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Public Talks

Free! All Talks begin at 7:30 pm  unless otherwise noted.

At various locations (see below). Additional offsite events are also listed here.

We are recommencing our ongoing Public Talks at 518 Valencia this Fall. Some of our celebratory events that are collaborative Public Talks in other locations are also listed here to make the calendar continuous.

Our Public Talks are partly underwritten by the City Lights Foundation and Rainbow Grocery Cooperative.

Download the Fall 2023 calendar as a pdf


Archive of past talks

All our Talks have been integrated into our digital archive at, and may be easier to access there.

Topic areas of our audio recordings of public talks going back to 2006:

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

Confused about podcast subscribing? Go here for an explanation on how to do it.

Thursday, October 19, 7 pm

North Beach History Night

at Savoy Tivoli, 1434 Grant Avenue

Telegraph Hill Dwellers join Shaping San Francisco for an informative excursion through neighborhood history, highlighting Italian roots, architectural preservation, Coit Tower on its 90th anniversary, and how San Francisco's grassroots environmentalism can trace its roots to the slopes of 19th century Telegraph Hill.

This is a free event, but we gladly accept donations. donate now!

Tuesday, October 24, 6 pm

Mountain View Cemetery

at Oakland Public Library, 125 14th Street

In this talk co-presented by the Oakland History Center, Liam O'Donoghue, host of the incomparable podcast East Bay Yesterday, takes us on an historical journey through Mountain View Cemetery.

Part of Oakland Public Library’s Fall History Series.

This is a free event, but we gladly accept donations. donate now!

Wednesday, November 8, 7:30 pm

Eric Porter's People's History of SFO

at 518 Valencia Street

Join Eric Porter, author of the recent A People’s History of SFO, for a deep look at SFO—San Francisco International Airport—which has come a long way from its muddy beginnings as Mills Field in the 1920s. Functioning as the center of the Bay Area’s modernizing transportation networks, SFO’s evolution illuminates fraught questions of access and employment discrimination, while becoming an “infrastructural manifestation of a succession of regional colonial presents, layered on top of sinking concrete, steel, and landfill upon mud.” And today’s airport, with rising bay waters lapping at its shores, confronts us with the implacable role of air travel in climate change, which no amount of berms and protective seawalls will solve.

This is a free event, but we gladly accept donations. donate now!

Wednesday, November 15, 7:30 pm

Jenny Odell in the Archives

at 518 Valencia Street

In 2019, through the San Francisco Arts Commission, Jenny Odell was an artist in residence at the San Francisco Planning Department. During her time there, Odell happened across unfiled and minimally marked envelopes of snapshots of San Francisco from the late 1960s through the late 1990s. These images of storefronts and streetscapes depict an ever-changing San Francisco through seemingly arbitrary aspects of the city's distinctive neighborhoods. In this talk, Odell presents images from this archive and discusses the way they read differently through the lens of the present.

This is a free event, but we gladly accept donations. donate now!

Tuesday, December 5, 7:30 pm

Talking History with Gary Kamiya

at 518 Valencia Street

Gary Kamiya, author of Cool Grey City of Love, in addition to writing the "Portals of the Past" column in the SF Chronicle and now the SF Examiner, has been a longtime inspiration and friend to Shaping San Francisco. In this last event of our 25th anniversary celebration, Gary joins Chris and LisaRuth for a 3-way conversation/interview about writing history, choosing sources, the value of archives, the role of history in an amnesiac culture, and other fun topics. Come with your thoughts, insights, and questions!

This is a free event, but we gladly accept donations. donate now!