Privately-Owned Public Open Spaces (POPOS) are publicly accessible spaces in the form of plazas, terraces, atriums and small parks that are maintained by private developers but accessible to all.

Prior to 1985, developers provided POPOS under three general circumstances: voluntarily, in exchange for a density bonus, or as a condition of approval. The 1985 Downtown Plan created the first systemic requirements for developers to provide publicly accessible open space as a part of projects in C-3 Districts. The goal was to “provide in the downtown quality open space in sufficient quantity and variety to meet the needs of downtown workers, residents and visitors.” Since then project sponsors may provide POPOS instead of their required open spaces in other districts such as Eastern Neighborhoods.

Over the past two summers, San Francisco’s Planning Department has cataloged all POPOS and required Public Artworks in San Francisco, mapping the results of their survey for all to interactively search and see.

Beginning next month, the Planning Department’s Zoning and Compliance Division will begin reviewing POPOS sites that were approved subject to the Downtown Plan for compliance with signage and access.

Privately-Owned Public Open Space and Public Art Interactive Map []

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Marten

    What a great resource of information to enjoy the city even more. Maybe not widely used, but as a child of German immigrants ‘popo’ meant bottom, so I chuckled at the acronym.

  2. Posted by Wai Yip Tung

    Next we need a voting system. To helps sort out design that works compare to those that doesn’t. From what I can see some street plaza, say 1 market Plaza on Mission St, add a lot of value to the public. This is vastly better than indoor space of hidden roof top space.

  3. Posted by emanon

    Voting system? What would folks be voting on? What would that entail. Why must everything be put to a vote in SF?
    Indoor space and roof top space works well for me. Everytime I go to the roof top POPOS they are well patronized. Indoor is nice if you want a place to relax outside of the elements that is not a cafe.

  4. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    emanon: One thing that would make some type of oversight process for public art obviously necessary is if/when a sponsor decides to actively subvert the spirit of the public art rules.
    I don’t think I’d impose public voting, but for example, suppose that Starbucks owned a particularly large S.F. building that would call for public art (far-fetched, I know but bear with me) to be installed nearby. Some middle manager in based in Seattle then decides that a local artist should be commissioned to sculpt a fifteen-foot high statue of a mermaid.
    Suppose AT&T did the same thing with one of their buildings, and commissioned a seven story high sculpture of a marble with sunlight glinting off the the upper left hand quadrant facing the viewer to sit out front.
    Are you getting the picture here?
    This wouldn’t meet my idea of public art, and I’d wager that many San Franciscans who didn’t own shares in SBUX or T would agree.

  5. Posted by emanon

    No, I’m not getting the picture. What does public art have to do with privately funded open space? Explain to me the “spirit” of public art rules. Also your idea of public art is nothing more than your opinion. You might not like a fifteen-foot mermaid but that shouldn’t exclude it. I think the giant bow and arrow along the Embarcadero I’d silly but I like Vaillancourt Fountain. Yet I don’t advocate for the removal of the bow.

  6. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    My bad. When Wai Yip Tung referred to “design that works compare to those that doesn’t”, I was assuming the comment was referring to the “required Public Artworks in San Francisco” that the socketsite editor mentions in the paragraph after the quotation, above.
    Thanks; I see now that it was probably referring to the design of “publicly accessible spaces” in general, not necessarily the public art that may or may not be part of or located in those spaces.

  7. Posted by heynonnynonny

    Re:bar’s original collection of POPOS reviews had great notes about how uptight the private security was at each location – like how many seconds of Balinese monkey chant could you do before getting asked to leave.
    Sadly they seem to have taken down the old reviews.

  8. Posted by emanon

    Should add a ps to my earlier post. What do I know about public art? I still miss the Embarcadero Freeway, talk about access to views of the bay….

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