Show Us Your Town - San Francisco

Show us your town

San Francisco

Hop in a car, jump on a bike, or don some hiking boots and explore the expansive Bay Area. Some 3,500 alumni will tell you: adventure, amazing views, stellar food, and cultural activities of all varieties abound.

CITY OF LOVE: There is something for everyone in San Francisco, say our alumni tour guides who live and work in the Bay Area.

Streetcars and cable cars. Alcatraz, Muir Woods, and the Golden Gate Bridge. Lombard Street, the Presidio, and sourdough bread. For a city that only stretches seven miles by seven miles, San Francisco packs a punch. Ask locals what they love about it, and they will likely provide you a long list.

This past summer, six University alumni did just that, not only providing a list, but also offering their time to provide an insider’s look at the place they call home. There’s something about the area that grabs each of them. For Lauren Sacks Hopton ’10, it’s the accessibility of outdoor activities. For David Fang ’05, ’11 (PhD), it’s the area’s spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship. For Jason Smith ’03, ’08W (MS), it’s the diversity—of people, ideas, food, and landscape. With opportunities to explore everything from culture and technology to great food and coffee to ocean views, mountain vistas, and big adventures, all a visitor to San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area really needs is time.

If you’re going to San Francisco . . .

Members of the Bay Area Network offer their insights and favorite places to visit to create an insider’s view of San Francisco and its surrounding area. The color-coded circles match the descriptions for each spot.

The San Francisco edition of Show Us Your Town is part of a series highlighting the University’s regional networks and communities.

Let’s talk about the weather

Microclimates thrive in the Bay Area. Don’t be surprised to experience fog, sprinkles, and 45-degree weather on a summer morning in San Francisco. In the afternoon, head to San Jose or Stanford, where the sunshine can blind and temperatures can escalate to 90 degrees or more. “Be prepared for all kinds of weather,” says David Fang ’05, ’11 (PhD), who moved to San Francisco with his wife, Megan Schumann, two years ago. “Wear layers and invest in a down jacket—you will probably need it.”

Meet Your Guides

Carol Karp ’74

Hillsborough, California
Undergraduate major: Biology
Occupation: Chief regulatory officer, Prothena Biosciences Inc.

Carol Karp ’74 (left) visits San Francisco’s Ferry Building for its farmers market and choice of restaurants. “Tourists and locals alike enjoy everything the area has to offer,” she says.

David Fang ’05, ’11 (PhD)

San Francisco, California
Undergraduate major: Electrical and computer engineering

Occupation: Program manager at Synapse Product Development, a consultancy firm that works with small start-ups as well as Fortune 50 companies

As a San Francisco resident for only two years, David Fang ’05, ’11 (PhD) still spends weekends exploring what the area has to offer. “There is so much to do here,” he says. “In just this Lands End area of the Golden Gate park, you can visit Sutro Baths, hike some great trails, glimpse the sites of famous shipwrecks, and enjoy a terrific meal at the famous Cliff House, which overlooks the ocean.”

Jason Smith ’03, ’08W (MS)

San Jose, California
Undergraduate major: Political science
Occupation: Associate dean for student affairs at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music

With lots of great food, live music, and a farmers market, the San Pedro Market bustles with activity all week long. “The market is a great place to connect with friends and unwind at the end of a long day,” says Jason Smith ’03, ’08W (MS), who commutes from San Jose to San Francisco.

Lauren Sacks Hopton ’10

San Francisco, California
Undergraduate major: Psychology
Occupation: Project manager at Rothy’s, a maker of sustainable shoes for women

As an outdoor enthusiast, Lauren Sacks Hopton ’10 appreciates what the Bay Area offers, including plenty of hiking, biking, and running trails.

Phil Pizzo ’70M (MD)

Stanford, California
Undergraduate major: Psychology
Occupation: Pediatric oncologist and infectious disease specialist; former dean of Stanford’s medical school; and founder of Stanford’s Distinguished Careers Institute, which is associated with its Center for Longevity

Phil Pizzo ’70M (MD) stands among some of Stanford’s most famous residents—Auguste Rodin’s “The Burghers of Calais,” located on the grounds of the university’s Memorial Church.

Zakia Barnes ’04, ’17S (MBA)

Oakland, California
Undergraduate major: Applied mathematics
Occupation: Developer operations specialist at Facebook

Zakia Barnes ’04, ’17S (MBA) sits outside Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon in Oakland. “There’s a ton of history in this pub,” she says. “If you visit, check out the pub’s original gas lamp, potbelly stove, mahogany bar, and slanted floor, which is the result of the 1906 earthquake, when part of the building’s foundation sank.”

 Off to Market

There are plenty of choices when it comes to eating, shopping, and connecting.

A. San Pedro Market

87 N. San Pedro Street, San Jose

Foodies, music lovers, history buffs, festival followers, and coffee aficionados will enjoy this open-air plaza, which is located adjacent to the Peralta Adobe, the oldest building in the city. “Here in the heart of downtown San Jose, the market is a go-to place for live music and food from local vendors,” says Jason Smith ’03, ’08W (MS), a San Jose resident. “It’s also an ideal place to soak in some of the South Bay sunshine.” With Adobe, Apple, Cisco, Google, Yahoo, and other technology companies located here, San Jose is called Silicon Valley’s capital. “More companies are locating right in the downtown area,” adds Smith. “It’s prompting an increase in housing options for people, which contributes to the dynamic atmosphere that’s building here.”

B. Jack London Square

Broadway and Embarcadero, Oakland

Located on the waterfront and named after the American writer and San Francisco native, Jack London Square offers restaurants, retail shops, and waterfront activities. London’s cabin—where he lived during the gold rush in the Canadian Klondike—has been relocated to the square, next to Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon.

Heinold’s was a favorite of London’s—and it’s also a favorite of Zakia Barnes ’04, ’17S (MBA), an Oakland transplant who started a job at Facebook early in the summer. “The pub’s owner, Johnny Heinold, and Jack London were close. Heinold actually lent London the money to go to Berkeley to pursue his passion for writing,” says Barnes. “This place, and the sailors who passed through here, inspired many of London’s stories.”

C. The Ferry Building Marketplace

One Ferry Building, San Francisco

The original Ferry Building opened in 1898 and served as a transportation hub for decades until it fell into disrepair. That changed with the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which devastated the Embarcadero Freeway. A major renovation resulted in a transformed Ferry Building, now a world-class artisan public food market that also features a working ferry terminal.

“Tourists and locals alike enjoy everything the area has to offer,” says Carol Karp ’74, a peninsula resident who visits the Ferry Building for its farmers market. Among her favorite places are the Hog Island Oyster Co., which offers notably fresh oysters, and the Slanted Door, which features Vietnamese fare. The restaurant “can also create a delicious off-menu oyster stew for you,” she adds.

 Signature San Francisco

Few cities are as connected to iconic foods as San Francisco.

Sourdough bread

Boudin Bakery—San Francisco’s oldest bakery, now with multiple locations—has been using the same sourdough starter, also known as “Mother Dough,” since the Gold Rush of 1849. That’s what gives the bakery’s bread an exceptionally tangy favor.


A trip to the Cowgirl Creamery yields a large selection of delicious gourmet cheeses, including organic goat cheese, soft cow milk cheese, and even one named after the local Mount Tam.


In addition to the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, Karp suggests Recchuitu Confections, a Parisian-inspired local company that serves up many goodies, among them a s’mores bite—a sweet concoction that combines vanilla bean marshmallows, handmade graham crackers, and, of course, chocolate.


Several alumni recommend Philz for its drip coffees with meaningful names and Equator Coffees & Teas, which is dedicated to sustainability and social responsibility. It also serves delicious “early bird” tacos for breakfast. (Get there early; they sell out fast.)

 Parks and Rec

Getting—and playing—outside is easy in the Bay Area.

D. Sutro Baths

1004 Point Lobos Avenue

Only the remnants of the once spectacular baths—or, really, pools— remain. Named after Adolph Sutro, a wealthy resident and former city mayor, the baths are now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Visit the baths and then explore a vast network of trails that leads to beaches in one direction and to spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay in the other. “This is one of the city’s magical pockets,” says Fang, who visits regularly to relax, enjoy a sunset, learn some history, or go for a run or a hike.

E. The Presidio’s Main Post

San Francisco

Several alumni recommend the park and former military fort where, some say, San Francisco began. Native peoples lived in the area for thousands of years, then the Spanish built a fort, and later, it became a US Army post. Today, it’s a national park site that offers cultural events, restaurants, and outdoor activities. Start at the Visitor’s Center and explore bike paths and walkways through old Army buildings and a military cemetery. Make your way to the Golden Gate Bridge.

F. Mountain View Cemetery

5000 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland

Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the 150-year-old cemetery is a popular park and one of Barnes’s favorite spots. Take in beautiful views, impressive monuments, and local history. Among those buried in what the locals know as the Piedmont Cemetery are J. A. Folgers, founder of Folgers Coffee; Domingo Ghirardelli, namesake of the chocolate company; Bobby Hutton, the Black Panthers’ first treasurer; and Elizabeth Short, aka “the Black Dahlia,” whose Hollywood murder remains unsolved.

 Arts and Culture

From visual arts to performing arts to cultural activities, the Bay Area has it all.

G. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

151 3rd Street

Each alumni guide recommends SFMOMA. Dedicated to 20th century art, it is one of the largest modern and contemporary art museums in the country by square footage and features the work of Andy Warhol, Ellsworth Kelly, Diane Arbus, Roy Lichtenstein, Alexander Calder, and many of their contemporaries. Tip: The San Francisco CityPASS offers discounted admission to some of the area’s most popular attractions, including SFMOMA, which also offers free admission to those 18 years old and younger.

H. San Francisco performing arts district

The central area near the Hayes Valley neighborhood is home to the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, SFJAZZ Center, San Francisco Ballet, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. It also has a large concentration of theaters. “There is always something to see and hear here,” says Smith. “Plus the area’s restaurants offer wonderful places to wine and dine before or after a performance.”

I. Cantor Arts Center and the Anderson Collection

328 Lomita Drive at Museum Way, Stanford University

A fan of art, Phil Pizzo ’70M (MD) frequents museums. With a collection that spans 5,000 years across its nearly 40,000 works of art, the Cantor Arts Center features a number of Rodin bronze sculptures, both inside the museum and in an outdoor sculpture garden. The Anderson Collection is housed in a building adjacent to the center and features one of the world’s leading collections of modern and contemporary art. Both are open to the public.

The Stanford University campus offers a variety of sightseeing and educational opportunities. Highlights include the Hoover Tower observation platform (named after President Herbert Hoover, a Stan- ford alumnus), Bing Concert Hall, Memorial Church, and access to many outdoor activities, including a hike to the Dish, a recreational area that also serves academic and conservation purposes. “Stan- ford is really a self-contained city,” says Pizzo. “The campus has everything I need, from running trails to athletic events to performing arts programs, not to mention the tremendous medical and research facilities here.”

 Take—or Get Off—the Beaten Path

J. Alcatraz to Angel Island

Alcatraz Island sits just a mile offshore from San Francisco. Visitors can take a ferry to the infamous prison, now operated by the National Park Service, or they can find other ways to get on the water. Karp suggests taking a ride on one of San Francisco’s Red and White Fleet cruises. Tickets are easy to get and the views are extraordinary. Or grab a ferry to Angel Island, suggests Hopton. Operated by California State Parks, the ferry is only a short ride from the city and offers 360-degree views of the entire Bay Area.

K. Muir Woods to Mount Tam

Located north of San Francisco, in Marin County, the famous redwoods of Muir Woods lure huge crowds daily. Tickets and reservations are required and must be ordered in advance. For that reason—and a few others—locals often trek to Mount Tamalpais instead, says Hopton. Just a hairpin turn or two from Muir Woods, “Mount Tam” offers a rich web of trails, some leading to water, some perambulating through the open mountain side and the deep woods. “My husband, Noah, and I have been there at least 50 times in the six years we’ve been here,” she says. “He even proposed to me near the top of the mountain.” Trivia: Mount Tam and the surrounding areas in Marin County are considered the birthplace of mountain biking.

 Farther Afield

I. Big Sur

Drive down the scenic Pacific Coast highway—State Route 1—for about three hours to get to Big Sur, which sits between an unforgettable coastline and the Santa Lucia Mountains.

M. Lake Tahoe

Known for its beaches, ski resorts, and outdoor activities, the freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains lies on the border between California and Nevada, almost four hours from San Francisco.

N. Yosemite National Park

The famous photographer Ansel Adams loved the park, and so do the four million visitors every year who take in its sequoia trees, myriad trails, and views of El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridal Veil Falls.

O. Wine country

Sonoma and Napa Valley are just a short distance over the Golden Gate Bridge. Check out the Russian River Valley in the heart of Sonoma County—it’s a go-to area for locals.

P. Half Moon Bay

Just 45 minutes south of the city, a nearly 300-mile stretch of coastline offers breathtaking views, dining experiences (and heaps of fresh seafood), as well as outdoor activities like biking, kayaking, and surfing.

 Right Place, Right Time

Bay to Breakers

The annual footrace began in 1912 as a way to lift morale after the 1906 earthquake. Now held on the third Sunday of every May, it’s “like Dandelion Day in race form,” says Smith.

San Francisco Pride

The annual celebration of the LGBTQ community takes place during the last weekend of June. Highlights include a parade and festival. Tip: Check out the GLBT Historical Society in the Castro District, too—it’s a treasure trove of materials and knowledge.

Fillmore Street Jazz Festival

Held every year over the July 4th weekend, the festival features live music, plus more than 12 blocks of gourmet food, beverages, and fine arts and crafts vendors.

Regional Networks and You

San Francisco is home to just one of the University’s regional networks, which offer alumni, parents, and friends a variety of social events and opportunities for networking and volunteering. With new cities added regularly, the lineup of metropolitan areas includes BaltimoreBostonChicago, Houston, Los AngelesPhiladelphiaRochester, and New York City.

The networks also organize opportunities that include interviewing and mentoring students, welcoming new alumni to an area, organizing events, and serving as social media ambassadors.

For more information, visit

Staying Connected on the West Coast

Being engaged with her alma mater—and helping other alumni do the same—is important to Lauren Sacks Hopton ’10, who has played a key role in organizing events in the Bay Area as a Young Alumni Council leader.

“For the past two years, as part of the University’s Global Day of Service, I organized a sidewalk planting event with the Friends of the Urban Forest,” she says. “It was wonderful to work alongside fellow alumni to beautify our city.” She has also planned George Eastman birthday events and “new to the city” events for alumni who have recently moved to the area.

Keeping connections alive while helping the community is important to Jason Smith ’03, ’08W (MS), too. “One of our most successful alumni events was held at Hotel Biron, a favorite restaurant of mine in San Francisco,” says Smith, cochair of the Bay Area Network Leadership Cabinet. “We gathered together as an alumni community, with proceeds from the event going to Napa/Sonoma fire relief funds.”

Other volunteers engage, give back, and provide leadership in other ways. David Fang ’05, ’11 (PhD) is on the Hajim School’s Visiting Council and the Bay Area Network Leadership Cabinet. He recently attended an event with students on a tour of technology-oriented companies in the Bay Area sponsored by the Gwen M. Greene Center for Career Education and Connections.

“It’s important to give young people a practical taste of what their futures might hold,” he says. “It can ground them and inspire them at the same time.” Fang is also a volunteer with Real Reader, a University program that connects alumni with students and offers ongoing professional counsel and feedback, including advice on résumés, interviewing, and more.

Phil Pizzo ’70M (MD) and Carol Karp ’74 serve on the University’s Board of Trustees and are former cochairs of the Bay Area Network Leadership Cabinet. Pizzo also has a close advisory relationship with Mark Taubman, CEO of the University’s Medical Center and UR Medicine.

Karp also serves as chair of the River Campus Libraries National Council and on the recently formed Alumni Board. She has been inspired, she says, by “the commitment to the University demonstrated by the exemplary support of our former board chair, Ed Hajim, and our newly appointed board chair, Rich Handler.”

Zakia Barnes ’04, ’17S (MBA) is part of the Alumni Board and the Diversity Advisory Council, and serves as a Simon Business School mentor. “Being connected to my alma mater is rewarding and keeps me grounded,” she says. “I encourage everyone to get involved—we can all grow from sharing our experiences and perspectives with one another.”