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The Public Press Blog

Help Us Reach the Top

A BIG THANK YOU to everyone who has supported this campaign! We are extremely close to reaching our goal of raising $50,000 by Sept. 30 and need only $1,283. Can you help us get there by making a donation today?

Reaching this goal will help the Public Press continue to investigate the effects of public-policy decisions and to produce in-depth reports on housing, the environment, education and labor that help all of us in San Francisco and around the Bay Area understand our communities better.

We need your support today to drive home projects exploring the rising cost of living in San Francisco and campaign finance reform in local elections.

Bonus: Make a donation by Sept. 30 and be one of the first to receive our new thank-you gift — a San Francisco Public Press reporter’s notebook!

Thank you for helping the Public Press reach this goal!

Donate Now

Getting close

Campaign thermometerAlmost to Our Goal!

We are very close to reaching our goal of raising $50,000 by Sept. 30 and need only $3,309. We promise to end the campaign as soon as we hit the target!

Can you help by making a donation today? Reaching this goal will help the Public Press leverage new grant opportunities by showing foundations that the community supports what we do.

Thank you for joining us in this effort!

What Does It Mean to Donate to 
the San Francisco Public Press?

It means identifying policies that keep us all safe. Less than a month after the Public Press released a map of soft-story residential buildings vulnerable to earthquake damage, then-Supervisor David Chiu proposed mandatory seismic retrofitting for those very buildings — a policy that quickly gained approval from the board of supervisors. 

It means uncovering inequity. Public Press reporters compiled original research on PTA fundraising at San Francisco elementary schools, creating a data set the school board had never seen and reinvigorating discussions about inequality in education.

It means accountability. Following a Public Press investigation that exposed the city's falling rate of domestic violence prosecutions, the district attorney acknowledged that his department was not aware of the trend and committed to examining it.

That's what it means to give to the Public Press, and we need your support to continue this work. Help us publish more public-interest journalism.

New: $5-Per-Month Membership Plan

Become a member of the San Francisco Public PressJoin the Public Press as a sustaining member and contribute to a steady source of funding to our nonprofit newsroom. Pledge $5 per month and immediately qualify for Cub Reporter membership level benefits. The drop-down menu includes higher donation options, which qualify you for additional benefits. Visit our membership page for more details.


Media Coverage of Our Sea Level Rise Reporting

Here’s what other media outlets are saying about the Public Press’ sea level rise report:

Read our sea level rise report detailing how the Bay Area’s current waterfront building frenzy includes at least $21 billion in housing and commercial construction in low-lying areas that climate scientists say could flood by the end of the century.

Order a copy of the Summer 2015 print edition or pick one up at these locations around the Bay Area. Become a member to support local public-interest journalism and receive a subscription for the next for issues of the San Francisco Public Press, plus additional member benefits.

Sea Level Rise Report — Coming Soon!

Kevin Stark measuring high tide at the Ferry Building in San Francisco.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to our summer campaign this past week! Together you pledged nearly $6,000 to support the San Francisco Public Press, bringing our summer fundraising total close to $31,000.

Join this week’s flash campaign to help us reach our $50,000 goal even faster: New and renewed membership donations through the end of Friday, July 10, will be matched up to $500 by Public Press board member David Cohn and his wife Megan.

An additional incentive to act now: If you join by Monday, July 13, you will be listed as a member in Issue 17, which will be published next week.

We’re excited to share the new issue with you. Lead reporters Kevin Stark (pictured here measuring high tide near the Ferry Building) and Winnie Bird have been working on the sea level rise project since early this year, supported by a sprawling crew of interns, senior editors, cartographers, photographers and illustrators.

The Bay Area’s current building frenzy includes both housing and commercial construction. In examining approval processes for new buildings on the bay’s edge, our team found that cities are green-lighting waterfront development with little regard for long-term planning or the future cost of retrofitting large-scale projects — a burden passed on to future residents — in light of consensus projections for sea level rise.

Map preview of San Francisco Bay waterfront development.

This report is heading to press and is guaranteed to reach readers. Can you help us keep this work going? We need your support to ensure that the San Francisco Public Press can continue producing in-depth investigations that show the real impact of public policy decisions and help all of us in the Bay Area understand our communities better.

Help the San Francisco Public Press raise $50,000 this summer and take advantage of a $15,000 matching grant from the San Francisco Foundation by donating today to support our work as a trailblazer for public-interest journalism.

Thank you for joining us in this effort!

Graphic via FreeimagesHub. Illustration by Olivia Henry.

Join the Summer 2015 Campaign

Issue No. 1 of the San Francisco Public Press arriving from the printer in June 2010.

Can you believe we published our first newspaper five years ago this month? We're putting finishing touches on Issue No. 17 and are excited to share our findings on how cities around the bay are managing waterfront development in light of consensus projections for sea level rise. (Hint: We didn't find many long-range plans.)

The report will include context-rich maps in print and video and interactive elements online to give a clear view of how our region is changing and what it could look like in the not-too-distant future.

The San Francisco Public Press needs your support to continue producing in-depth investigations that show the real impact of public policy decisions and help all of us in the Bay Area understand our communities better.

You can help us to reach our goal of raising $50,000 this summer by donating to renew your membership or become a member today.

We are already halfway there. Several supporters helped launch this summer campaign with pledges totaling $25,000, including a $15,000 matching grant from the San Francisco Foundation.

By adding your donation, you will help produce investigations on undercovered issues like the disparity in fundraising by parent-teacher associations, the focus of a data-intensive story we broke in 2014. This year, that report received a Sigma Delta Chi Award for investigative reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists, and a John Swett Award for Media Excellence from the California Teachers Association.

Jeremy Adam Smith with the San Francisco Public Press' first SDX Award.

Our goal is to lead in improving community coverage. We tackle topics like the tortuous path from homelessness to housing, delays in communicating with tenants and homeowners about the earthquake vulnerability of soft-story buildings, how San Francisco tracks its myriad workforce development programs, and increased segregation in San Francisco public schools.

Become a member of the San Francisco Public Press today to help us continue our work as a trailblazer for public-interest journalism.

Thank you for your support!

How a Small Nonprofit Newsroom Leads Education Coverage in San Francisco

We were encouraged this week to see the San Francisco Chronicle take a deep look at racial segregation in local public schools. As our readers know, the San Francisco Public Press produced a major investigative report in January on this subject: “Choice Is Resegregating Public Schools.”

Our goal at the Public Press is to lead in improving community coverage and in setting the local news agenda. As a community-supported nonprofit news organization, we focus on under-reported public policy issues, and we are heartened to see other Bay Area news outlets following our lead.

To produce significant, in-depth investigative reporting, we rely on donations from readers. We can continue this important work with your help. Consider becoming a member of the San Francisco Public Press today to support independent public media in the Bay Area.

Our original analysis of education data shed light on an increase in racial segregation in San Francisco schools. While parents now have more choice in where their children are enrolled, such a policy results in a “separate but equal” system. Factors that drive parents’ choices include the time and cost involved in transporting children to better schools.

Our investigation clearly influenced the Chronicle’s three-day series. A blog post by Scott Lucas of San Francisco Magazine noted similarities between the two reports. We’ll leave it to readers to draw their own conclusions.

Cover of the Winter 2015 issue of the San Francisco Public PressMay 17, 2015 cover of San Francisco Chronicle

Other news organizations that reported on our findings, including the Washington Post, the San Francisco Examiner and various education and economics blogs, linked to our coverage. KALW’s talk show “Your Call” featured an hour-long conversation with our lead reporter, Jeremy Adam Smith. The Chronicle in March also ran an op-ed about our coverage written by Smith, and cited our reporting in a blog post on

The Chronicle’s recent report also discussed the disparity in fundraising by parent-teacher associations, the focus of a data-intensive story we broke last year in “Public Schools, Private Money.” This spring, that report received a 2014 Sigma Delta Chi Award for investigative reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists, and a John Swett Award for Media Excellence from the California Teachers Association.

We are proud to have spurred so many news organizations, including one of the largest newspapers in California, to bring this significant equity issue to the attention of many more readers in San Francisco and beyond.

The San Francisco Public Press was founded six years ago to shift the local news agenda to focus more on serious public policy questions. Help us continue our work as a trailblazer for public-interest journalism by making a tax-deductible donation to the Public Press.

Thank you for your support!

Lila LaHood


Public Press Reporting on School Segregation Inspires Broad Media Coverage

Editor’s note: Over the past several months, we have been gathering reporting that follows up on our coverage of segregation in San Francisco’s public schools. The latest pickup was a three-part series in the San Francisco Chronicle starting Sunday. Read more about it here.

San Francisco Public Press’ reporting package on school re-segregation has sparked conversation about race and education.

A March 27 article in the Washington Post’s Wonkblog draws heavily from the Public Press to discuss the national implications of school choice. “In San Francisco, it looks as though giving parents some measure of choice in where their children go to school…in the long term can only result in gross educational inequities,” writes the Post’s Max Ehrenfreund.

Data-crunching firm Priceonomics crafted an impressive set of visualizations based on Public Press reporter Jeremy Adam Smith’s “eye-opening” data.

San Francisco youth demographics chart from

The San Francisco Chronicle’s own data dive into school diversity cites the Public Press’ demographic analysis. It follows Smith’s March 17 op-ed in the Chronicle calling out the city’s “profound identity crisis” in light of growing racial and income inequities. This month, the Chronicle published this report. The Society Pages and Education News also link to the Public Press’ investigation.

In other local media, San Francisco Examiner reporter Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez wrote that the package revealed “a shameful truth about our city.” The Bold Italic had high praise for the “devastating” report: “If you’re thinking of sending your kids to SFUSD (or even if you’re considering having kids at all, really), it’s worth a thorough read.” KALW Radio’s “Your Call” devoted an hourlong program to discussing school segregation with Smith and other guests, and KALW’s “Crosscurrents"  interviewed Smith for a segment on the investigation.

eremy Adam Smith prepares for an interview at KALW's studios in 2014. // Public Press - See more at:
Jeremy Adam Smith prepares for an interview at KALW's studios in 2014. // Public Press

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group that advocates for school integration, tweeted the story to its 45,000 followers. SF Dads, Education Cities and The New York Times Magazine’s race reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones also shared the story on Twitter.

The Institute for Nonprofit News’ Senior Director of Product and Technology Adam Schweigert tweeted that the reporting left him “genuinely much more informed about that issue.”

“That’s huge,” Schweigert wrote. “And sadly, rare.”

In April the Public Press received two awards for its investigation into the enormous disparity in parent fundraising across city elementary schools: The Society of Professional Journalists’ 2014 Sigma Delta Chi Award for investigative reporting and the California Teachers Association’s 2014 John Swett Award for Media Excellence.

Sea Level Rise Shapes Future of Bay Area Waterfront Development

Sea level rise threatens tens of billions of dollars worth of new waterfront development in the Bay Area — but there may be time to adapt.

That was the message at Tuesday’s panel on sea level rise hosted by the San Francisco Public Press at the Impact Hub, a co-working space. Panelists included UC Berkeley professor Kristina Hill, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Climate Program Director David Behar and Public Press reporter Kevin Stark.

Stark is one of two lead reporters of the Public Press’ new edition on sea level rise, due to hit newsstands later this month. The front-page investigation, a six-month collaboration of 10 journalists, scientists and cartographers, has so far uncovered dozens of commercial and residential projects planned for areas below 8 feet in elevation. Eight feet represents an unlikely but possible sea level rise scenario for the year 2100, combining maximum sea level rise predictions with a major storm swell.

What does an 8-foot increase look like? Someone standing at the edge of a pier near the Ferry Building would be waist-high in waves, Stark said.

Some of those upcoming projects include new developments in Mission Bay and residential towers planned for Treasure Island.

It is a daunting figure for a region bounded by water. “Are you going to convince me to sell my home in Alameda tonight?” one audience member teased.

But Behar cautioned that an 8-foot rise would be extreme. He was tasked by the city with interpreting competing sea level rise data in 2013, and said most studies expected only 3 feet of rise by 2100.

By and large, state and local governments do not have explicit sea level rise regulations on the books. Environmentalists and the building industry have tussled over whether sea level rise needs to be included in the state’s environmental review process. But Behar said the days of murky rules will soon be over: “We know regulation is coming.”

Will it come fast enough? Hill, a professor of landscape architecture and environmental planning at the University of California, Berkeley, said long-range planning needs to happen soon. She reminded the audience that sea level rise is exponential: The levels will climb slowly, then all at once.

“We are living in the last two stable decades of sea level rise," Hill said. "Around 2045, 2050, or 2060, it’s going to get faster.”

In the meantime, Stark said, many developers are forging ahead with little heed for the advancing water line. One developer, he said, “told me ‘The barbarians aren’t at the gate yet.’ There’s a compartmentalization of understanding of sea level rise and climate change. The knowledge that it’s happening on one hand, and the need for space and houses on the other.”

The two are not necessarily in competition, Hill said. She gave the example of a housing development in Hamburg, Germany with “floodable architecture.” Its plaza welcomes the water in instead of holding it back.

Another plan from Dutch engineers widened a beach to expand the buffer between city and sea. Hill said a similar approach could work in the Bay Area, joking that some are calling the method “shallowing” to avoid its more controversial name: bayfill.

“In 1965, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission was founded to stop the filling of the bay,” Behar added. “Today they’re studying how filling the bay could be a really good idea.”

For more on the data and thinkers behind Bay Area sea rise, look for the Public Press’ new edition on newsstands at the end of May.

5/5 Event on Long-Range Sea Level Rise Planning for Bay Area Waterfront Development

What: Rising Tides: Climate Challenges and Solutions for the Bay Area Waterfront
When: Tuesday, May 5, 2015 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Where: Impact Hub, 925 Mission St., San Francisco
RSVP: Reserve tickets via eventbrite

Join us for a discussion about long-range planning and waterfront development around the Bay Area, and preview of our cover story for the next issue of the San Francisco Public Press.

By the end of this century, scientists project the San Francisco Bay will rise by at least three feet - and possibly as much as eight in a bad storm. Rising bay water will threaten businesses along the Embarcadero, UCSF Hospital, AT&T ballpark and the thousands of homes currently being built in Mission Bay, Treasure Island and Hunters Point. City planners are currently discussing what can be done and at what cost, likely in the billions of dollars. Learn from an expert panel the anticipated effects on our natural ecosystem, existing and new development, and public utilities such as transportation and sewage. This solutions-focused discussion will help us all responsibly plan for the future of the Bay Area.


  • Michael Stoll, executive director, San Francisco Public Press (moderator)
  • Kristina Hill, associate professor of landscape architecture and environmental planning, UC Berkeley
  • David Behar, climate program director, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
  • Kevin Stark, reporter, San Francisco Public Press

Note — No one will be turned away for lack of funds. Send an email to rsvp {at] sfpublic press [dot] org if you need a discount ticket.

This event is hosted by Impact Hub San Francisco, a coworking and events space for a membership community of entrepreneurs, activists, creatives and professionals taking action to drive positive social and environmental change.

San Francisco Public Press Wins Sigma Delta Chi Award for Investigative Reporting

The Society of Professional Journalists has honored the San Francisco Public Press with a 2014 Sigma Delta Chi Award for investigative reporting.




SPJ recognized “Public Schools, Private Money” by lead writer and project editor Jeremy Adam Smith and the staff of the San Francisco Public Press as the winning entry for investigative reporting by a non-daily publication in the newspapers/wire service category.

SPJ selected 85 national award winners from more than 1,600 submissions.

For the winter 2014 print edition cover story, our reporters examined tax records from parent-teacher associations and compiled 10 years of budget and academic data from the city’s school district. The research focused only on elementary schools to make easy comparisons. Our research shows that while a small number of schools were able to avoid the worst effects of recent budget cuts, belts continued to tighten at schools with more economically disadvantaged students. Read the series:

Congratulations to the whole project team!

  • Jeremy Adam Smith — Lead writer and project editor
  • Michael Stoll and Lila LaHood — editors
  • Tearsa Joy Hammock and Luke Thomas — Photographers
  • Jeffrey Thorsby, Jason Winshell, Adriel Taquechel and Shinwha Whang — Data team
  • Justin Slaughter and Emilie Raguso — Sidebar writers
  • Thomas Guffey — Designer
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