SAN FRANCISCO – 10-26-2018 (PRDistribution.com) — The City of San Francisco’s assault on black landlord Anne Kihagi began because she refused to play by the city’s unspoken rules, which let tenants get away with almost everything and intimidate landlords from speaking up. Judge Angela Bradstreet even penalized Ms. Kihagi $5,000 for visiting her building’s common area on a Sunday afternoon, somehow sending a brawny couple of men screaming. Judge Bradstreet cannot cite any law to support this punishment, but through her power and audacity, she was going to do everything possible to help the City Attorney drive Ms. Kihagi out of San Francisco.
When Ms. Kihagi sold her condo, she decided to move into the penthouse unit in her own building in the Mission-Castro area, a unit formerly occupied by a gay man. Ms. Kihagi’s sister was also set to move into another of her properties in the Castro. This meant that, in invoking owner move-in rights, it was nearly unavoidable that a gay couple would be displaced, by virtue of the neighborhood’s primary demographic. This coincidence was later twisted into accusations that Ms. Kihagi had intentionally displaced the gay party, despite the fact the she manages properties throughout various neighborhoods in San Francisco and had displaced other tenants who violated lease terms such as subletting for profit.
To be clear, there is nothing illegal about a landlord moving into his or her units. In fact, the SF Ordinance allows owners to move into their buildings, and many parents invest in buildings so that their children have easier access to well-maintained housing. Ms. Kihagi’s ownership, however, would not go unnoticed.
The original judge, who questioned the City’s case, was removed and replaced with Judge Bradstreet, which changed the prosecution’s strategy; only then did the City Attorney frame the case to play on her potential bias as an openly gay judge. These anti-gay claims did not exist prior to Judge Bradstreet’s assignment. It was clear that the City was going to play dirty, and this accusation formed the vast part of the City’s opening statements. How could a biased judge in a biased city be trusted to make fair decisions? The plain truth is that she did not make fair decisions. Because of the discriminatory framing, Judge Bradstreet was intent on teaching Ms. Kihagi a lesson, without giving her an opportunity to refute these claims.
Even without this added layer of bias, Ms. Kihagi was facing an uphill battle from the start. Her success as a black woman in the city was unorthodox, but she also expanded and was not afraid to stand up to tenants at any of these properties who were trying to fool their landlord. She once stood up to a tenant who was profiting over $40,000/year from shamelessly subletting her apartment while barely paying $600/month in rent. This is how many local tenants end up wealthier than their landlords: by illegally subletting rent-controlled units.
Ms. Kihagi’s challenging of this norm is not customary in San Francisco and subsequently put a huge target on her back. Though evictions were legal, tenants became nasty, calling the DBI constantly and filing bogus complaints to create problems. Tenants would even break into units so that sneaky building inspectors could create some violation. In one instance, tenant Leshefsky accused Ms. Kihagi and her contractor of being illegal – because they spoke Spanish. Is this a sanctuary city? It’s not even tolerance.
In preparation for the trial, messages like “we shall unite and deal with her” flew among tenants, and emails with the City Attorney’s Office were suspiciously frequent. Tenants plotted violence against the landlord while keying her car and starting violent protests outside her properties. They even made cartoons of President Lincoln pointing at Ms. Kihagi saying, “You are NOT welcome.” Despite all this, Judge Bradstreet ruled that tenants never intended to harm Ms. Kihagi. Why was her sense of safety unimportant?
Other judges had commented on the City’s underhanded maneuvers, with one observing that “the City hopes to send Ms. Kihagi out of San Francisco.” They slashed Ms. Kihagi’s preparation time, inundated her with mountains of paperwork and discovery that one judge called “oppressive,” and petitioned the court to cancel her trial by default. All this intense desperation to bring down an African American woman, and why? Because she enforced lease agreements.
To the outsider, it’s clear that Ms. Kihagi was doomed – for being black, owning buildings in San Francisco, standing up to tenants, speaking Spanish, and moving into her own buildings that happened to be in the Castro. And while Senator Scott Wiener was hurt when others poked fun at him earlier this year, he was more than comfortable publicly harassing Ms. Kihagi.
Ms. Kihagi cannot find safety in this supposed sanctuary city. She has become the target for a cultish cohort of angry tenants and some elected officials who will stop at nothing to ruin her and run her out of San Francisco, all because she refused to play by the City’s rules.
For more information on Anne Kihagi and West 18 Properties, visit http://annekihagisf.com/
For the original news story, please visit https://prdistribution.com/news/san-franciscos-sanctuary-status-belies-its-bigotry.html.
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