Top Menu

San Francisco Bay Area’s Bounty of Independent Radio Offerings

Stickers at KSFS at San Francisco State (Photo: J. Waits)

Stickers at KSFS at San Francisco State (Photo: J. Waits)

Yesterday I was excited to see that the cover story for the San Francisco Chronicle’s “pink section” was all about independent radio in the San Francisco Bay Area. Based on the cover’s headline, “Up in the Airwaves: The state of independent radio in the Bay Area,” I expected to see a comprehensive list of local non-commercial high school, college and community radio stations.

The collection of articles within included a profile of San Francisco community radio station KPOO, a piece about the battle to save college radio station KUSF, an interview with a commercial radio music director from Live 105, as well as a listening guide featuring one college radio station (KALX) along with an array of public, community and commercial radio stations stretching into the outskirts of the Bay Area (ranging from Vallejo to Watsonville).

What’s missing from this list is a complete look at the huge array of non-commercial stations within the Bay Area itself, in particular the large number of college radio stations that are still thriving in the wake of the KUSF shut-down. So, here’s my guide to independent radio in the San Francisco Bay Area. Note: although there are some interesting public radio stations in the Bay Area (namely KALW, KCSM, and KQED), I’ve left them off this list in order to focus on stations that are independent from large public radio groups like NPR.

Vinyl Records at KZSU (Photo: J. Waits)

Vinyl Records at KZSU (Photo: J. Waits)

San Francisco Bay Area Independent College Radio Stations

Beginning with my first-love, terrestrial college radio station, the San Francisco Bay Area is truly blessed with a ton of FM options. Here they are listed in order of their appearance on the radio dial (from left to right): KOHL 89.3 FM (Ohlone College, Fremont), KSMC 89.5 FM (Saint Mary’s College, Moraga), KFJC 89.7 FM (Foothill College, Los Altos Hills–the place where I DJ AND it was recently named the best community college radio station in the nation by IBS), KCRH 89.9 FM (Chabot College, Hayward), KZSU 90.1 FM (Stanford University, Stanford–did you catch their “Day of Noise” last month?), KSJS 90.5 FM (San Jose State University, San Jose), KALX 90.7 FM (University of California, Berkeley–turning 50 this year), and KSCU 103.3 FM (Santa Clara University, Santa Clara–non-commercial, although they are hidden on the commercial band).

In terms of online-only college radio stations in the San Francisco Bay Area, there is KSFS, run by Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts (BECA) students at San Francisco State, at University of San Francisco (although passionate students are still producing concerts and considering the publication of a ‘zine, plans for an actual radio station are still in limbo, as a new studio has yet to be built since the old KUSF-FM studios were dismantled last May), and KJCC at San Jose City College.

San Francisco Bay Area High School Radio Stations

I’m always intrigued by high school radio, especially since I didn’t have the opportunity to do radio until college. Bay Area high school students are lucky, as there are a number of high school radio stations in operation. Stations include: KSFH 87.9 FM (St. Francis High School, Mountain View), KECG 88.1 FM (El Cerrito High School, El Cerrito–which also airs at 97.7 FM in San Pablo), KSRH 88.1 FM (San Rafael High School, San Rafael), KMTG 89.3 FM (Pioneer High School, San Jose), (KCEA 90.1 FM (Menlo-Atherton High School–the station airs big band music from the swing era), KVHS 90.5 FM (Clayton Valley High School, Concord), and the online-only KVCH at Valley Christian High School in San Jose (this station has a Christian focus and occupied the terrestrial airwaves as a campus-limited station at 104.1 FM until it received a warning from the FCC).

The DJ Booth at Radio Valencia (Photo: J. Waits)

The DJ Booth at Radio Valencia (Photo: J. Waits)

San Francisco Bay Area Community Radio Stations

In addition to college and high school radio station, the Bay Area is home to numerous community radio stations in various guises. Stations include the unlicensed Radio Valencia  (sometimes at 87.9 FM in San Francisco), KPFB 89.3 (Berkeley station in the Pacifica Radio group), KPOO 89.5 FM (San Francisco), KKUP 91.5 FM (Cupertino), KPFA 94.1 FM (Berkeley), and Berkeley Liberation Radio 104.1 FM (Berkeley).

Former pirate radio stations FCC Free Radio (San Francisco) and Mutiny Radio (San Francisco) are now online-only. And, of course, KUSF-in-Exile (San Francisco), exists in a category unto itself. Made up of former KUSF volunteers, new KUSF supporters, and some University of San Francisco (USF) students who trek out to the station’s Bayview studios, KUSF-in-Exile is an online-only station that replicates the energy and diversity of the old, terrestrial KUSF. KUSF’s terrestrial frequency of 90.3 FM is currently being leased to Classical Public Radio Network (the entity which is attempting to buy the license from USF) for use under the KDFC classical music brand.

No doubt I’ve missed a few stations, so if you know of other independent radio stations in the San Francisco Bay Area, please feel free to mention them in the comments. And, if you want a behind-the-scenes look at a bunch of these radio stations, take a peek at my Spinning Indie field trip series. Bay Area stations account for 10 of my field trips so far.

Just one dollar a month makes you a patron of Radio Survivor. Help us through our Patreon Campaign!


, , ,

4 Responses to San Francisco Bay Area’s Bounty of Independent Radio Offerings

  1. Amanda Eichstaedt March 13, 2012 at 3:06 pm #

    Great article in response to the SF Chronicle article on local radio: BUT no KWMR!

    Man, what is it going to take to get our Point Reyes Station radio station to be noticed and listened to! KWMR streams and archives programming as well.

    Thanks for your consideration.


    Station Manager and Executive Director, KWMR

  2. Cameron March 16, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

    Really Folks!

    Amanda says it all. Not only has KWMR been in existence for over 15 years, it has 2 (yes two!) frequencies on the FM dial – 90.5 in Point Reyes Station & 89.9 in Bolinas. Not only is it streaming and archived, I’ve caught it in my car, occasionally, as far north as Cloverdale, and as far south as Pacifica.

    It’s incredibly knowledgeable programmers are all volunteers. It’s the most eclectic music, interview and informative station in Northern California, possibly in the U.S.! Why would anyone want to listen to anything else?!

    Wake up media people!


  3. Jennifer Waits March 18, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    Thanks for the reminder about KWMR. I admit I was fixated on San Francisco and the East Bay and South Bay, especially since stations from these zones were left out of the Chronicle article (whereas Santa Rosa and Watsonville were included). Were I to do an update, I’d cover all of the Marin offerings, including KOWS radio and Radio Sausalito. Anything else?

  4. Giampaolo Careri September 10, 2015 at 3:28 pm #

    We are going to visit san francisco for a week next week and would like to visit the radio we are promoting our record. We are an argentinian rock band u can see some of our videos on u tube Rockadelicos let us know if we can coordinate a visit!

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes