Cindy Milstein's Blog

Homes Not Games


There is this game that landlords play in San Francisco. They write all the rules, of course. And they break them all, too, when it suits them. But the fun for them is in how many ways they can dream up to evict their tenants without actually saying the word “eviction” aloud for anyone to hear — or oppose.

The stories of the “diversity of tactics” used for eviction among SF evictees — past, present, and future — are astonishingly varied, and exhibit a creativity that one wouldn’t guess that landlords, who seem to have more cold and calculating minds, would be able to draw on.

My home is not being officially evicted. Like many in SF’s Mission, we are “potentially facing eviction” always until we can’t stay in our home — the homes we want to stay put in.

Instead, we are being asked to “vacate” in what the landlords think is a generous amount of time for our “transition,” though their charitable patience is wearing thin. The game is getting less fun for them. They are ready to cash in their plastic game-board pieces for crisp, green paper in the millions.

So their fine moves in this vacate game change weekly or daily.

Today it was irony. I think. Or is it paradox? Tragedy as comedy?

First, from our landlords, wishes for a happy holiday; then a gentle articulation of how “frustrated” our landlords are by us dragging our feet to leave; followed by how much “anxiety” this transition game is causing them; ending up with how “very worrying” it is for them not to have our transition sealed in documents that, for all intents and purposes, are us signing our own eviction notice. But of course, they and their lawyer don’t call it that; they give it a dry legal name, hoping we can’t read behind the lines — or simply read.

I keep thinking I’ve gotten used to being seasick, homesick, and heartsick at this game whose winner/loser is probable but not inevitable. My housemates and I are fighters.

But I haven’t. Because it’s not a game, even one going by the name of Life — or Monopoly.

It’s home.

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(Photo by Cindy Milstein, “beneath the pavement, the beach,” but above it, in SF’s Mission, more and more luxury apartments, fall 2014.)

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