San Francisco

Playing chess with the masters on Market Street

Sep 24, 2013

It’s not often that a 93-year-old, a trapeze artist, a kid from the Sunnydale projects, and a DJ from a gentlemen’s club can find something in common. But if you’ve ever been to Fifth and Market in downtown San Francisco, you know that the intersection is one place where this was possible. That’s where people of all walks of life have been playing chess since the 1980s.

  On today's Your Call, we'll have a conversation about influential people and corporations in San Francisco. Today, the city is defined by its growing number of tech companies, but San Francisco is also home to major financial institutions and developers. How do they influence the political and cultural landscape of San Francisco? And who's making important decisions about issues like development and the economy? Join the conversation and call in with your questions on the next Your Call, with Rose Aguilar and you.


If you think you want to launch a new poetry slam, first take a walk through the Bay Area. Your cutting edge idea may have already been done. In San Francisco, SoMa’s Brainwash Cafe has called dibs on hosting an open mic in a laundromat. Quiet Lightning has taken poets everywhere in San Francisco, including to a sporting goods store. Oakland’s Tourettes Without Regrets has trademarked the Burlesque show-dirty haiku contest combo. Each slam is different, but finger snapping, occasional jeering, and cash prizes have become the slam standard. If Roman Gladiators were handed poetry and told they had to bring the crowd to their feet or be fed to the lions, it would look like a poetry slam.

An olive branch for SF's street food scene

Sep 10, 2013
Tiffany Camhi

Signs of the uneven economic recovery are popping up everywhere in San Francisco: new businesses are moving into developing neighborhoods like Potrero Hill, the revitalization of Market Street’s buildings and soaring rent costs show one side of the booming economy. But another side reveals a depressed economy with Silicon Valley’s tech giants cutting jobs and the rise of homelessness in the city.

On a rare, hot summer Saturday on the San Francisco Bay, a race between a pair of 10 million dollar sailboats has just begun: Team Italy against Team New Zealand. Spectators at a viewing area on San Francisco’s Embarcadero lounge on bean bag chairs. Piers 27-29 have been converted into a giant pavilion, with big screen TVs, picnic tables, a concert space, and Nespresso machines at every corner.

"The End of San Francisco" -- according to Mattilda

Aug 27, 2013


Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, the provocative, angry, queer anti-assimilationist writer, is back on Out in the Bay, 7pm Thursday, with her latest ... manifesto? Or memoir?  (Even though she’s only 40) In The End of San Francisco, Mattilda deals with family, incest, gay sex work, the digital ruination of our City by the Bay, political correctness and its stifling effect on activism and even just talking with one another, and much more. Join Mattilda and host Eric Jansen for another, in Mattilda’s words, “delicious conversation” about life, struggles, triumphs -- ours and the cities we live in. 

Photo by GooWakJai, 2010 /

San Francisco’s Chinatown has interested many tourists over the years. Every day people visit to learn about Chinese American History. 

East Bay Express: Unionizing Nonprofits

Aug 8, 2013

When employees of Larkin Street Youth Services in San Francisco began talking about unionizing earlier this spring, their concerns centered on issues familiar to workers of all stripes: understaffed departments, increased workloads, benefit cuts, high turnover. Although an attempt to unionize in October 2010 was unsuccessful, most employees at the homeless services nonprofit believed that the effort would end differently this time around.

Under CC license from Flickr user transitpeople

Living with HIV or AIDS can be hard. Even with advances in treatment, symptoms can be hard to manage, and medication is expensive. If you live in San Francisco, it’s even harder -- because the cost of living is so high. The median price  for a one-bedroom apartment in the city is almost $2,800 -- already out of reach for many low-income people, and even harder for people whose medical costs get higher as their diseases advance. The cost of medication an HIVs patient has to take can reach nearly $30,000 per year.  But for sixteen years, San Francisco’s had a place to help low-income AIDs patients. Leland House in Visitacion Valley. KALW student reporter Megan Quintana has always known about Leland House because her mom is a nursing assistant there.

Out In The Bay Goes Walking In San Francisco

Aug 7, 2013


San Francisco is a city for walking tours and why not show tourists the seedy side?  Leave it to a drag queen!  Host Marilyn Pittman talks with Rick Shelton, aka "Lola Montez," about his two-hour walking tour and the rich San Francisco history you won't get on the mainstream tours. As Lola says:   "Hear stories of the Barbary Coast. San Francisco was rich in more than gold. Many came to San Francisco to "start over," to follow their dreams. The common met the exotic." Thursday, November 7th, at 7pm right after "Fresh Air."

Mariel Waloff

San Francisco is well known for its bread, especially its sourdough, which gets its flavor from a special kind of bacteria in the air here. Combine that with some yeast, flour, and water, let it rise and bake it and you’ll get a uniquely San Franciscan loaf. But it’s not that easy, as the subject of our next story can attest to. He’s been trying to master the art of sourdough since he got his first baking job in the city just over a year ago.

Courtesy of Creative Commons and Flickr user Franco Folini

The Jane Warner Plaza, on the corner of Castro and Market streets in San Francisco, is better known, locally, as the Buff Stop. That’s because of the nudists who can be found letting it all hang out on sunny days. Earlier this year, they caused so much controversy with area businesses and residents that Supervisor Scott Wiener penned and passed an ordinance, in February, ordering nudists to cover their private parts in public. But that hasn’t necessarily made much difference.

Marlena’s was a Hayes Valley gathering place that helped knit the city together through good cheer and glitzy drag numbers. But the neighborhood has changed and the iconic bar closed earlier this spring.

It was a popular gay bar, featuring lip-synched drag shows, community fundraisers, and lots and lots of regulars. The spot was around for a couple of decades, right in the heart of the up-and-coming Hayes Valley, which, these days, has up-and-come with trendy restaurants and boutique shops. But, no longer, Marlena’s.

What are the history and effects of gentrification?

Jun 5, 2013


The San Francisco Free Folk Festival is happening this weekend, 12 noon to 10 pm both days at Presidio Middle School, 450 30th Ave. at Geary.  Lots going on--five stages of live music, jam sessions, film screenings, family activities, and workshops on vocal, dance, and instrument instruction.  For the complete schedule, visit

Earlier today, about 50 homeless mothers and children gathered on the steps of San Francisco City Hall calling on city supervisors to support initiatives that would help them. KALW’s Rose Aguilar was there and spoke with 63-year old Joyce Dawson.  

JOYCE DAWSON: In the last eight to nine months, I’ve been waitlisted, and waitlisted, and waitlisted and I cannot find anything. Yet the apartments that I’m trying to get into are sitting there empty.

Click the player above to listen to the full interview. 

Most Westerners have been exposed to Bollywood, the lively cinematic musical-soap-operas that are iconic to the movie industry in Mumbai, India. However, few have gone beyond the screen and experienced first-hand the infectious music and dance that inspire some of the famous scenes from Bollywood films.

Flickr user pix.plz

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.

Today's Local Music: Whisky Pills Fiasco

Apr 24, 2013
Whisky Pills Fiasco

  Do you have a hankerin’ for some twang? Well, the Whisky Pills Fiasco can deliver it. They admit that they’re more hamburger than steak, but sometimes a good juicy hamburger is all you want. They’re doing an early show on Sunday, April 28th at Pier 23 Cafe, right on the water in San Francisco, starting at 5 pm.

Alyssa Kapnik

Yesterday was opening day for the new and improved Exploratorium over in San Francisco's Embarcadero. Right around Pier 15, the new space boasts 330,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor exhibits, 150 of them brand new. It also hopes to become the largest net-zero energy museum in the United States — if not the world.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón has had a rapid rise in San Francisco politics. Gascón came into the city as Chief of Police, appointed by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom in August, 2009. After less than a year and a half, he was sworn in as the city’s first Latino D.A., replacing Kamala Harris. In 2011, voters elected him to the position.

Maya de Paula Hanika

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.

Peter Liu, Boxcar Theater

Do you smell something funny in the air? It must be that time of year again—time for SF Sketchfest, the comedy festival that mixes national headliners, local favorites and the best up-and-coming groups for a month of sketch, improv, stand-up and alternative comedy. Besides comedic characters, this week the Bay Area offers multiple chances to boogie down with international groovers, comic artists, and a hip-hop dance party that also gives back to the community.

All week long we've been playing you 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 new 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.

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.

Turnstyle News: The making of an empty San Francisco

Oct 22, 2012

A new, eerily gorgeous empty city video features a San Francisco without cars, pets, or people.

But equally as entertaining for video production nerd types is the “making of” video Ching created, describing his technique.

Patricia Hemphill was very young when it dawned on her that she had a big dream for her future, but it wasn’t very well-received by her teacher at the time, Ms. Hart. Hemphill shares the story in this interview with her mother, Anniece Hemphill at the San Francisco StoryCorps booth in the Contemporary Jewish Museum.

Pomo Afro Homos? Yes, "post-modern African American homosexuals," the groundbreaking black queer performance troupe from the 90's is back! Marilyn Pittman talks with Brian Freeman, one of the founders of the group that made history in San Francisco during the AIDS crisis of the early 90's. He's reprising their signature show, "Fierce Love," with updated material and new performers at The New Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco October 17-28.

UK Department for International Development

At a time when Americans are increasingly preoccupied with our own upcoming elections, some of San Francisco’s expatriates recently had a chance to hear from a political fighter of their own.  Burmese opposition leader and Nobel prize laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi visited San Francisco at the end of last week.  

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.