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, a 25-year-old institution specializing in African American stage performances. The academy already converted part of the building to group housing without a permit.

So what else is the POA getting for its support of the arts? For one, the Academy of Art was a $5,000 putf8um sponsor of the POA's 2007 charity golf tournament at the StoneTree Golf Club in Novato, beating out dozens of other donors for the top of the list. The exclusive title was used for only three other contributors.

The union's November 2007 newsletter, which appeared just after Delagnes voiced his support for the school, announced that academy president Stephens had also given POA members working at the police department's Southern Station in SoMa 15 free underground parking spots on Bluxome, just a short walk from the Hall of Justice and the union's headquarters.

And that's the art of politics in San Francisco.

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