A landlord described by San Francisco’s city attorney as the “among the most abusive and lawless landlords I’ve encountered” failed Monday in her effort to get the West Hollywood City Council to let her off the hook for conduct involving a building she owns here.
Anne Kihagi, represented by attorney Alan King, appealed a decision by City Hall to suspend a permit she had received to install two electric wall heaters in an apartment at 1237 N. Orange Grove Ave. Kathryn Cole and Daniel Gomes, tenants in that rent-stabilized apartment, had been without heat since December 2015 except for a brief period when Kihagi visited to inspect the unit.
The building, constructed in the 1920s, is served by a gas heating system and the tenants pay for the heat provided. Heat from the electric wall heater would be more expensive and, the city claimed, violate a previous agreement by Kihagi to repair the non-functioning heater in the Cole/Gomes apartment. While the City Council rejected Kihagi’s appeal in a unanimous vote, Councilmember John D’Amico sided with Kihagi, noting that the electric heating system would provide the heat necessary.
Cole and Gomes complained about the loss of heat in December 2015, but it wasn’t until December 2017 that Kihagi hired a contractor to install the electric wall heater. A memo to the City Council from the city’s Administrative Services Department notes that her move to address the heating problem came as she faced a criminal trial for violation of other provisions of the city’s rent stabilization ordinance and risked revocation of her release from custody on her own recognizance.
In April, Kihagi had accepted a plea agreement with the city in which she agreed to “repair … the non-functioning heater(s)” in the Cole/Gomez apartment or replace them with “an equivalent and approving housing service) with required city permits within 15 days. She also had agreed to hire an on-site property manager who the city claims quit after Kihagi stopped communicating with him and failed to approve payment for property maintenance. Kihagi’s alleged violation of that plea agreement is being addressed by the city in another lawsuit.
Kihagi, who also goes by the names Anna Kihagi and Anna and Anne Swain, has been the subject of lawsuits by the city since 2008 over alleged violations of the city’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance and maintenance requirements. Last spring she was sentenced to five days in L.A. County jail after a judge ruled that she was in contempt of court for violating an injunction that prohibited her from re-renting certain apartments at an eight-unit building she owns at 1263 N. Crescent Heights Blvd. Kihagi successfully appealed that decision. Those apartments were the subject of an earlier lawsuit in which a tenant claimed he was improperly evicted and another tenant accused Kihagi of cutting off his electricity and water as retribution for his disclosing her action.
A limited liability company managed by Kihagi appear to own an apartment building at 1220 N. Formosa Ave. in West Hollywood. She is associated with other LLCs such as Xelan Prop LLC, Renka Prop LLC, Nozariz LLC, Zorial LLC, Jambax LLC, Aquat 009 LLC, Nivo1 LLC and DABee007 LLC, which owns the North Orange Grove building.
In its memo to the City Council, the Administrative Services Department says Kihagi “is an accomplished scofflaw as evidenced by her continuing conduct both in West Hollywood, as demonstrated by her recent criminal conviction in this jurisdiction, and the imposition of a permanent injunction and significant money judgment against her in San Francisco.”
“In addition to ignoring the tenants’ pleas for heat over an extended period, Appellant engaged in a series of retaliatory and unlawful conduct with respect to these and other tenants, including, but not limited to:
“–Failing to provide proper notice to tenants to enter the unit and reporting to the tenants that she put their cats into a closet during an entry.
“–Unilateral termination of the tenants’ right to a parking space following their filing of a maximum allowable rent (MAR) determination hearing.
“–The previously noted failure to restore the heat for months, which occurred following the tenants’ aforementioned filing for a MAR hearing.
“–Refusal to negotiate rent payments and filing a subsequently dismissed unlawful detainer action based on false allegations, costing the tenants thousands of dollars to defend.
“–Failure to re-register this and almost every other tenancy at Appellant’s properties as required by law for years despite being informed of the violation by city staff, and doing so only after being compelled to hire a property manager as part of Appellant’s plea agreement.
“This conduct represents only a portion of the allegations asserted by the People in its prosecution of Appellant, which related to conduct against numerous tenants in three of the Appellant’s West Hollywood properties over a course of several years. And, as stated above, staff was cognizant of other malicious and harassing conduct engaged in by the Appellant against her tenants at properties in San Francisco.
A story in SFGate.com says that Kihagi and members of her family have invested $24 million in real estate in San Francisco since 2013. A lawsuit filed against Kihagi by the City of San Francisco claims that her business model “consisted of buying buildings with longtime, rent-controlled tenants paying below-market rents and then using a wide range of methods, both legal and illegal, to get rid of them … Typically she offers to buy out tenants, and if that doesn’t work, the city’s lawsuit alleged, she threatens an ‘owner move-in’ or a ‘relative move-in’ eviction, both of which are allowed under state rent-control laws. If that doesn’t work, she has resorted to threats and harassment, the city’s suit contended.”
San Franciso City Attorney Dennis Herrera has accused Kihagi of “breathtaking cruelty” for targeting elderly, disabled renters.
Kihagi also has threatened WEHOville over stories published about her. A September letter from Julie Nong, who identifies herself as a lawyer in Burbank, states that “Ms. Kihagi is a respected professional in the community and has spent her life building a positive reputation. Nevertheless, we’re informed that you have maliciously been spreading inaccurate and unfounded information that is damaging to her personal and professional character.” WEHOville has invited Nong to inform it of any errors in its coverage so that they can be corrected.
With the City Council’s decision, Kihagi now has 15 days to fix the heating system in the North Orange Grove building.