The strange and terrible saga of Anne Kihagi, arguably this city’s cruelest landlord, reached an inflection point today. Judge Lynn O’Malley Taylor found her in contempt, and ordered her to report back to court March 8 with the $124,900 in rents she owes the city in hand, or be prepared to head to county jail for 10 days.
Mission Local asked Kihagi in the hallway, point blank, whether she planned to pay the money. Her attorney, Isaac Zfaty, intervened, stating Kihagi won’t be answering questions at this time. He held out the possibility of appealing this judgment.
He’d better hurry.
His request for a stay was denied by Judge Taylor. To prevent his client from being forced to either pay up or go to jail, he’d have to convince the court of appeals to take the case, then successfully convince another judge to issue a stay — all before Taylor’s deadline of 3:30 p.m. March 8.
It was yet another legal setback for Kihagi, who is amassing losing judgments at almost the same pace she built up a real-estate empire. Between 2006 and 2013, she acquired at least 14 Southern California properties (it appears she still owns at least 11 of them). In 2013 Kihagi, her sisters and various LLCs engaged in a San Francisco spending spree, picking up 11 San Francisco properties for a shade under $30 million.
Illegal evictions and unwarranted construction began almost immediately. The city last May stuck her with nearly $6 million in fines and fees in a case that’s still under appeal. The largest judgment in state history regarding one unit followed last October, when a jury awarded Dale Duncan and his family $3.5 million.
Ousted tenant Kelly Kimball is slated to have his case go to trial on March 19, and a virtual conga line of disgruntled former Kihagi renters is waiting in the wings.
The city’s contempt case centered on proving that Kihagi had not only failed to pay the January rents a judge ruled the city was entitled to glean, but had encouraged her tenants to skip paying it.
Judge Taylor found that, yes, that had happened, and ordered Kihagi to pay up, or else — and also left her on the hook for “reasonable attorneys’ fees.” Throughout the proceedings, the defendant — flanked by up to four attorneys — laughed and smiled as if everything was going her way. This seems to be a trend.
“In court, she was losing and smiling like she’s winning a million dollars,” said Kihagi tenant Sylvia Smith, whom the landlord has attempted to oust from Guerrero Street on multiple occasions, regarding one of Kihagi’s many other days in court. “I am not so smart, but I am old. I’ve been through many things. I can tell when someone is a little weird.”
Kihagi lost in court today, but on the PR front, she’s going on the offensive. She has hired a publicist and is offering magazines across the realm an “EXCLUSIVE interview opportunity” or op-ed from Kihagi, “pronounced ‘key-hah-gee.’”
Outside the courthouse, Deputy City Attorney Peter Keith could only shake his head at that development. As for the legal outcome, he’s pleased.
“Our legal system is based on due process,” he said. “And Anne Kihagi has gotten a lot of due process.”