Meet The Woman They Call ‘San Francisco’s Cruelest Landlord’
We sat down for an interview with Anne Kihagi, who has been dubbed “San Francisco’s Cruelest Landlord” in the local media. Kihagi has been in the headlines for being slapped with a $3.5 million wrongful eviction fine reported as the “largest [ever] in a single-unit landlord-tenant case not involving personal injury claims in the nation,” a separate $2.4 million harassment and unlawful eviction fine in May 2017, and being sentenced to five days in jail in yet another completely separate West Hollywood Ellis Act violation case.
But these are not even the most shocking headlines among Anne Kihagi’s legal cases. San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera has accused her of “waging a ruthless war to illegally force tenants from their rent-controlled homes so she could charge more money,” with charges of interrupting tenants’ gas, electricity and water service, and evicting seniors and people with disabilities. There have even been media reports of her accusing a 70-year-old grandmother of buying drugs for her neighbors.
“The truth is, it’s not a lie,” Kihagi tells BrokeAssStuart.com. “[That tenant] smokes more weed than any 21-year-old.”
But Kihagi says she’s the target of a City Hall campaign of harassment against her. “The City Attorney’s office has a corrupt mechanism they call a ‘task force’,” she says. “They’re using that to screw a lot of landlords. Everyone asks me, ‘Why you?’ The problem is, I don’t like being screwed around with.”
(The above video was created by BrandBar and paid for by Anne Kihagi. BrandBar allowed us to use it for this article. We received no money from Kihagi.)
After remaining relatively silent amid three years of unflattering media reports, she’s beginning to speak out. The video above shows Anne Kihagi doing not-cruel things like strolling through the Mission, showing off her properties’ well-maintained PG&E meters, and pointing out windows she claims were busted by anti-eviction activists. The video also contains a bombshell allegation the City Attorney is spending the majority of its resources just to prosecute her.
Kihagi’s attorney Karen Uchiyama says in the video, “According to the City Attorney’s office, the code enforcement department is spending 73 percent of their resources to take down Anne Kihagi, a woman who is a single manager, who owns ten buildings in San Francisco, which is kind of small-time compared to the big property management companies.”
But when she says “resources,” that’s a little disingenuous. As we see in the City Attorney’s annual budget above, code enforcement cases such as those brought against Kihagi only account for a tiny 2 percent of that department’s budget. (Which is still more then $82 million!) Instead, she’s referring to the time spent by one deputy city attorney prosecuting the mountain of code complaints lodged against Kihagi.
“The city attorney Michael Weiss testified that he’s spending 73 percent of his time on me. Don’t you think something’s wrong?,” Kihagi says. “The building department should be able to operate as a separate division of the city, not influenced by a city attorney whose agenda is different.”
According to court transcripts obtained by BrokeAssStuart.com, Deputy City Attorney Michael Weiss did testify last fall that “probably 70 percent of my time has been spent — 60 to 70 percent of my time has been spent dealing with Ms. Kihagi” and that this was “really concentrated from, say, August of 2016 through March of 2017.”
But the City Attorney’s office Communications Director John Coté tells us, “Ms. Kihagi’s repeated and well-documented refusal to comply with the law and at least 10 court orders created a lot of unnecessary work for dedicated public servants, including attorneys in our office. It took a 12-week trial by three skilled Deputy City Attorneys, including Mr. Weiss, to present the vast evidence of these defendants’ rampant tenant harassment, fraud and unsafe construction.”
And the city attorney’s code enforcement team has about a dozen attorneys, not just Michael Weiss. Lately they’ve successfully seized her rent payments for wrongful evictions and code violations, and got a $125,000 payment out of her to avoid a 10-day jail sentence that is separate from the West Hollywood jail sentence. And there’s the previously mentioned $5 million-plus in fines.
THE NICKNAME “SAN FRANCISCO’S CRUELEST LANDLORD”
Anne Kihagi is ubiquitously described in local media using the phrase “San Francisco’s cruelest landlord.” This specific “cruelest landlord” moniker has been seen on SFGate, in the SF Weekly, and on Mission Local.
The first appearance of the “cruelest landlord” phrase appears to be in Joe Eskenazi’s October 2017 San Francisco magazine article Home Invader: The Life and Crimes of San Francisco’s Cruelest Landlord. (Though it may have its origins in a May 2017 press release from the city attorney that says “Her cruelty is stunning” and “She forced one tenant out of his longtime home as he battled terminal cancer. That breathtaking cruelty was matched only by her contempt for the law.”)
Eskenazi himself is not sure whether he even coined the phrase. “I don’t recall. It was me, or someone at San Francisco magazine. I can’t claim credit,” he tells BrokeAssStuart.com, though he adds, “It was an impeccably fact-checked story. Everything checked out.”
But the phrase has caught on, and now follows Kihagi in pretty much all media coverage. “What hurts me the most is the effects on my mother. I feel so bad, it absolutely harms her,” she told us.
“It’s abusive it’s insulting, it’s disingenuous,” she says. “It’s been offensive to my mother, it’s been offensive to my family, it’s been offensive to my friends. It’s offensive to anyone who would go by my buildings and see how I maintain them.”
Kihagi feels the litany of charges against her all in retaliation for a civil suit she filed in 2015 against the City and County of San Francisco. (The judge ruled against her.) And judges have been ruling against her pretty regularly for the last three years, both in in West Hollywood and here in San Francisco, finding her guilty of cutting off tenants’ utilities and committing wrongful evictions.
But Kihagi insists she’s just clearing out bad tenants, and she’s going to keep appealing the rulings against her. “I don’t like what’s going on in San Francisco,” she says. “It’s had an expensive and emotional toll on me to say something’s wrong. But I do believe now that now that I’ve been given the platform, I can speak out and say what’s wrong.”