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Alumni & Friends

Keeping the City Pretty

Kearstin Krehbiel (B.A., ’03), the executive director of San Francisco Beautiful, spends most of her time on the phone, answering e-mails or sitting though endless meetings. But she describes her job differently.

Photo of Kearstin Krehbiel with her dog Tuco who is in mid-jump. Photo by Russell Yip/San Francisco Chronicle/Corbis.Kearstin Krehbiel, seen with her dog, Tuco,
is the executive director of San Francisco

“I make people’s dreams come true,” she says. “People who live in the city have a vision for how they want their lives to be better, and how a project, concept or program can do that. I help by navigating the bureaucracy. Not only are we improving their environment, we’re changing their outlook.”

San Francisco Beautiful is a 60-year-old non- profit working “to keep San Francisco beautiful through civic engagement, partnering with communities to build better neighborhoods and celebrating urban innovation.” They are the people behind San Francisco’s recent crop of parklets, mural restoration in the Mission, the greening of unused city property and scores of other quality of life projects including reducing such urban blight as graffiti. Students in SF State’s capstone Urban Studies and Planning Senior Seminar course have helped the cause, evaluating and suggesting improvements for San Francisco Beautiful’s Pavement to Parks project, which helps transform streetscapes into new public open spaces.

Krehbiel, an English literature major, didn’t always know she would end up as an advocate for a better urban life. “It’s really tough to predict where your education will take you, especially in the humanities,” she says. “Honestly, I think SF State is the reason why I am here and doing what I do. I moved to San Francisco to go to school and instantly fell in love with the city. People come here to dream and to make their dreams real. Anything is possible here, whether it’s technology, or young gay people finding acceptance, or biotech expanding what we think is possible. Possibility has been what San Francisco has offered to its citizens and to the world. It has something to do with the place, but mostly to do with the people who live here.”

But her education paid off, too, especially classes with Professor Loretta Stec, who asked that students keep reports to one page. “Her encouragement to strengthen my writing by using fewer words and creating a message and arguments that were succinct has stayed with me. Writing is a huge part of what I do.”

Despite her immense love for her city and her job, there are times when Krehbiel wishes she could just wave a magic wand and make things happen. Until that happens, she will continue to advocate at City Hall and take the dreams of San Franciscans seriously. As she says, “The city didn’t just happen by accident. People make it great or not so great.”


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