A 2015 protest against Anne Kihagi. Photo by Allen Timon via Onpublica

Contempt charge purged for city’s ‘cruelest landlord’ after her check clears

Renegade landlord Anne Kihagi’s dance with the city has taken some wild twists and turns, but last week she was faced with a simple, binary option: Pay up or go to jail

On March 1, Judge Lynn O’Malley Taylor found Kihagi, a serial predatory landlord, in contempt of court. At issue: Kihagi had failed to turn over rent money a judge said the city was entitled to glean and, furthermore, had encouraged her tenants to not pay that money to the city. Her choice was stark: Show up on Thursday with a $124,900 check, or check into county jail for 10 days.

Kihagi chose the former. The city yesterday deemed that her check, delivered March 6, had indeed cleared. This staves off the specter of incarceration, but Kihagi’s path forward is still a treacherous one.

She must, by March 12, come up with a much larger bond — for more than $8 million — to offset the multi-million dollar judgment the city won against her or else the city will, once again, begin gleaning her rents.

The city will, today, file a rejoinder to Kihagi’s appeal of that case. City Attorney Dennis Herrera is, in fact, in the novel position of being a successful litigant actually pushing to accelerate a hearing in the court of appeal, as a number of the penalties levied against Kihagi can’t take effect until the case is ultimately adjudicated.   

Along with the roughly $5.5 million (and growing) judgment against Kihagi won by the city, evicted former tenant Dale Duncan and his family last year won $3.5 million — purportedly the largest ever jury award in a California case involving one dwelling unit. 

Ousted Kihagi tenant Kelly Kimball’s case against her is pending, and a legion of other tenants’ cases await.

Kihagi obtained 14 Southern California properties between 2006 and 2013 and appears to still own at least 11 of them. In 2013 she and her sisters, using a web of LLCs, undertook a San Francisco spending spree. Between December of that year and June 2016, she acquired 11 San Francisco buildings for nearly $30 million.

As described in an extraordinarily detailed 163-page 2017 ruling from Judge Angela Bradstreet, illegal evictions, unwarranted construction and unnerving behavior followed in nearly all of the city buildings, many of which are located in the Mission.

Kihagi laughed and smiled through her most recent court appearances, even when the judge ruled she’d contravened court orders and owed the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Little, it seems, gets her down.

“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 evict from Guerrero Street on several 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.”

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Managing Editor/Columnist. Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left.

“Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior editor at San Francisco Magazine from 2015 to 2017. You may also have read his work in the Guardian (U.S. and U.K.); San Francisco Public Press; San Francisco Chronicle; San Francisco Examiner; Dallas Morning News; and elsewhere.

He resides in the Excelsior with his wife and three (!) kids, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

The Northern California branch of the Society of Professional Journalists named Eskenazi the 2019 Journalist of the Year.

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