What do city planners and the public have in common? Not much. City planners have moved far away from listening to the very people they vowed to serve that the public has stopped listening to us. The result is the tyranny of the few members of the public who have the resources, lingo, and access. The impact is costly, confusing, and alienating planning meetings and hearings. Worst of all, the result of a broken planning process is the degradation of our quality of urban life as public transport is hijacked by more convenient privately-run companies, the dearth of parks and playgrounds cause overflow crowds, and large scale redevelopment projects often fail to serve those who need public intervention the most.

The question becomes how do we change the process?

Primary to fixing the current insular planning process is to address the need to be more inclusive. Planners need to stop using jargon, abstract maps, and obtuse goals like “complete” streets (what does “complete” mean?). To empower and inspire the public to participate in the planning process we must stop developing talks and seminars geared to ourselves. We need to create events and gatherings that demystify the planning process.

StreetUtopia proposes the use of art and the creative process as the means for the untrained public to participate in a previously alienating and disempowering struggle to beautify their city. The most accessible of all forms of creative expression is film. Film as a medium combines easily accessible ideas in words and images, and if done well, a narrative that is inspiring.

Festival Program:


4:30pm WORKSHOP: Storytelling Bootcamp for Planners

Co-Facilitators: Keith Battle, Independent Media Maker /BAVC writing instructor and Omar Masry, practicing urban planner

A professional development unit for planners, architects, developers, activists, and filmmakers interested in using storytelling to enhance civic engagement. Storytelling basics are introduced, then participants will apply newly learned storytelling skills to real life projects.

6:00pm PANEL: New Tools to Re-Invent Civic Engagement

Moderators: Jane Lin and Heidi Sokolowsky, Urban Field Studio

Despite the major effort going into the public process, most ideas and “visions” are quickly forgotten and never become a reality. Given the technology available to us, what are our options? Come join a planner, documentary filmmaker, a workshop artist, and a user experience designer to discuss possibilities and new tools to re-invent civic engagement.


6:30 pm Premiere: Urban Planning Shorts Infinite Loop Films

7:30 pm FILM AND Q&A

-“Impossible Light” (2013; 70 minutes): A full-length documentary about the San Francisco Bay Bridge Lights sculpture which was realized in an impossible timeframe of two years [a co-presentation with the Bay Area Video Coalition].
-Q and A session with filmmaker Jeremy Ambers and Ben Davis, visionary behind The Bay Lights and CEO & Founder of Illuminate the Arts

9:00 pm Opening Night Fest: The Continuous Loop Films Lounge/ Reverse Silent Disco, DJ, and complimentary cocktails.


1:00 pm

Premiere of “Bikes On Business” (5 minute short); commissioned by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition

“Every Speed” (7 minute short): Atmospheric and experiential exploration of able and disabled bodies moving through urban spaces and negotiating transport options.

“Rock the Boat” (2011; 54 minutes): Full-length documentary about citizens reclaiming the Los Angeles River.

3:00 pm

“Plan of the City” (15 minute short): A classical ensemble blasts around in an urban universe to upbeat tunes. Perhaps the first ur-ban planning music video.

“Urbanized” (2011; 84 minutes): Full-length documentary about innovative urban design in Columbia, Germany, and two other countries.

5:00 pm

FILM “Saving the City“: A 20 minute work-in-progress includes segments on Mission Bay and Vancouver.

PANEL “Mission Bay – How Can Storytelling Shape the Identity of a New Neighborhood?”

– Ron Blatman, Executive Producer and Director of “Saving the City”

– JK Dineen, Reporter, SF Chronicle

– Ben Grant, Program Manager/Urban Designer, SPUR


1:00 pm

“Walk At Her Own Risk” (10 minute short) [commissioned by Walk SF]: Story of a young woman reconstructing her life after a recent pedestrian collision in SF.

“The Pruitt – Igoe Myth” (2011; 79 minutes): A full-length documentary about the people who created community in an inhospitable public housing project in St. Louis, MO.

3:00 pm

“Neighborhoods: The Hidden Cities of San Francisco: The Fillmore” (1999; 84 minutes): Part of a PBS series on neighborhoods, this segment tells the story of San Francisco’s premiere Japanese-American and African-American communities and the profound impact urban renewal has had on the fabric of American cities.


“5 Blocks” (8 minutes): A work-in-progress tracking the radical changes in the 5 Block area of Mid-Market since prior to the recent tech-boom to the present.

“Walking Cinema: Museum of the Hidden City” (work in progress, 5 minutes)

Panel on Mid-Market: How Do You Tell a Story of Neighborhood Change?

– Dan Goldes and Robert Cortlandt, “5 Blocks” filmmakers

– Peter L. Stein, “The Fillmore” filmmaker

– Gary Kamiya, Executive Editor, San Francisco Magazine

– Amy Cohen, Director, Neighborhood Business Development, Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development

– Michael Epstein, Creative Director, Walking Cinema