We thought we’d heard the last of "San Francisco’s cruelest landlord" Anne Kihagi when all her remaining properties in the city were placed in court-appointed receivership in July. It turns out we had not heard the last, and the story, unsurprisingly, gets stranger.
Shady landlording is a well-established tradition here in our fair city, but only one property owner has in recent years been given the colloquial title “San Francisco’s Cruelest Landlord.” Yet it seemed as if landlord Anne Kihagi’s run of aggressive owner move-in evictions had come to an end when the city yanked control of all her remaining SF properties a little over a month ago, following a string of cases that included the eviction of a 72-year-old grandmother, a 2015 city lawsuit against her, her eventual jailing in Los Angeles over similar practices, and a $2.4 million fine which, with reimbursed court costs and interest, has grown to as much as $7 million. But the cray is back in full effect, as Mission Local reports that Kihagi now being sued by her own longtime attorney — the very same attorney who is allegedly still representing her in a case to claw some of her diverted rent money back.
We’ll set aside the massive conflict of interest here, and fast-forward to attorney Karen Uchiyama’s response to Mission Local’s revelation (and the lawsuit she filed against her own client, of which Mission Local has published the full text.). In an email response sent to Mission Local shortly after they published the piece, Uchiyama claimed, “I only filed the action as a mechanism to secure regular payments from my client, and our fee arrangement is a private matter” (NOTE: It is not a private matter anymore once you sue someone). She also said that “The case is being dismissed this week after our settlement agreement was finalized,” (NOTE: Judges dismiss cases, attorneys do not) and Uchiyama asked Mission Local “How did you hear about my collection action? Do you regularly go through court filings about other people’s lawsuits and publish comments about them?” (NOTE: That is exactly what journalists do).
But yeah; the conflict interest thing about suing your own client. “A red flag would go up for me as a legal ethicist,” USF Center for Law and Ethics director Josh Davis told Mission Local. “The general rule would be that you can’t simultaneously be adverse to a party and also represent that party.”
Kihagi does still own eight properties in San Francisco, but a judge’s late-July decision to place them in receivership barred her “from having any management role at any of the properties for a full 60 months.” Some of her properties were auctioned off last year to recoup unpaid fine money, and her tenants are currently paying rent to City Hall. So she does still need an attorney, albeit one who she reportedly wasn't paying on time.
That story echoes a similar one Mission Local reported via a publicist who claimed Kihagi had stiffed him $2,000 back in April. That was after a PR campaign that attempted to repair Kihagi's public image — part of which included a piece in SF Weekly by this reporter, in which I asked Kihagi about that 72-year-old retired postal worker she tried to evict for alleged drug use, drug selling, and working for a sex phone line. "I’m not happy about a building that smells like weed," Kihagi said. "The workers come in [and] said they get a high just from being inside the unit."
Kihagi also painted herself as a victim, saying that someone "scratched the word ‘bitch’ on my car," and claiming that someone "threw stuff at my mother and my sister."
Indeed, it sounds like some people have been mad at her for some reason.
"All I’ve done is simply enforce the same rights that I have and that every other landlord should have when you have tenants that are misbehaving or actually abusing their legal agreement," Kihagi said.