San Francisco

Note: This piece loses much of its music in written form. Click the audio player above to get the full effect. 

Roland Feller is responsible for the well-being of many of the city's stringed instruments. When you imagine him working on a violin, picture him seated at a tiny old fashioned desk littered with tools and wood shavings, in a room piled with sheet music, billing forms...and violins. Violins hanging on the walls and from the ceiling; violins leaning against the table legs on the floor.

99% Invisible: 99% 180

May 8, 2015

On the May 7, 2015 edition of 99% Invisible:

In the beginning, former AIA-SF president Henrik Bull and the Transamerica Pyramid did not get along.

Karen Ripley's "Oh, No! There's Men On The Land!"

Apr 23, 2015

The hilarious gay comedy pioneer Karen Ripley tells the stories of lesbian life in the '70s in her solo show, "Oh, No! There's Men On The Land!" opening May 1st at The Marsh in Berkeley. A gay stand-up before there WAS gay stand-up. Hear about the legendary Brick Hut cafe in Berkeley and all its 'dyke drama,' find out about the hot sex everybody was having with everybody, and discover the many characters in this coming-of-age story.

Courtesy of

In 1983, after the U.S. Navy left San Francisco's Hunters Point Shipyard, a collective of artists moved into the abandoned buildings. Since then, the group has grown and grown until today, when more than 250 artists ply their trade in the former repair station. It is now America's largest artists' community.


Imagine a tower more than 40 stories high, sparkling as the sun catches a hundred thousand pieces of colorful cut glass. Imagine this tower at night, lit by dozens of spotlights as its gown of glass shimmies in the wind for a gaping audience beneath -- an audience that was only just starting to have access to electricity. Imagine the promise this vision held, the way it pointed your city towards the future.

San Francisco’s merchant and civic leaders poured their hearts into the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition, or PPIE. This world’s fair was ostensibly celebrating the recent completion of the Panama Canal -- but really, this was the city’s chance to show the world that it was back.

March 29 was the last night Delilah Soto slept on the street. She’s a recovering heroin addict who’s been living in a tent in San Francisco’s Mission District with her girlfriend, Rocky Anderson, and their dog Sparta. That night, she learned they had another choice.

Nearby, 1950 Mission St. was dead space. A closed-down school site sitting on premium San Francisco real estate, begging to be repurposed. On March 30, the gates opened on a new pilot program called the “Navigation Center”.

flickr user Jeremy Brooks


In one of America's most expensive cities, there's a fringe political party whose name sums up their concerns: The Rent is Too Damn High. That city is New York – but in San Francisco rents are even higher. And while no party around here has been quite so blunt about it, organizations are taking action.

The Bay Area Council Economic Institute hosted a housing forum earlier this year, and the conversation showed there are many ways to look at the problem – and many ways to disagree on how to solve it.

Under CC license from Flickr user Phil Dokas


A new report from the Dutch mapping company TomTom ranks San Francisco the second most congested city in the country; only Los Angeles is worse. And in times of gridlock, people often choose to take public transit, bike, or even walk in order to avoid driving. It’s the job of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) to make those alternatives as appealing as possible.

Tom Nolan is chairman of the SFMTA. Nolan has served on transportation boards throughout the Bay Area, including SamTrans and Caltrain. Now, as Muni's chair, he’s presiding over the board at a time of rapid change. Tom Nolan sat down with KALW’s Raja Shah to talk about the current state of public transit in San Francisco and where it might be heading.

Raja Shah

All week long we've been playing this sound, and asking you to guess what exactly it is and where exactly in the Bay Area we recorded it.

April Renae /

You can hear all sorts of different musical ingredients in the work of Briget Boyle. In the mix is everything from Eastern European harmonies to Balkan brass bands to pop rock. You can hear all those influences, plus a little country western twang, on Boyle’s new solo album, ‘The Parts Interior.’

BRIGET BOYLE: Every person in some way can be a singer, and can tell their story, even if it's just singing along with the radio or singing in the shower. There's something really human about it, and really simple.  

To many Americans, Falafel is a fried ball of mashed up garbanzo beans that you can put in a sandwich. But to me, falafel reminds me of where I’m from – Sudan. Until recently, I thought there was really only one way to make it. But it turns out, there are many ways to fry a falafel, depending on where you’re from – and of course, everyone thinks their way is best. So I headed out around the Bay on a falafel shop hop.

There are at least 7,000 homeless people in San Francisco each night, and only enough shelter space to house a small fraction of them. This is one of the reasons San Francisco recently held the first Town Hall to End Homelessness in which city officials and community leaders renewed their commitment to do just that.

But if you’re going to talk ways to end homelessness in San Francisco, why not start by talking to the people with the most experience?


Statewide forums seek input… Emerald Triangle now favors legalization… CBD & Kids: does it really work?... and more.


Public input requested at forums //  Focus will be on three areas: legalization, taxation, and regulation. The first meeting is April 21 at UCLA, followed by one in San Francisco in May and ending with one in Fresno in June.

Olivia Cueva / Kalw


All week long we've been playing this sound, and asking you to guess what exactly it is and where exactly in the Bay Area we recorded it.

This auditory guessing game is part of our project, Audiograph, a crowd-sourced collaborative radio project mapping the sonic signature of each of the Bay Area’s nine counties. By using the sounds of voices, nature, industry, and music, Audiograph tells the story of where you live, and the people who live there with you. Every Thursday, we reveal the origins of that week's sound on Crosscurrents, and here in weekly blog posts.

Listen above for the full answer...

"Passion" shows LGBT choral music's evolving role

Mar 26, 2015

What's the role of gay and lesbian choruses today? The SF Gay Men’s Chorus first performed in 1978 after the murder of gay San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone that morning. Three years later, they toured the USA, inspiring dozens of gay and lesbian choruses to form. These groups provided cultural voice and safe social connections for LGBT people, especially in small towns and away from the coasts.

Flickr user toyzrus8

The Hetch Hetchy Regional Water system, operated by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (PUC), carries water to 2.6 million customers in the Bay Area. How it does that is remarkable – remarkably simple, says PUC Water Resources Manager, David Briggs.

Audrey DIlling

A couple on an evening stroll down Valencia Street comes to a stop outside Lost Weekend Video. They’re peering in through the big front window.

“I wanted to check it out because I haven’t seen a video store in a long time,” says Abel Martinez. “These days I watch a lot of pirated movies.”

This week on KALW's showcase for the best stories from public radio podcasts and independent radio producers...

The Best of Out In The Bay: Life Before The Lifeboat

Mar 12, 2015


AIDS led the world to many new discoveries in medicine. But San Francisco's General Hospital pioneered a new model of patient care. In the film, "Life Before The Lifeboat,"  Dr. Paul Volberding interviews nurses, doctors, medical professionals, and community leaders from that time. Marilyn's audio version of the film is a compelling, dramatic, intense listening experience. A special rebroadcast Thursday, March 12th, 2015, at 7pm. 

Cal Tabuena-Frolli

The Book Report is a series where we talk to local authors about the books they love. Today we hear about Barbara Comyns's Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead from Colin Winnette, a writer living in San Francisco. 

Click the audio player above to hear about the book. 

The Book Report is brought to you by KALW and the Litography Project, which is mapping the stories of the Bay Area’s literary scene. Find more Litography stories here


How does citizen oversight of police departments work?  On the next Your Call, we’ll continue our series on police, community, race, and justice by discussing different models in Northern California. Where is citizen oversight working? San Diego, Oakland, Riverside, Long Beach, Sausalito, Novato, and Berkeley have review boards, but few people know these boards even exist. What power do citizen oversight boards have to ensure police accountability? How should these boards work? It’s Your Call with Rose Aguilar, and you.



Alyssa Arian has worked in San Francisco restaurants for a decade and, like most servers, she got into it for the tips.

“Some nights you leave with $80 or $90,” she says. “$100 is kind of the average mark for what you want as a server, sort of anywhere in this city I think as a minimum.”

Since February, though, Arian hasn’t earned any tips. She’s working at Sous Beurre Kitchen, a new French spot in the Mission where tipping’s not allowed.

Daily news roundup for Thursday, March 5th

Mar 5, 2015
Laura Wenus

Here's what's happening in the Bay Area, as curated by KALW news:

Marcy Fraser / KALW


Jacqueline Cooper is a lot like you.

“I'm not any different than anybody else,” she says. “I'm a mother, I'm a daughter, I'm a sister, a wife at one point.”

However, there’s more to her than that. For one, she’s a retired United States Marine Corps sergeant. For another, she’s dealt with mental illness throughout her life.

Gary Kamiya meets San Francisco's "Outsiders"

Mar 3, 2015


The latest count of homeless individuals in San Francisco revealed that 6,436 people in the city are without a home. That is a number that has barely changed over the past few years, even though the city spends more than 165 million dollars a year on homeless services.

10 years of Out in the Bay: Remembering Lesley Gore

Mar 2, 2015


Marilyn Pittman's and Eric Jansen's 2007 interview with the late singer Lesley Gore. Discovered by Quincy Jones, Gore's iconic, "It's My Party and I'll Cry If I Want To" and "You Don't Own Me," became classic hits. Hear about how she came out and who helped her do it, and how she brought new life to her old hits decades later.  (Broadcast February 19, 2015)

Marilyn Pittman's sound portrait of the late great disco diva Sylvester. Josh Gamson talks with Marilyn and reads from his biography, "The Fabulous Sylvester." We hear from fans at the book party launch in 2005 at the The Center and live concert footage with Sylvester and The Weather Girls, Martha Wash and Izora Rhodes. (Broadcast February 26, 2015)

Daily news roundup for Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Feb 25, 2015
Nicole A. West / Oakland North

Here's what's happening in the Bay Area, as curated by KALW news:

 415, meet 628: New S.F. area code debuts Saturday // SF Gate

Robert Fried at leiros202 through Creative Commons at Flickr

One of the men who helped make Janis Joplin a household name died Thursday. Sam Andrew was a founder and guitarist for Big Brother and the Holding Company. The San Francisco band gained fame in the mid-1960s as part of the city’s psychedelic rock scene.