An invisible place is a waste of space.

Matthew Lew
Jan 27, 2015 · 3 min read

It has come to my attention that San Francisco’s hidden parks — known as POPOS — may disappear due to a new proposal that will allow developers to pay the City money instead of building Privately Owned Public Open Spacesmandated by SF’s 1985 Downtown Plan. A rapidly growing city like San Francisco cannot afford to waste precious space according to developers.

They are right.

POPOS can be dedicated corridors or open plazas. Most are required to feature art sculptures.

For too long, these mini public parks — owned and maintained by private companies — have been completely vacant and unused. Most locals have never heard of these downtown parks: but if they have, it’s because the locations are deliberately hidden to keep the public out. In consequence, the lack of usage enables a legitimate case to stop building public spaces.

We need to put an end to public secrecy.

The City has failed us: The laws created in 1985 were in a different decade — the vague laws have allowed developers to skim by with the minimum. Proper POPOS signage and wayfinding is barely visible — tucked away from street view. SF City Hall has never been explicit on educating the public on using these mandated parks. The tourism industry has turned this into a tour of “San Francisco’s secret spots” — tourists are entertained by on POPOS that locals are not even educated about.

So what can you do?

Find yourself a new lunch spot.

SPUR San Francisco has compiled a guide of almost all 70 parks you can access. It’s free, and you should exercise your right to enjoy these parks. Pick a couple that interest you. Each POPOS varies — indoors, outdoors, roofgarden, atrium, or plaza (you might walked over on one without realizing it).

Bring a friend and plan a lunch break — most have seating areas and tables. You could literally throw a party on a rooftop that isn’t even your office building. Remember, that most are only open during business hours when security is on duty, Monday–Friday, 9am–5pm.

A preview of the Google Map of a handful of POPOS in SF.

Below is a PDF pocket guide that you can download on your phone to reference later with each POPOS rating and amenities.

Don’t let secrecy allow developers the right to take away your public parks. Bring a friend with you and reclaim what you never knew you had.

There are more in other cities like Seattle and New York (POPS).


A guide to SF’s Privately Owned Public Open Spaces. #sfpopos.

Matthew Lew

Written by

Design Infrastructure @DoorDash . Previously @GametimeUnited @Medium & @Eventbrite . I go to way too many concerts. 🏳️‍🌈 Love Brutalism.



A guide to SF’s Privately Owned Public Open Spaces. #sfpopos.

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