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Recent Free Public Talks and Outdoor Urban Forums
January 2020-2022

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)

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Saturday, May 20, noon

Food and Sports History in SOMA and the Mission

The Last Urban Forum Walk'n'Talk of Spring 2023 season, this is on the twin themes of Food and Baseball! Billed originally as a Mission District walk, we actually began at 8th and Market on the site of the old 1890s Central Park, and later the site of the Crystal Palace Market. Our trek took us to 8th and Harrison for some baseball history sweetened by an earlier sugar factory, then a saga of offal and stench near the 1857 Brannan Street bridge, on to Seals Stadium and Hamms Beer brewery, a glance at American Can Co. and Best Foods factory, then across the Mission to end at 15th and Valencia, the site of Big Rec, original home of the Mission Reds AND the San Francisco Seals.

Video here.

Saturday, March 18, Noon

Journey to the Highest Peak, Mt. Davidson

This Urban Forum: Walk'n'Talk began at O'Shaughnessy and Portola and headed past the century-old reservoir to reach an old entry to Mt. Davidson. Up we went, spending some time at the top enjoying the views, as well as paying a visit to the old cement cross which has a large restoration project taking shape next to it. Down the the long steep street on the southwest side of the mountain, we eventually made our way to the Edgehill Mountain Open Space, walking through the forest where many trees fell in recent storms. The top of Edgehill features a number of remarkable homes, and after circumambulating the hill we made our way back to the beginning spot.

Video here.

Saturday, January 28, Noon

Bernal to Diamond Heights

Starting at the Richland Avenue overpass at the Bernal Cut, we ascended Fairmont Heights to Laidley Street to see the Poole-Bell Mansion and a number of whimsical architectural statements along that street. The Harry Steps took us to Beacon Street above Billy Goat Hill where we heard about the original Gray Bros. quarry that carved the hill that became a park. Traversing the new path to Haas Playground we continued up to the top of Diamond Heights before following a winding route through the west and southern edges of the neighborhood, along the rim of Glen Canyon at one point. Finally we returned to the starting point.

Video here.

Saturday, November 19, 12 noon

Pacific Heights and Cow Hollow

The final Urban Forum: Walk n Talk of Fall 2022 took us to Pacific Heights and Cow Hollow. Starting at the Spreckels Mansion at Washington on the north edge of Lafayette Park, we wandered west to visit Tucker Town, Captain Leale's 1853 farmhouse, the Bourn Mansion, and the cluster of Flood mansions near Broadway and Webster. Guest host Gail MacGowan gave great stories and background on the Casebolt Mansion, the churches on Steiner at Green and Union, and ending at the Russian Orthodox church at Green and Van Ness. In between we also stopped at the site of the first reading of "Howl" and passed the Vedanta Temple, discussed house moving, the Octagon House, Allyne Park, and Washerwoman's Lagoon.

Video here.

Saturday, November 5, 12 noon

China Beach to Mountain Lake

A Walk n Talk through the misty drizzle, starting at 30th Avenue and California and walking over to China Beach. It was the first day of Dungeness Crab season and many small boats were offshore, west of the Golden Gate, and the beach was full of fishermen too. From there we walked through Seacliff and over to the Lobos Creek area and the huge dune restoration project. Following Anza Trail up and behind the former Marine Hospital we paused at the Marine Cemetery overlook, and then headed down the stairs to the underpass under the highway, and ending at a couple of spots overlooking Mountain Lake, including the original Anza campsite plaque.

Video here.

Saturday, October 15, 12 noon

New Parks: Tunnel Tops to Francisco

Starting at Battery Slaughter, recently opened to the public with its expansive views of the Golden Gate and the bay, we strolled through the restored landscape and old 1890s military installations. We made our way to the official "Tunnel Tops" park between the Main Post and Crissy Field, wandered past Quartermaster Reach, and eventually out to the long walk along the Marina Green. There we saw a few surprising monuments amidst the hundreds of tots battling it out in goalie-free soccer. We passed through Fort Mason and its spectacular community garden, before concluding our WalknTalk at the new Francisco Park built over San Francisco's first reservoir site after years of abandonment.

Video here.

Saturday, September 24, 12 noon

Chain o' Lakes/Western Golden Gate Park

Our first Walk n Talk Urban Forum of Fall 2022 season, started the north edge of the Northernmost of the Chain of Lakes in western Golden Gate Park. After traversing the width of the park we proceeded west and encounter a number of other stories related to trains, bicycles, feminism, shipwrecks and more!

Video here.

Saturday, May 28

City College to San Francisco State

Learn about the struggle for union rights and a Free City College, visit the Urbano Sundial, and end at the historic SF State University campus, where the 1968-69 student/faculty strikes led to the establishment of the first College of Ethnic Studies in the U.S.

Video here.

Saturdays, April 9 and April 16

San Bruno Mountain

A walk up Owl Canyon and then down Buckeye Canyon on San Bruno Mountain, led by David Schooley, long time organizer and defender of the remarkable Mountain. A home to endangered plants and butterflies, and the last intact remnant of the ecological niche that once covered most of the San Francisco peninsula, and a place with incredible views from dense oak forests, San Bruno Mountain is also home to some key environmental battles of the 1970s to the present.

Video here.

Saturday, March 26

Fort Funston to Pine Lake

A Shaping San Francisco "Urban Forum: Walk n Talk" going from Fort Funston in the southwest corner of the city through the old base, now a park, to Ocean Beach and north to Sloat Blvd., then east on Wawona to Pine Lake. Several stops along the way with semi-long presentations by Shaping San Francisco's Chris Carlsson covering military and economic history, wildflowers, sewage, urban farming, water, swales and graywater, and many other random things. Includes photos from, video from the Prelinger Archive, and a map from

Video here.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Visitacion Valley and Little Hollywood

A spirited urban meander starting at the foot of the Visitacion Valley Greenway, with a presentation on its evolution from activist Fran Martin, then looping back through the neighborhood and down Leland Avenue, the main shopping street, checking out historic architecture along the way with commentary from Visitacion Valley Historical Society members Cynthia Cox and Edie Eps. Once we emerged onto Bayshore Boulevard we went slightly north to cross over and enter Little Hollywood where we heard from VVHS member Russel Marine, along with Edie and Cynthia, and toured the unique residential neighborhood with a stop at its hilltop park next to the Recology facility. After all that we headed back onto Bayshore Blvd., stopping in front of the former Schlage Lock factory site to hear about the failed redevelopment of it, and ended south of the county line where we could peer through the fence to see the old Southern Pacific roundhouse.

Video here.