Ben Trefny

News Director

Ben handles daily operations in the news department, overseeing the editorial and sound engineering teams, producing the nightly news and culture show Crosscurrents, and managing the KALW Audio Academy training program. He earned a Masters degree in journalism from the University of Oregon in 2000 and got his start in public radio at NPR member station KLCC in Eugene. After freelancing for numerous magazines and working for various commercial and public radio programs, Ben joined KALW in 2004. He has helped the department win numerous regional and national awards for long- and short-form journalism. He has also helped train dozens of radio producers, many of whom work with him at KALW, today. Ben lives with his wife and twin children in San Francisco's Outer Sunset district, where Golden Gate Park meets Ocean Beach, and spends as much time as he can outside.

Ways To Connect

Flickr user sftrajan

If you’ve tried to find a place to live in the city lately, or even know someone who knows someone trying to find a place to live, you know San Francisco has a housing crisis. For many of the city’s longtime residents, rent control is the only thing that allows them to stay in their homes, but there’s a way for landlords to circumvent it – it’s a 1986 law called the Ellis Act.

The Ellis Act allows landlords to evict tenants if they plan to convert the building to a different use; for example, to move in themselves. In practice, it’s often been used to put buildings on the market at prices that those former tenants couldn’t afford. The last time Ellis Act evictions spiked was during the late 90s tech boom – there were 440 of them just between 1999 and 2000.

Courtesy of adamanddog.tumblr.com

I’ve always been intrigued by the short features that are nominated for Academy Awards every year. Everybody (who watches movies) is familiar with the best picture nominees, the best actors, actresses, and directors. But only recently have I become aware that the shorts that win the same awards are available to be seen as well.

A mind for Jazz

Feb 13, 2013

Record shop owner Berigan Taylor dropped by KALW to tell Executive Editor (and fellow Jazz fan) Ben Trefny the story behind his little record shop in Oakland. Berigan’s was the inspiration for Michael Chabon’s new novel, Telegraph Avenue.  Taylor is a life-long record collector and still one of the Bay Area’s biggest jazz enthusiasts. As in, he could probably name every musician on every jazz recording you have ever heard.

Courtesy of SFMTA Livable Streets

The streets of San Francisco are changing. There are separated bike lanes on Market Street. There’s green paint all over the Wiggle. The city is definitely becoming more bicycle-friendly.

After many delays, the city’s bike plan is taking effect, with city streets long-designed for car traffic being reconfigured for other modes of transportation. Four years ago the city had 45 miles of bike lanes. Today there are 65 and more are scheduled to be laid down. Plus, 75 more miles of streets will be stenciled with symbols designating them as bike-friendly routes. It’s all having a big impact.

Courtesy of www.sfjazz.org/

The liner notes to Miles Davis’ classic album “Birth of the Cool” begin like this:

“In jazz, as in other musics, some things are of their time, some ahead of it, while others simply know no time at all.”

The mid-Market district of San Francisco is undergoing tremendous change. Construction cranes literally cast shadows over the businesses and charities serving long-time residents of the neighborhood. This is an area filled with supported housing and Single Room Occupancy hotels. Homeless people and panhandlers traverse the wide sidewalks. One of the food pantries that serves them is run by The Quaker Meeting House. It’s on 9th Street, just south of Market, and has been around for nearly 20 years. To date, Twitter has run its global operations around the corner for about half-a-year. Which means these two entities with similar sounding names and strikingly different purposes are unlikely neighbors.

Artist's Rendering of Smartspace Unit Courtesy of Panoramic Interests

We already know San Francisco’s housing market is tight and competition is fierce. A new city regulation hopes to make some more room in the housing market. Soon, current and aspiring San Franciscans will be able to live in “micro-apartments,” just 220 square feet each. City Supervisor Scott Wiener wrote the legislation making these hutches habitable. He talked about them with Crosscurrents Executive Editor, Ben Trefny.

Surveillance now takes many forms. From cameras on city street corners, to government traces of emails, texts, tweets, and phone calls, to the rise of domestic drones. It’s unclear, at this point, exactly how much we’re being watched, but we do know that the government – especially the FBI – has a history of surveillance, both legal and illegal. And we know that, in part, because of the work of people like Seth Rosenfeld.

Bevan Dufty is Director of Housing, Opportunity, Partnership, and Engagement for the city of San Francisco. In his new role brainstorming solutions to the city’s stubborn homelessness problem, Dufty has come up with some pretty novel thoughts. We wanted to hear about some of the most innovative, so we invited him in for a segment we call “Radical Ideas.”

Under CC license from Flickr user mrJasonWeasley

Americans' habit for talking, texting, and emailing while driving is only getting worse, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Studies show texting while driving makes you 23 times more likely to get in a wreck, but now that computer monitors are being built into car dashboards, multitasking is become a permanent fixture in our lives. 

Proposition 39, which passed on Election Day, will tax out-of-state businesses and earmark those new billions of dollars for clean energy programs.

CaTrans

The new Eastern span of the Bay Bridge opens in 10 months. It will make for a seismically safe and beautiful ride for motorists, but for bicyclists ­­– not so much.

For two years, bicyclists will have to turn around before they reach Yerba Buena Island, because the old Eastern span will be in the way. And once it’s gone, they’ll have to turn around at the island anyway, because there are no plans to connect the path to San Francisco.

Ali Budner

Updates on local and state elections from the KALW News team. 

Today was not just any ordinary Halloween. The holiday coincided with the San Francisco Giants' victory parade, celebrating the baseball team's sweep of the World Series that culminated last Sunday. The parade,  featured a performance by Tony Bennett and appearances by Jon Miller and Dave Flemming – and of course, the 2012 San Francisco Giants players, drew a crowd of hundreds of thousands.

Flickr user nicmcc

San Francisco Proposition F asks the city to consider draining the Hetch Hetchy reservoir, a source of 80 percent of San Francisco's water. KALW’s Ben Trefny talked with PJ Johnston, the spokesman for the No on Proposition F campaign, and asked him why passing Proposition F would be a bad idea. 

The San Francisco Giants, today, won a dramatic, do-or-die playoff game against the Cincinnati Reds. MVP candidate Buster Posey hit a grand slam in the 6 to 4 victory. The Giants won three straight elimination games on the road, and now move on to the penultimate playoff series, beginning Sunday night, October 14th. In Oakland, meanwhile, in just about an hour-and-a-half, the A's have their own must-win game against the Detroit Tigers. All the excitement has San Francisco Chronicle reporter Scott Ostler thinking this is not just one of the best days in Bay Area baseball history.

Tonight is opening night for the Mill Valley Film Festival: the biggest Bay Area film fest of the year. Among the films showing is Sweet Dreams, the story of a group of Rwandan women who found community and support after the 1994 Rwandan genocide by coming together as a drum troupe. The film was codirected, coedited, and coproduced by Rob Fruchtman and his sister: Berkeley resident Lisa Fruchtman. KALW’s Ben Trefny spoke with Lisa Fruchtman about the making of Sweet Dreams.

Courtesy of sweetdreamsrwanda.com

Sweet Dreams is a documentary that tells the story of a group of Rwandan women who coped with the 1994 Rwandan genocide in part by coming together as a drum troupe. The film was codirected, coedited, and coproduced by Rob Fruchtman and his sister, Berkeley resident Lisa Fruchtman. She worked as an editor on The Godfather II and III and Apocolypse Now, and won an academy award for editing the feature film The Right Stuff.

Political movements don't have to be shaped by politicians.  In fact, one of the most dynamic movements to shape the way we see our streets started with a group of bicycle riders in San Francisco who simply wanted to be seen.

It's a gathering that's come to be known as "Critical Mass."  Tomorrow night, hundreds, if not thousands, of cyclists from around the world will come together to take over the city's streets and celebrate the event's 20th anniversary.

Friday, September 28 is the 20th anniversary of Critical Mass, a weekly event in San Francisco where bicyclists ride around the city to reclaim their right to the road. KALW’s Ben Trefny spoke with Chris Carlsson, who cowrote the book Shift Happens: Critical Mass at 20. You can here the complete interview here, but take a listen to a special un-aired segment of the interview here.

KALW's Ben Trefny talk more with Jaxon Van Derbeken about the fire at the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond.

Ben Trefny

If skateboards are your thing, you have a new place to thrash in San Francisco: the new Balboa Skate Park. And that brings us to another installment of our community storytelling project, Hear Here. KALW's Ben Trefny swung by the Balboa Skate Park, before its official opening, to meet some of the skaters there. He met edn Bowater-Skelly, Mario Mancini, Sirdenzel Lumsey, and Vivan Nguyen there. 

Last month’s explosion at the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond had the East Bay in shock.


Berigan Taylor dropped by KALW to tell Executive Editor (and fellow Jazz fan) Ben Trefny the story behind Berigan’s, a little record shop in Oakland. Berigan’s was the inspiration for Michael Chabon’s new novel, Telegraph Avenue.  Taylor is a life-long record collector and still one of the Bay Area’s biggest jazz enthusiasts. As in, he could probably name every musician on every jazz recording you have ever heard.

Samsara is a new film that takes viewers around the world – from Burmese temples, sulfur mines, and hot-air balloon rides – all without a word of narration. One of the stops along the way was in Japan, where the directors encountered robot clones. What does that mean? KALW's Ben Trefny asked director Ron Fricke and producer Mark Magidson to explain. 

Click the audio player above to hear the answer. Audio available after 5pm. 

Listen to the full interview here

Imagine you can witness the most beautiful, and most disturbing, sights in the world. Riding a hot air balloon over exquisite Burmese temples; descending into poisonous sulfur mines in Java; meeting robot clones in Japan; exploring factory farms in China. These are some of the images of Samsara: a new feature film from Emeryville director Ron Fricke and producer Mark Magidson now showing in Berkeley and San Francisco.

Photographer Richard Morgenstein has lived in Pacific Heights since the late 1990s. Before that, he lived in Manhattan and enjoyed it. In many ways, Morgenstein is still very New York. He doesn’t have a car. He relies on public transportation to tote his camera bags around. But the new construction soaring above a growing San Francisco doesn’t really make him nostalgic for his former hometown. Rather, he’s inclined to give a Bronx cheer.

Courtesy Flickr user johncatral

The Democratic National Convention kicked off in North Carolina Tuesday with an aggressive response to the criticism doled out last week at the Republican National Convention in Florida. Here's a few of the remarks that stood out:

TED STRICKLAND: If Mitt was Santa Claus, he would fire the reindeer and outsource the elves.

JULIAN CASTRO: Governor Romney has undergone an 'extreme makeover’, and it ain't pretty.

MICHELLE OBAMA: Barack knows the American dream because he's lived it.

Today is the last day of the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Although initially delayed due to Hurricane Isaac, the RNC has featured a number of politicians and notable persons throughout the past few days. Oakland’s Youth Radio has reporters on the ground at the RNC. Brandon McFarland spoke with KALW’s Ben Trefny.

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