“The court forcefully affirmed San Francisco’s interest in protecting public health, and repeatedly emphasized the likelihood that the sugary soda lobby’s case would fall flat,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said.

Herrera statement on California Supreme Court denying appeal by predatory landlord Anne Kihagi

Herrera says  ‘residents will finally be able to live their lives in peace’

“The court forcefully affirmed San Francisco’s interest in protecting public health, and repeatedly emphasized the likelihood that the sugary soda lobby’s case would fall flat,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said.SAN FRANCISCO (March 13, 2019) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera released the following statement in response to today’s decision by the California Supreme Court denying review of an appeal by notorious landlord Anne Kihagi and her accomplices:

“I am pleased that the California Supreme Court quickly determined that Anne Kihagi’s appeal had no merit. Ms. Kihagi has repeatedly tried to manipulate the court system to thwart the rule of law, but justice will prevail. Ms. Kihagi apparently thought she could treat the justice system like a pawn. She continually violated court orders and was even convicted of contempt of court during her appeal. This defeat couldn’t be clearer. It’s time for Ms. Kihagi to end her games. This decision will allow the trial court’s full injunction to go into effect, which prohibits Ms. Kihagi from contacting tenants and requires that an independent property manager oversee these properties. This will not only help the tenants, it will help ensure these properties are brought into compliance with our building and housing codes that protect the health and safety of San Franciscans. These residents will finally be able to live their lives in peace. This is a victory for all San Francisco tenants and the rule of law.”

Background
Herrera filed a lawsuit against Kihagi and her associates in June 2015 for her widespread pattern of unlawful business practices that included waging “a war of harassment, intimidation, and retaliation” against her tenants. Once forced from their homes, Kihagi routinely ordered unpermitted construction work before re-renting the uninspected and potentially dangerous apartments to unsuspecting new tenants at vastly higher rents.

Kihagi started buying properties in June 2013 in Noe Valley, the Castro, the Mission and North Beach. She has amassed 11 buildings in those and other San Francisco neighborhoods. This was after a similar campaign of illegal evictions and harassment against rent-controlled tenants in West Hollywood, California.

The 152-page final decision issued on May 23, 2017 from San Francisco Superior Court Judge Angela Bradstreet ruled in favor of the San Francisco on every count, voiding all evictions pending as of Jan. 12, 2017 and awarding $2.7 million in penalties. Judge Bradstreet later ordered the defendants to pay an additional $2.7 million in attorney’s fees and costs, bringing the total to $5.4 million plus interest. Today’s decision covers the first $2.7 million judgment in penalties. A second appeal on the additional $2.7 million in attorney’s fees and costs is pending.  With interest on these judgments and the additional attorney’s fees Kihagi now owes San Francisco after losing her appeal, her liability to San Francisco is expected to exceed $7 million.

Kihagi’s tactics included fraud; harassment; threats; intimidation; verbal abuse; interrupting gas, electric, water, and cable service; disrupting mail service; and failing to cash rent checks, only to later claim them as untimely rent payments. She and her agents also backdated correspondence and notices; violated tenants’ privacy by entering their apartments without required notice; refused to timely abate unsafe conditions; and even retaliated against tenants who cooperated with city inspectors by installing video surveillance cameras aimed at the residents’ front doors. Well-known among tenants for her harassing text messages and expletive-ridden personal interactions, Kihagi even made a veiled threat against a tenant’s cats, saying “it would be a shame if they got out.”

In addition to the financial penalties, the court ordered a tough, enforceable, 5-year injunction against Kihagi and her accomplices — her sisters Julia Mwangi and Christine Mwangi and her closely held LLCs. Today’s decision is a significant milestone for the injunction, which will go into full effect when the case returns to Superior Court in the next few weeks.  Among other things, the injunction against Kihagi requires that an independent property manager be appointed for Kihagi’s 11 San Francisco properties. The independent property manager will be responsible for landlord-tenant relationships and for bringing the buildings into compliance with building and housing codes. The injunction applies to all 11 rental properties in San Francisco owned by Kihagi and her shell corporations.

The case is: City and County of San Francisco and People of the State of California v. Anne Kihagi et al., San Francisco Superior Court No. 15-546152, filed June 4, 2015, California Court of Appeal No. A151719, California Supreme Court No. S253354. Additional information on the San Francisco City Attorney’s office is available at: https://www.sfcityattorney.org/.

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