Herrera laughs off ad hominem attack and conspiracy theory by AAU’s senior counsel, who lashes out against lawsuit over client’s rampant violations
SAN FRANCISCO (May 7, 2016)—City Attorney Dennis Herrera reacted with amusement to allegations by Academy of Art University’s current lawyer, James J. Brosnahan, that San Francisco’s newly-filed lawsuit over the for-profit school’s rampant Planning and Building Code violations was secretly motivated by a perceived political slight from five-years ago.
Brosnahan—who is the seventh counsel-of-record for the embattled university in its decade-long dispute with city officials—reportedly told news organizations Friday, May 6, that Herrera was “bitter” that AAU’s president and owner, Elisa Stephens, chose to back Mayor Ed Lee in the 2011 mayoral race, after she had earlier supported Herrera’s candidacy. “I don’t think Dennis ever got over it,” Brosnahan reportedly told journalists, adding that the city attorney is now using his power “to get back at her.”
Herrera, who laughed off Brosnahan’s contention, said: “I’m not sure which part of Jim’s theory is more ridiculous—that I’d be that petty, or that Elisa Stephens’ endorsement is that important. I stand by the merits of our lawsuit.”
Conspicuously missing from news coverage of Brosnahan’s press availability on Friday was a statement resembling: “My client followed the law.”
The 60-page civil complaint Herrera filed in San Francisco Superior Court details a decade-long pattern of lawlessness and defiance by AAU and a complex array of affiliated limited liability companies, which have purchase and leased some 40 properties for use by the private university citywide. Apart from multiple unauthorized, unpermitted, and wholly disallowed uses of various properties, the complaint references dozens of additional violations of zoning, signage, environmental, historical preservation, and building code requirements. The action, which Herrera filed on behalf of the City and County of San Francisco as well as the People of the State of California, also contends that AAU unlawfully deprived San Francisco of some 300 residential dwellings, which are desperately needed in the midst of the city’s severe affordable housing crisis. The suit further alleges that the AAU defendants’ unfair and fraudulent business practices illegally denied San Franciscans their rightful role in neighborhood planning decisions, and disadvantaged law-abiding competitors in San Francisco’s real estate marketplace.
Among sixteen candidates for Mayor of San Francisco in the city’s Nov. 8, 2011 Consolidated Municipal Election, Herrera finished third. The City Attorney was unaware that Elisa Stephens had endorsed his 2011 mayoral bid prior to learning about it Friday.
The case is: People of the State of California, ex rel. Dennis J. Herrera, et al. v. Stephens Institute, d/b/a Academy Of Art University, et al., San Francisco Superior Court, filed May 6, 2016.
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