By Isaiah G. Reed
While walking through the urban landscape of the city, it is a breath of fresh air to stumble upon a green space and escape from the persistent automotive fumes, sewer smells and the musty congestion of human bodies moving in packs. Thinking about these escapes, I drift back to thoughts of picnicking in Regent’s and Hyde Park in London, playing soccer on the National Mall in D.C. and sunbathing in Delores with some delicious Bi-Rite in hand; in fact, some of my favorite days spent in nature were not out in the wilderness, but rather right in the heart of major metropolitan areas.
Green spaces in urban environments provide an immense value for the populations they service. These spaces are positive for health considerations (both body and mind), they provide communal areas for arts, recreation and general social activity, and ultimately they offer beautiful landscapes to allow an escape from the traditional concrete structures that tend to dominate the urban environment. Among these green spaces in San Francisco, exist the POPOS (privately owned public open spaces).
San Francisco has implemented guidelines for growth in the downtown area to include “the creation of more publicly accessible open space.” These open spaces include “plazas, terraces, atriums, small parks,” and are all unique in scope, which provides little oases for workers and tourist to relax away from the streets.
These areas are “provided and maintained by private developers” and are all well identified by logo brand displays at “every pedestrian entrance,” which will direct those looking to utilize the resource to the designated “interior or rooftop space.”
SPUR, a nonprofit city planning organization, has released a guide documenting fifty six of these locations in San Francisco’s downtown area — available here: http://www.spur.org/sites/default/files/migrated/anchors/popos-guide.pdf. The guide provides the location of the POPOS, the year it was established, their own rating, a brief description of what the space offers and the occasional picture to showcase the beauty of the atmosphere. Ultimately, their brochure acts as a sort of “Hollywood Guide to the Stars” for some of the more exclusive city escapes in the downtown area.
While San Francisco has its own amazing parks — Golden Gate, Presidio, Alamo Square, Lake Merced, Washington Square, etc. — small spaces like the POPOS represent a unique way to engage the urban landscape for the benefit of the city’s population. When given the time, exploring these spaces can be very rewarding; and even if it is just for a moment, soaking in the serenity of an urban oasis can be just the right impetus to spur you on for the rest of the day.
See Secrets of San Francisco: Where to find our city’s POPOS—privately owned public open spaces, SPUR, (1/1/2009), http://www.spur.org/publications/spur-report/2009-01-01/secrets-san-francisco.
See the 1985 Downtown Plan.
Secrets of San Francisco: A guide to San Francisco’s privately-owned public open spaces, SPUR, http://www.spur.org/sites/default/files/migrated/anchors/popos-guide.pdf.
Planning Department, Privately-Owned Public Open Space and Public Art (City & County of San Francisco, (10/6/2013), http://www.sf-planning.org/index.aspx?page=3339.
Note: An enhanced version of the guide is also available as an application on the iPhone and Droid platforms – Downtown San Francisco’s Secret Spaces and Oases.