99% Private

Privately Owned Public Open Spaces, or POPOS, are these little gardens, terraces, plazas, and seating areas that are private property but are mandated for public use. City planners require developers to add these little “parks” to their buildings to make downtown more pleasant (or even just tolerable). Some are out in the open and used regularly by downtown office workers, and some are hidden away and don’t really serve the community all that well. They pop up in the most densely populated parts of the city, where large public parks are few and far between.

Whereas the physical aspects of POPOS are pretty well established by the city planners, the social aspects of what constitutes a “public” space are harder to define. Blaine Merker, from the badass design activist group Rebar, showed superstar producer Stephanie Foo around a few of San Francisco’s POPOS to find out just how public these open spaces really are.


Here’s a great resource guide to POPOS put out by the awesome and unstoppable SPUR.

  1. Andy Behrens

    One of the best-known POPOS is Rockefeller Center, visited by hundreds of thousands of people every day. It is closed one day a year to symbolically mark that it is privately owned.

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