Total SF

A San Francisco culture podcast featuring celebrity guests, non-celebrity guests, personalities from the San Francisco Chronicle and a celebration of Bay Area life. Hosted by culture critic Peter Hartlaub and columnist Heather Knight and recorded on the streets, hilltops, parks and landmarks of San Francisco. The pair's focus on the whimsy and wonder of San Francisco began in 2018 when they rode every bus, train, cable car and street car in the city in one day. They believe in highlighting the eccentric characters, independent bookstores, burger joints and bars that make the bay so great.

TV & Film
Society & Culture
Car-Free JFK: Breaking news episode!
11 min
Is San Francisco a great biking city?
San Francisco Chronicle theater critic Lily Janiak is feeling optimistic about the future of live theater in the Bay Area, as she reviews live indoors shows again after a worldwide pandemic. She's also excited about the journey to and from the theaters — since she was hired by The Chronicle, she has been riding her bike to almost every performance. Total SF hosts Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight meet Janiak next to Bernal Rock, where they talk about their favorite bike lanes, bike mentorship and answer the question: Is San Francisco a great biking city?
35 min
8 reasons why we still love San Francisco
After seeing yet another high-profile attack about "the decline of San Francisco," hosts Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight discuss the myth of the Golden Age of S.F., and then pick eight reasons why they still love the city. The city's parks and views, a few very competent city agencies and the Phoenix mentality are all on the list. Is San Francisco over? Maybe some day, but it's definitely not going to be decided by some venture capitalist on Twitter.
26 min
Secrets of Grace Cathedral!
Grace Cathedral in San Francisco was declared "a house of prayer for all people" when its first cornerstone was laid down in 1910, and the worship center has carried that pledge for more than a century. Total SF hosts Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight get a tour of the California Street landmark, then sit down with Very Rev. Malcolm Clemens Young, the dean of Grace Cathedral. Young talks about the cathedral's history — including a visit from Martin Luther King Jr. after the Selma march — and its role in the 21st Century as a place for all to enter
27 min
This chill S.F. spot is our pandemic MVP
What has flower pianos, yoga on the meadow and magnolia blossoms and is free to San Franciscans? Total SF hosts Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight pay a visit to the San Francisco Botanical Garden, the most underrated 55 acres in San Francisco, to get a tour from executive director Stephanie Linder. The Botanical Garden gained popularity during the pandemic, when the open space and good vibes were more valuable than ever. Listeners will find out what happens when visitors try to steal plants (it happens!) and learn some of the secrets of the Garden.
26 min
An interstellar book club, with Charlie Jane An...
Science fiction author Charlie Jane Anders sits down outside the Exploratorium to talk about indie bookstores, the importance of mentors and her book "Victories Greater Than Death" — the latest Total SF Book Club title. Anders published three books in 2021, including a book of short stories ("Even Greater Mistakes") and a book about writing to get through tough times ("Never Say You Can't Survive").
27 min
Sing-alongs, drag queens and Keanu Reeves: All ...
Hosts Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight are joined by Chronicle arts and culture columnist Tony Bravo to talk about The Castro Theatre, and the changes set to happen when Another Planet Entertainment takes over in 2023. San Francisco native Bravo and the hosts share Castro history, its importance to the LGBTQ community and some of their favorite moments at the movie theater — including the "Last Black Man in San Francisco" premiere, and the time Bravo was able to introduce "Vertigo" star Kim Novak to his grandmother. And they share their hopes for the theater's future.
33 min
San Francisco needs a pep talk (on a Ferris wheel)
Hosts Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight meet up with Bishop Megan Rohrer and end up recorded podcast episode in the most unusual place yet — on the Golden Gate Park Ferris wheel in the music concourse. As they sit in the VIP gondola and enjoy the view, Bishop Rohrer talks about keeping positive in 2022, when resolutions can lead to unneeded guilt and shame. And they give a blessing for San Francisco, and talk about the potential for the city — even during frustrating times.
23 min
Cleaning San Francisco's dirty streets — with H...
Heather Knight and Peter Hartlaub spend a Sunday afternoon cleaning up trash in North Beach, after Refuse Refuse SF founder Vincent Yuen put out a Twitter call to Hartlaub, Knight and Hunter Pence, and the former San Francisco Giants outfielder answered. After the event, the Total SF hosts sat down with Yuen to learn his origin story, discover a new word (garbology!), find out why the west side of the street in S.F. accumulates three times as much trash — and why empowering neighbors to clean their streets has become Yuen's mission.
32 min
14 things you must do in S.F. in 2022
With overcast weather and omicron raging, hosts Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight look forward to better days, and make a list of 16 things you should do in San Francisco in 2022. Among the suggestions is the most underrated place in S.F. to watch the sunset, the most entertaining Muni line, a new must-ride ferry route, the best section to watch a Giants game and ... the dissection of a cow eyeball?
27 min
A perfect day in San Francisco (Best of 2021)
Total SF hosts Heather Knight and Peter Hartlaub break down their perfect day in San Francisco, creating an hour-by-hour list of things to do and places to go in the city, without telling each other until the podcast started rolling. It gets competitive, as Knight picks a more historical and cultural route, while Hartlaub chooses to get inebriated in the morning and eat sandwiches. But it's collectively a celebration of the city, with tips for your next off day in good weather. Some common ground includes the historic F-line street cars, a walk through Golden Gate Park, visits to independent bookstores and big finish on the roof of a drag club in SOMA.
29 min
Good times with "curmudgeon" Quentin Kopp (Best...
Quentin Kopp is a former San Francisco supervisor, state senator and judge — but he's known to local journalists as the most prolific angry letter-writer in the city. In this flashback episode from July 21, 2021, Total SF co-hosts Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight visit the self-professed "curmudgeon" to talk about his life, his letter-writing process, what he really thinks of them ... and to wish him a happy 93rd birthday! After making peace, with no apologies, Kopp lets us know his advice for living a long and active life. (It involves more letters to The Chronicle.)
36 min
Can the Tree Twins save San Francisco?
Married couple Michael Morris and David Sweeney started putting on festive light-up tree costumes for a TV-20 "Dance Party" episode seven years ago. They got such a great reaction, they upped the costume details, upped the glitter and heels and upped their holiday spirit — surprising different neighborhoods in San Francisco throughout the holiday season as the Tree Twins. After Heather Knight spent a fun evening in North Beach with the twins, Total SF hosts Knight and Peter Hartlaub join Morris and Sweeney in their home, to talk about costume-making, what San Francisco neighborhoods are the best and worst for a tree visit — and why the city needs spontaneous joy more than ever.
35 min
Newman. Redford. Hanks ... and Ruthe Stein
After interviewing celebrities (mostly) for the San Francisco Chronicle for the past 50 years, Ruthe Stein has written a memoir of her experiences — "Sitting Down with the Stars: Interviews with 100 Hollywood Legends." Stein sits down with Total SF host Peter Hartlaub to talk about why she asks the uncomfortable questions, who are the nicest and most difficult stars and how she developed her own interest in Hollywood gossip. Hartlaub also asks Stein (his former editor) one tough question from the book: to defend her take that Jerry Lewis was kind of hot. "Sitting Down with the Stars" is available on Grizzly Peak Press.
28 min
Muni driver on his "Shang-Chi" viral moment
Mc "Mack" Allen spent most of the pandemic with his dream of becoming a Muni driver put on hold. But he's driving buses now — part of the new class of Muni drivers — and his tweet thread about the "Shang-Chi" movie bus chase went viral, with a shout-out from Shang-Chi actor Simu Liu himself. Total SF hosts Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight rode the 44 O'Shaugnessy with Allen, then sat down to talk to him about becoming a bus driver, his first ride on a bus and why he thinks driving a bus will bring him ever closer to San Francisco.
31 min
Secrets of Golden Gate Park!
20 min
A boatload of S.F. history with Gary Kamiya
35 min
Secrets of the Cliff House!
The future of the Cliff House restaurant space is in limbo, but it remains a destination, after the Cliff House Museum moved into the gift shop and set up an exhibit showing the history of entertainment on San Francisco's northwest corner. Total SF hosts Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight sit down with Western Neighborhoods Project executive director Nicole Meldahl to talk about the recent auction that contributes heavily to the museum collection. Hartlaub, Knight and Meldahl also discuss the potential future of the Cliff House.
31 min
The best views in San Francisco, ranked
Total SF co-hosts Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight pick their all-time favorite views in San Francisco, including Mt. Davidson, the Bernal Heights rock and two different views from modes of public transit. Hartlaub and Knight made their picks during a recording in Glen Park Canyon after going on this year's Peak 2 Peak hike through San Francisco, an annual benefit for members of Walk SF in its 17th year. Walk SF has reopened Peak 2 Peak ticketing for a week — join Walk SF and register here. And share your own favorite views in San Francisco using the hashtag #TotalSF and tagging @PeterHartlaub and @hknightsf on Twitter.
22 min
Colma’s dead tell us their tales
For Total SF's first Halloween episode, hosts Heather Knight and Peter Hartlaub meet with Terry Hamburg, director of the Cypress Lawn Heritage Foundation, for a tour of some of the Colma-based memorial park's most memorable graves.
25 min
Secrets of the Painted Ladies!
George Horsfall lives in one of the Painted Ladies homes in San Francisco, and he's not just happy to live in the tourist landmark — he wants to share it with the world. Total SF hosts Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight get a full tour from Horsfall of his blue Victorian on the edge of Alamo Square, made famous by uncountable movie appearances, tourist souvenirs and the opening credits of "Full House." He explains that it's a surprisingly quiet life, and that the tourists are mostly wonderful. After being the recipient of the small "pay it forward" moment years ago, he's decided to give tours of the home, which can be secured by checking out his Instagram @bluepaintedladyhousetour.
18 min
Why we swam in the San Francisco Bay
Hosts Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight swam in the San Francisco Bay with "Why We Swim" author Bonnie Tsui, as a warm-up for their Total SF Book Club event on November 17 at the San Francisco Public Library. Recording the episode post-swim at Aquatic Park, Tsui talks about an Icelandic legend who survived a frigid multi-hour swim, why San Francisco is a great swimming city and how newcomers can get started — and maybe work up to their own Bay swim. Hartlaub and Knight also recap their very cold but invigorating swim, which included a cameo from former author Daniel Handler.
31 min
Cellos, JFK Drive and the car-free future
25 min
Books on a bike in the Tenderloin District
Alicia Tapia combines books and biking with the Bibliobicicleta, a rolling library that was funded by a Kickstarter and has brought joy and reading to San Francisco. Tapia meets Total SF hosts Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight in the Tenderloin, where her bibliobicicleta has found new purpose, parking on the Safe Passage parklet on Turk Street and providing books for children and adults in the neighborhood. Tapia talks about how she started the Bibliobicicleta, why she doesn't need to expand it into a larger franchise and why the Tenderloin feels safer for her than many other places in the city.
24 min
Finding treasure at S.F.'s SCRAP center
Total SF visits SCRAP, the hidden arts and crafts wonderland in the Bayview District of San Francisco. Hosts Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight tour the non-profit and meet staffers and volunteers (including formerly homeless artist Wayne Foote) who have seen first-hand how discovering art can positively impact children and communities. After touring the facility, Hartlaub and Knight try to beat the clock in an Iron Chef-style collage challenge. Don't miss SCRAP's upcoming "RePurposeful" art show at the Randall Museum, with an October 1 gala and exhibit that lasts through December. Tickets and more information at
20 min