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

Five Mission District properties placed into receivership

Another domino this week fell in the bizarre case of Anne Kihagi, the woman who quickly and ruthlessly laid claim to the title of San Francisco’s cruelest landlord — prompting the question of just how many dominoes she has left.

A judge on Monday admitted that “ordinary remedies are inadequate and ineffective” in dealing with Kihagi, and took the extreme step of wresting away her eight known remaining residential properties and placing them under the control of court-appointed receiver Kevin Singer. Three other former Kihagi properties, tied up in a lawsuit with Umpqua Bank, had previously been placed into receivership under Singer and sold.

At issue was Kihagi’s monthslong violation of the terms of a court injunction — namely that she hire a property manager who was approved by the city and address the rampant health and safety violations in her numerous buildings. None of this occurred, prompting Judge Charles F. Haines to move the properties into receivership for what he described as “intentional” violations of the injunction.

On top of all that, Haines dinged Kihagi for an additional $470,000 in fines, which is added to a tab now exceeding $7 million. That gaudy bill is the result of her years-long campaign of wrongful and fraudulent evictions and scores of instances of unwarranted and substandard construction on her many properties — which earned her the nickname of San Francisco’s “cruelest landlord.”

“Our office fought hard to get a tough injunction to protect San Franciscans from Ms. Kihagi. She refused to obey that court order, but she is not getting away with it,” said City Attorney Dennis Herrera. “With the court appointing a receiver to take charge of her properties, these buildings are going to get the safety fixes they need, and the residents will no longer have to suffer from Ms. Kihagi’s predatory tactics.”

Between 2013 and 2016, Kihagi-controlled LLCs scooped up at least 11 San Francisco buildings for some $30 million. Kihagi’s M.O. was to buy rent-controlled structures at prices reflecting their constrained potential rental income — then systematically empty the buildings of their oft-elderly or disabled tenants and bring in new, market-rate renters. She could then borrow against this enhanced revenue stream, obtain new properties, and begin this process anew.

In May 2017, Judge Angela Bradstreet found for the city and against Kihagi in a jaw-dropping 163-page ruling. Bradstreet wrote that Kihagi and her family members, employing a morass of LLCs, engaged in an “egregious and ongoing” pattern of unlawful conduct, and levied $2.7 million in fines upon them for 1,612 separate violations.

A photo of Kihagi, via the San Francisco Tenants Union.

Kihagi appealed that ruling — but, in March 2019, a judge once more found against her. Not only was she on the hook for growing fines compounding at 10 percent interest rates, the terms of the court’s injunction against her became enforceable upon completion of the appeal. That set in motion the process that came to fruition on Monday, with the courts essentially taking over her remaining known housing inventory.

Five of the eight properties involved in this case are in the Mission: 1135-39A Guerrero St.; 3947 18th St.; 69-75 Hill St.; 3328-3330 26th St.; and 1378-1382 Alabama St.

Rent money from the dozens of tenants residing in the eight Kihagi structures will now go to receiver Kevin Singer, who will hire managers for the buildings. Singer will also control any proceeds from the sale of the structures, if he opts to move them. Should this come to pass, a long line of creditors will collect their share prior to Kihagi receiving any money.

Kihagi, additionally, will be on the hook for the potentially significant federal capital gains taxes stemming from the proceeds of her buildings’ sales — and, recall, three have sold already. She is, purportedly, responsible for these taxes even if the proceeds of those sales are completely absorbed by creditors, liens, and paying down the growing legal penalties and attorney fees owed to San Francisco.

Dale Duncan, a former Hill Street tenant of Kihagi’s, in 2017 won a $3.5 million wrongful eviction ruling against her in what was ostensibly the largest-ever judgment involving one unit. He is one of the many people waiting in line for a theoretical payday.

A judge later reduced that award to some $2.7 million (Duncan is appealing). He confirms he “hasn’t seen a dime.” Regardless, this most recent ruling gave him hope.

“I guess it’s just nice. This puts some order into the universe,” he said. “It’s good to see this actually kind of resolving on the side of justice in some way. Her hubris was just mind-blowing.”

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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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  1. The United States government has sanctioned the illegal transfer of property from African Americans for 160 years. This San Francisco landlord is doing what she learned from a legacy of greed, unscrupulous legal tactics, and evil. These tactics are not new, but never To my knowledge has a landlord been ordered to give a tenant a property without the purchase of said property.

    1. Hello sir — 

      The situation you are describing is a fabrication.

      You appear to have read — and taken as gospel — a self-authored press release about Anne Kihagi that was placed in a number of publications nationwide. To call it inaccurate would be akin to calling the Grand Canyon a hole.

      In the run up to November, I strongly advise you to be more discerning before believing everything you read.


  2. David, you must be a proxy for Kihagi, her lawyer Karen Uchiyama, or you just fell off the turnip truck. No one who knows this story in detail could say what you have said. Well, maybe Trump.

  3. Joe, what do you make of Kihagi’s defense in this interview of her? She claims her properties are in excellent shape and the City finds tiny code violations and then multiplies the fine by hundreds or thousands of days in order to get these ridiculous multimillion dollar penalties, and that the City is doing this in retaliation for her strong legal defense. See video:


    1. This article makes a he-said she-said of Kihagi’s word vs. multiple concluded legal cases in which the judges slammed home their points against her with the force of a train hitting a mountain.

      You might want to read some of these legal rulings. They are hundreds of pages long and go into meticulous detail.

      This article is ridiculous. The case against Kihagi has been established to a degree resembling the proven existence of gravity.



      1. When the forces of evil are against you they try to beat you down with a barrage of accusations as minute as a light bulb being out. It’s been said “it’s hard to fight City Hall” and these forces are trying their best to destroy this Lady because she’s standing her ground and fighting back. I like her spirit and perseverance in not allowing them to run roughshod over her. I hope she wins in the end!

        1. Only us Kenyans KNOW how unbelievably cruel landlords can get especially that Kenyan govt doesn’t care one bit, most Kenyan landlords are incredibly greedy, crooked and INHUMAN so you can imagine that a good number of us have ZERO sympathy for her

      2. JE,
        First of all I feel bad for the former and current tenants who have been adversely affected by these sordid events.
        Its hard for me to understand any support Ms. Kihagi gets. Reading linked articles provides all the information necessary to understand that Ms. Kihagi wouldn’t hesitate to use illegal means to give the boot to any and all of the people who profess to support her if they were her tenants. As an African American man in his sixties who experienced the civil rights movement of the 1960’s up close and personal it pains me to see people default to playing the race card in defense of such an unworthy figure.
        Where can i find Judge Angela Bradstreet’s legal findings? I want to read the legal rulings that go into meticulous detail and shred Ms. Kihagi’s defense strategies.

        1. Charles — 

          If I can’t find a link to the ruling, I’ll e-mail it to you or post them online and send you a link.



  4. Before tenants are paid, the credits will be paid… this is very sad considering how much of their lives they will have wasted for a no pay day.. Also, the landlord walks away unaffected as these properties are structured via Corporations, the net affect was a landlord pulling out equity of these higher valued properties, the city coming after Her and the tenants being potentially terrorized, I didn’t see any winners in this exercise.

    1. Sir or madam — 

      While you are correct about the first assertion — there are many entities in line before the aggrieved tenants — I don’t believe you are regarding the second. The LLCs have been determined to be under the control of Kihagi and her family members.

      This has been an odd case and a hard one to predict, but I do not foresee the landlord walking away “unaffected.”



    2. Jay, the natives of this country were here before it was called America; therefore they are actually Pre-American Natives.

  5. I think many people are wondering why the writer provided no information into the background of this cruelest S.F. landlord.
    It would seem she could be either A) a genius at real estate deals, B) working with one of those TV real estate groups who provide funding for deals she finds, or C) maybe a front for an overseas racketeering group using their scam gotten cash to launder into CA gold? In any case, for one person to rack up 1600+ violations seems like it could be a record (another story line perhaps?). The only thing that is worse than this person’s alleged and perhaps now proven willful abuse of tenants is that the legal system in San Francisco is so inefficient that it has taken essentially six years to catch up to her.

    Joe Eskenazi – Why choose to use the uncommonly used term “wrest” instead of the more easily understood term confiscated?

    1. Tony — 

      Thanks for reading. Ms. Kihagi’s background is so lengthy and so tortured that it’s hard to sum it up and do it justice. There are a number of links to a number of articles, so I’m a bit puzzled by your claim that no background was provided. Additionally, we summed up her history as briefly as possible within this story.

      With regard to your speculation about front groups and whatnot, news articles are not the place for speculation.

      Her formula was clearly spelled out within the article: Buy buildings at prices reflecting their rent-controlled status, break the law to boot out the rent-controlled tenants, bring in market-rate tenants, borrow against that enhanced revenue stream, and then repeat this process. There is some level of genius involved here, I suppose, if you concede that this system requires one to break the law, handily and repeatedly.

      Of note, nobody said Rosie Ruiz was a “genius” marathon-runner.

      While San Francisco is not a paragon of efficiency, the slowness here has little to do with the city and everything to do with the speed of the court process and the complexity of this case — especially when Ms. Kihagi has proven adversarial and non-cooperative, and has spent handily to oppose every last legal motion.

      I’m not sure why the term “confiscate” is somehow easier to process than “wrest,” which simply means “take by force.” Also, “confiscate” is not the right term, legally or semantically. The buildings are still in Ms. Kihagi’s possession, but the city has wrested away *control.* You can’t confiscate control.



    1. Wait you want my tax dollars to feed her for ten years only to send her away back to another country which may or may not accept her, i do not wish to pay her medical, her hiusing and food supplies, if she will ultimately be deported. Do that now, save the money on the prosecution and housing costs, sieze and sell off all properties, start with the person who has been waiting the longest to get paid, not the most but who has waited the longest, pay off everyone then pay off the tax money owed, then the court fines, charge her for the cost of deportation etc, any money left over, use it to help the homeless find a roof over their heads, but please dont reward this slum lord by giving her free room and board and medical for ten years, that would be a terriblle message to send to other immigrants, go to america make lots of money, hurt a lot of people, and get room and board and a free ticket home, ya we will be inudated by more just likr her,

  6. Despite the fact that I appreciate folks trying to do the right thing, I am pretty mad to hear this via an article and not directly from either the district attorney office, the court or the company who sold this property. I am a tenant in one of these buildings and although all entities claim they just act in our interest, the lack of direct communication really makes me doubt this. If telling the media is the first things vs telling us, this looks more like a political move vs actually doing the right thing for us to me.

    1. They just got the ruling from the judge yesterday. Take it easy, you’ll be hearing more shortly.

  7. I live in one of her apartments- 650 Church- and have no idea what’s going on with our $6000 security deposit or who we should talk to about it. There’s more information in the news paper than is being given to tenants.

    1. Good news is that you’ll now be able to deal with a proper management company. Keep your documents in order and you will be fine.

  8. Seeing the photo of her blew me away. She looks so young. It’s scary but impressive how she’s managed to do this.

    1. She’s originally from my country Kenya where landlords are incredibly cruel and inhuman, and governments don’t care one bit, and they actually do worse stuff in Kenya and get away with it all the time, so you can imagine how good this news is to us or sweet it sounds!

  9. “creditors will receive their pound of flesh”. Have you any idea how offensive that is? They have advanced her goods or money, or are owed judgement awards, including to tenants, and you call this a pound of flesh? Shame on you. That puts you on her side.

    1. Madam — 

      While I was intending to simply note the severity of the cut — great deals of money are owed to a great deal of people or entities — the Shakespearian phrasing does imply the ask was unreasonable or severe. It is not. I will change the wording.


  10. Hopefully they are doing the same with her LA properties. Then they can send her back to one of the 5 countries she has claimed she is from.

    1. Just another bigot here…being in violation of court orders,equates to “send her back” in what way other than somehow,people of color aren’t quite Americans. My family “came here” in 1571 and you probably came after 9-11…and you think you are more American because….?

      1. Sorry, coastrider: It has nothing to do with the color of her skin. When people come here from other countries, they need to act legally, regardless. She could be from anywhere in Europe and people would still respond the same way: to send her back.

        1. Nah, I somehow doubt that the reaction would be the same if her color was white with European or other origin.

          For a lot of people with deep rooted issues, racism lurks just below the surface, waiting to show its ugly mug. Specially with the so called commander in chief egging them on even if it is for petty votes.

        2. You wouldn’t even mention her origin if she were a white woman. At least be honest with yourself. That is what kills me is that you say it is not about African origin or color of skin but these are the words out of your mouth. Since you are a racist, just be honest about it.

          1. LOL. It would be worse if she was White. She would be called racist for kicking everyone out, This gal is getting people feeling sorry for her and you all are having her back for her doing so many bad things. She deserves to go to prison and then some for her fraud and lies. She is disgusting. Get a clue and look at the facts!!!!!

          1. Well if you understood the origin of the word, Indian, you would know that it’s root word is , “ Indigenous “. I am an indigenous person. My family roots don’t come from Africa, neither does my DNA trace back to Africa. It traces to the America’s. Which is a well known fact if the government. The pictures if “ Indians” have changed throughout the years to make them look damn near white. We have pics of our ancestors who are dressed in ceremonial garb and are melanated dark skinned people.

        3. Dan earn the racist talk. Sending this black woman to where she came from is okay. Just don’t be a coward and try to act like it isn’t racist. Trump had even more violations than her, but you wouldn’t dare say anything like that. I hate cowards. They die ugly deaths. Hooah!

      2. My family walked over the Bering ice 20,000 years ago. They told me you are just like all the other transplants.

    2. Really? Send them back? I hope you got room on the boat for Trump and Kushner. How do you think they made their money?