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Recent Free Public Talks and Outdoor Urban Forums
January 2020-2021

A place to meet and talk unmediated by corporations, official spokespeople, religion, political parties, or dogma.

All events are free.
At 518 Valencia Street, near 16th, in San Francisco (close to 16th Street BART)

podcast subscription To subscribe to our Talks as a podcast, paste the link into your favorite podcast software (iTunes, Podcast Addict, etc.)

Saturday, October 9

Bayview Hill & Candlestick Point State Recreation Area

To the top of a rarely visited hill with incredible views, then amble down and around to the only urban-located State Park.

Video here.

Saturday, September 18

Eureka Valley

Discover a half dozen stairways, open spaces, and incredible views and gardens all across the upper slopes of Eureka Valley and Corbett Heights, above the Castro, and below Twin Peaks.

Video here.

Saturday, August 28

Grandview Peak and Golden Gate Heights

Grandview Peak offers incredible views of western San Francisco, the ocean, and Marin County. Navigate southward along the side of Golden Gate Heights to discover wildlife corridors, tiled staircases, and more.

Video here.

Saturday, June 26

Dogpatch, Pier 70, Warm Water Cove

Explore the ecological, architectural, and social history of the oldest industrial enclave in San Francisco, now taking on new life adjacent to Mission Bay with thousands of residents and businesses pouring in.

Video here.

Saturday April 10

Presidio: Crissy Field to El Polín Spring

El Polín Spring and the area around it is a great example of how National Park stewardship has brought history to life. Follow the water through MacArthur Meadow, the Tennesee Hollow watershed, to the Crissy Field marshes—including the newly restored Quartermaster Reach. With Lew Stringer, Joel Pomerantz, LisaRuth Elliott, and Chris Carlsson.

Video here.

Saturday March 6

Bernal Heights and the Bernal Cut

Visit earthquake shacks, WPA stairways, and the Bernal Cut Path. Discover traces of the Spring Valley Water Company. Plus incomparable views, and the new Esmeralda Steps extensions on both sides of the hill.

Video here.

Saturday, November 14, 11 a.m. start time!

McLaren Park and Philosophers' Way

Enjoy the remarkable circumnavigation of McLaren Park provided by the Philosopher’s Way loop, prompting discussions of various aspects of southeastern San Francisco history. Enjoy scenic overlooks and this delightful open space.

(Due to pandemic restrictions, we have limited capacity on our tours.

Video here.

Saturday, September 26 (Pre-poned from Oct. 24!!)

Black Point and Fort Mason

We traverse the grounds of the old military base and discover histories of farms, soldiers, abolitionists, and a lost lagoon. From the Fontana Towers to Aquatic Park we discuss urban development, ecology, slavery, World’s Fairs, and militarism.

Video here.

Saturday, September 19

India Basin and Heron’s Head Park

Shaping San Francisco invites you on a tour of India Basin’s shoreline open space, parks, and historic sites. Not only will you get a close-up tour of this much neglected part of San Francisco, but we’ll be discussing San Francisco’s efforts to plan for sea-level rise even while the overlooked shoreline is suddenly spruced up and made publicly available like never before. After our walk we’ll chat at the historic installation at the west end of India Basin.

A new kind of outdoor gathering to replace our normal schedule of indoor public talks. These will be shorter urban walks with a guest speaker or two, ending in a place where we can sit (safely) and have an open conversation about history, public space, and the themes that come up along the way.

Video here.

Saturday, September 6

SF General and Potrero Hill

Shaping San Francisco’s LisaRuth Elliott and Chris Carlsson are joined by longtime SF General nurse Sasha Cuttler for a brief but spirited discussion on the current pandemic, public health and the public sphere, mutual aid, mutual responsibility and the State... followed by an urban trek. We visit community gardens and other open spaces and get good views of transit corridors and the Bay.

As part of our "Urban Forum: Walk & Talk" series we've set up to replace our normal indoor Talks during the Covid-19 time, we didn't record this event.

Wednesday, March 11, 7:30 pm

Hidden San Francisco:
Book Release and Birthday!

Join Shaping San Francisco’s Chris Carlsson on his 63rd birthday as he presents his new book, Hidden San Francisco: A Guide to Lost Landscapes, Unsung Heroes, and Radical Histories. After a quarter century of curating the digital archive at, and conducting bike and walking tours, this book captures the unique and serendipitous connections that course through Shaping San Francisco’s ongoing work.

Video here.

Wednesday, February 26, 7:30 pm

Art & Politics: Miranda Bergman

Miranda Bergman, a Mission District resident for many decades and local icon, has been painting public murals since the 1970s when she started as a member of the Haight Ashbury muralists. Her involvement in Central America, Palestine, and women’s politics has shaped her participation in epic works such as Maestrapeace, a Placa mural in Balmy Alley, and many others around the Bay Area and the world.

Video here.

Wednesday, January 29, 7:30 pm

Money for AIDS, Not For War

The "Money for AIDS, Not for War" ritual/protest was held 35 years ago by Enola Gay, a self proclaimed faggot affinity group, on September 23, 1984, at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 50 miles east of San Francisco. It was the first recorded use of direct-action civil disobedience anywhere in the world in response to the AIDS crisis. (ACT UP/New York was founded three years later.) Veterans of that moment return to discuss direct action in the depths of the Reagan counter-revolution, the connections between war spending and social crises, the long resistance from below to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the vibrant queer left tradition of resistance still alive in San Francisco, with Jack Davis, Robert Glück, and Richard Bell.

Video here.