San Francisco’s “cruelest landlord” files suit against the city in loss of 11 apartment buildings

Anne Kihagi alleges fraud and racial bias by officials

Anne Kihagi (Facebook, Getty)
Anne Kihagi (Facebook, Getty)

Anne Kihagi, dubbed San Francisco’s “cruelest landlord” for her aggressive eviction tactics against low-income tenants, filed suit this week against the City of San Francisco and two deputy city attorneys.

In the complaint, she alleges that the city’s suits and injunctions against her were a racially and politically motivated “continuous fraud” that led to the loss of her 11 rental properties. The suit further argues that a gay judge who ruled against her and her various ownership LLCs had a “secret emotional” conflict of interest after reading reports of “disgruntled, homosexual tenants” who had been protesting her evictions in the Castro.

The lawsuit asks for damages “in a sum to be determined at time of trial” and that her properties in receivership be barred from sale or foreclosure. Six buildings have already been sold with the proceeds going largely to creditors.

Kihagi described herself in the 46-page suit as “an educated Black businesswoman from London” and one of “the few African-American/British landlords who operate rental housing businesses in San Francisco.” The complaint alleges she was “treated like an uneducated Black slave as she was lynched by an invisible rope” held by Deputy City Attorneys Michael Weiss and Peter Keith.

“Kihagi appeared to be a successful Black landlord making money by renovating her apartments and renting them out for market rents,” the suit reads. “Defendant Weiss wanted to enjoin her from doing what most Caucasian landlords strive for.”

The suit was filed Aug. 1 by landlord attorney Karen Uchiyama in U.S. District Court. Uchiyama previously defended Kihagi against the city’s claims of illegal evictions and tenant harassment, though in 2019 she also sued Kihagi for more than $150,000 in back pay, according to a report from Mission Local.

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The newly filed suit claims that Weiss has had a vendetta against Kihagi ever since she filed a May 2015 complaint in federal court to stop him from mounting inspections of her properties after tenants reported building code violations. Tenants also argued that she was evicting rent-controlled residents, who were often disabled and/or elderly, renovating their units and then filling them with market-rate renters.

In June 2015, Weiss filed what Kihagi calls a “retaliatory” suit against her and by December of that year then-City Attorney Dennis Herrera had filed an injunction against Kihagi and called her tactics “vicious” and “despicable” in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. State Sen. Scott Wiener, who was then a supervisor representing the Castro district where many of Kihagi’s evictions took place, went a step further by describing her to the paper as “a sociopath who has no regard for the lives or well-being of her tenants and no regard for the law.”

San Francisco Magazine dubbed Kihagi the city’s “cruelest landlord” in a fall 2017 story, a few months after Judge Angela Bradstreet ruled against her, voiding all her pending evictions, fining her $2.7 million in damages plus attorneys fees, and mandating that her properties be operated by a city-approved manager.

Bradstreet is not among the named defendants in the suit, but it does say that the judge, who is gay, was improperly swayed by “defamatory” press releases featuring “disgruntled, homosexual tenants” in the Castro. That Bradstreet did not disqualify herself after reading the stories of gay tenants denied Kihagi her constitutional right to a fair trial, according to the suit.

In a seperate 2017 action, Kihagi was ordered to pay $3.5 million to a Mission couple who were kicked out of their 21-year-home by what they called a “bogus” relative move-in eviction, the biggest single-unit payout in California history at the time. It was later reduced to $2.7 million, an amount that was upheld on appeal in 2021.

In 2019, Kihagi lost all 11 of her known city properties after she refused to use a property manager selected by the city. In the suit, Kihagi argues that, once in possession of the properties, the defendants, their “rogue receiver” and his “self-serving special counsel” set out to “liquidate them (per defendants’ political agenda), not to preserve them or manage them to keep them profitable, or do what was in plaintiffs’ best business interests.”

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