When fights get personal, the wrong people can end up losing. This became exactly the problem with City of San Francisco v. Kihagi, a thinly veiled vindictive message to a successful black woman from a powerful, unchecked City Attorney who went so far as to allow false information to be presented in the trial. The City Attorney even had the Board of Supervisors change laws to retroactively punish Ms. Kihagi for remodeling units without permits.
Doubling the damage was a biased judge – Judge Angela Bradstreet – who used any excuse to fine the black businesswoman, resulting in over$2.5 million in fines.
Yet most supposed violations did not even exist at the time the City filed its complaint; the court found that most of the violations were closed in 2015. In a hearing in March 2016, City Attorney Weatherford noted that “currently today there is a Notice of Violation outstanding.” Yet the City continued to viciously pursue the landlord.
Judge Bradstreet even prevented Ms. Kihagi from testifying or calling witnesses, effectively silencing her and handing the City an easy victory.
Judge Bradstreet focused solely on the stories of the tenants and the dramatic City Attorney. Ms. Kihagi was fined $140,000 for a tenant who said she moved out after breaking up with her girlfriend, the girlfriend who planned to punch Ms. Kihagi (Judge Bradstreet decided that the tenants never meant any harm, despite evidence such as this). In fact, Judge Bradstreet often administered unrequested or self-decided penalties for various non-issues.
Beyond the astronomical and baseless fines, Judge Bradstreet also charged Ms. Kihagi close to $2.5 million for the public attorneys that make $150,000 per year, deciding that their billing rate should be equated to $1 million for their triple-teaming of Ms. Kihagi’s lone immigrant attorney.
After three years of torture, Ms. Kihagi has been burned by the Court of Appeal, which seemed to be unconcerned that the lower court would not even allow Ms. Kihagi’s new lawyers time to prepare for a trial that had 25,000+ documents that one judge called “oppressive discovery.”
The whole process has been incredibly dirty and publicly polarizing, a clear indication of the level of corruption in San Francisco political offices.
In order to pay the massive fines, Ms. Kihagi approached the City to call off their games, or tenants could be evicted to pay each ridiculous fine which is the only way Ms. Kihagi could afford it.
The City Attorney said they would not make ANY deal with Ms. Kihagi.
Now, the first seven tenants are getting notice, and the plans will begin to re-design the units and have them individually sold for ownership. This is the only way to get the maximum value for each building so that Ms. Kihagi can pay the out-of-control City.
So, in the end, who really lost? The tenants in this Hayes Valley building are facing evictions. They had no idea this was coming, but this is the first of more properties that will be taken off the rental market just to pay the City for dramatized “charges.”
In the meantime, the Supervisors and the City have said they do not care what happens to these tenants. Maybe in the end, this was just more easy money for a corrupt city that has already stolen million-dollar properties from the elderly and a $3 million building from a Castro man that could not afford $25k worth of repairs.
Until San Franciscans wake up and speak up, many landlords will soon be following Ms. Kihagi and taking their rentals off the market – and for a city with a staggering housing shortage, no one can afford to be silent.
For more information on Anna Kihagi & West 18th Properties, @annekihagi1 https://annekihagisf.com/