The 21 Secret Parks of
San Francisco

POPOS are private parks for the public — but designed to hide in plain sight.

Matthew Lew
May 1, 2015 · 5 min read
Crocker Galleria Rooftop is hidden over a bank vault.

Scattered throughout Downtown San Francisco are public plazas, atriums, and roof gardens. Privately Owned Public Open Spaces (POPOS) hide behind secret elevators, security guards, and stairs. Their elusive trait raises the question: if they are public, then why are they hidden?

In a city where land is scarce, POPOS allocate open space to prevent overdevelopment. The 1985 Downtown Plan mandates developers build and maintain 1 sq ft of public space for each 50 sq ft of commercial space. Yet, developers hide them from the public to keep cost of maintenance low.

SFPOPOS has organized a list of POPOS locals and architecture buffs will enjoy. You’ll find POPOS in a short walk within South of Market, Financial District and the Embarcadero. And, make sure you get lunch to-go.

Here are the 21 public parks you didn’t know existed in San Francisco:

F E A T U R E D

Sculpture Garden

555 Mission Street

5 minutes from Montgomery Station

F E A T U R E D

A maze on the roof.

100 First Street

5 minutes from Montgomery Station

More in South of Market

Newer than the Valley.

Shaw Alley

4 minutes from Montgomery Station

Bamboo and astroturf.

560 Mission Street

4 minutes from Montgomery Station

Like four squares.

Foundry Square

8 minutes from Montgomery Station

Outdoor air-conditioning.

101 Second Street Atrium

5 minutes from Montgomery Station
South of Market focuses on POPOS within walking distance south of Montgomery Station.

F E A T U R E D

Massive roofdeck.

Crocker Galleria

2 minutes from Montgomery Station

F E A T U R E D

Transamerica Pyramid

Redwood Park

10 minutes from Montgomery Station

F E A T U R E D

Penthouse Views

One Kearny Rooftop

More in the Financial District

Chinatown’s Best Secret

Empire Park

10 minutes from Montgomery Station

Bank of America Building

555 California Street

8 minutes from Montgomery Station
Financial District focuses on POPOS within walking distance north of Montgomery Station.

F E A T U R E D

A great place to meet.

160 Spear Street

F E A T U R E D

Spare me the details.

201 Spear Street

6 minutes from Embarcadero Station

F E A T U R E D

Prehistoric Jungle

201 Mission Street

4 minutes from Embarcadero Station

More in the Embarcadero

The modern ziggurat.

101 California Street Plaza

3 minutes from Embarcadero Station

Between two buildings.

100 Pine Urban Garden

5 minutes from Embarcadero Station

Outdoor conference room.

150 California Sun Terrace

4 minutes from Embarcadero Station

I’m feeling fresh.

50 Fremont Center

2 minutes from Embarcadero Station

Syrup-less maple trees.

50 Beale Street

2 minutes from Embarcadero Station

What’s the main mission?

123 Mission Plaza

2 minutes from Embarcadero Station
Embarcadero focuses on POPOS within walking distance of Embarcadero Station.
SFPOPOS.CO will always get you back home.
Pigeons coo — not tweet. But whatever.
Here’s the list to all 70 POPOS.
Instead of #selfie, why not take a #sfpopos?

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Designed by Matthew Lew

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SF POPOS

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

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