Outside the Circle

Cindy Milstein

Playing Games with Others’ Lives

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This morning, I started overhearing a woman telling her friend in what sounded like glowing words that Google has decided to rent a building at 16th and Harrison streets in San Francisco, and bringing two hundred engineers to work there. I was walking right behind the pair on the sidewalk, fairly close to the new Google site, and was about to interrupt to try to gently intervene in her enthusiasm when she said, “This is a game changer. It’s going to finally forever kick us and anyone else trying to hang on out of the Mission.” I asked if I could join their conversation, to commiserate, and we ended up talking for about 15 minutes, collectively bemoaning that wealth and power can disrupt and destroy lives at a whim.

Both women noted how much the demographic has already shifted, with one mentioning that the number of Latino, undocumented, and poor people that they interact with as part of their work and daily life has declined dramatically, and the other explaining how her own precarious living situation means she’ll have to move to some distant, unknown place, and how hard it is to start over (“I don’t want to be that little old lady in a neighborhood where I know no one and am alone”). The two talked about how Google will probably import its own service workers (ones who don’t look like the people who live in the Mission now) and put them in fancy dorms in the neighborhood. They said that all the infrastructure for, say, health care for the poor and low income will be kicked out too, including programs at the forefront of HIV testing and care. And they debated whether a burst in the bubble would happen, like with the dot-com era, to put a halt to things, with one woman responding, “Google is too tied to the surveillance and military complex. Did you hear it bought a bunch of robotics companies?”

We all paused and shook our heads, all glum. I apologized for intruding on their conversation, and the more talkative of the two, the woman I’d overhead in the beginning, said, “No, it’s OK. We’re all feeling the anxiety of losing our homes and this community.” She paused again, shook her head in dismay, as if to somehow banish the new reality, and added: “Google moving into the Mission. Everything just happens too quickly. It’s all too much. But this is a game changer.”

*  *  *

If you’ve run across this blog post as a reposting somewhere, you can find other blog-musings and more polished essays, including a “love poem” revolving around “things I hate about San Francisco’s gentrification” (https://cbmilstein.wordpress.com/2013/11/22/things-i-hate-about-san-franciscos-gentrification-a-love-poem/) at Outside the Circle, cbmilstein.wordpress.com. Share, enjoy, and repost — as long as it’s free as in “free beer” and “freedom.”

(Photo by Cindy Milstein of art and resistance on the streets of SF’s Mission, February 2014)

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This entry was posted on February 18, 2014 by in About, Art & Culture of Capitalism, Dispatches from Gentrifying San Francisco.
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