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The 20 best privately owned public open spaces (POPOS) in SF

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They're neither obvious nor clearly marked, but privately owned public open spaces (a.k.a. POPOS) are all over downtown San Francisco. These privately maintained but publicly accessible spots have been a development requirement since the passage of the 1985 Downtown Plan, and there are now dozens of POPOS scattered about the city's core.

Though all were built to provide San Franciscans with more space to relax and catch a break from downtown's glut of financial centers and skyscraper-chilled sidewalks, not all POPOS were created equal.

From lush rooftops and sunny indoor atriums to redwood mini-forests, this list of 20 publicly accessible, privately maintained oases are ideal for lunch, meeting a date, or just relaxing within the frenzied confines of the FiDi.

Did we miss one that's dear to you, and deserves to be on our list ? Drop us a line or let us know in the comments.

· Two Steps Forward, One Step Back [Curbed SF]
· Secrets of San Francisco [SPUR]
· Mapping the 15 Best Privately Owned Public Open Spaces [Curbed SF]
· All Micro Week Coverage [Curbed SF]

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1. Empire Park

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642 Commercial St
San Francisco, CA 94111

Empire Park is a charming little oasis tucked away on Commercial Street, where Chinatown meets the Financial District. This space was once an alleyway, and now features plenty of seating, a fountain, and ample amounts of greenery. The park is a must-visit for anyone needing respite from the busy streets of downtown. Photo via Dylan Pilaar

2. Embarcadero Center Walkways

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275 Battery Street
San Francisco, CA 94111

Embarcadero Center West features pedestrian paths filled with places to stop and smell the flowers. The spaces all share an unmistakably '70s vibe, as well as numerous fountains. Nonetheless, the POPOS at the Embarcadero Center is a fantastic spot for kicking back or cracking open a good book.Image via San Francisco Days

3. 343 Sansome Street Roof Garden

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343 Sansome St
San Francisco, CA 94104

The terrace at 343 Sansome Street is one of the FiDi's best-kept secrets, and it's also been called downtown's best outdoor lunch spot. It features tables, benches, planters filled with seasonal flowers, and views of a portion of the bay. Plenty of the space's Yelp reviews mention that it's never crowded. The space is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.Image via Yelp

4. Garden Terrace at 150 California Street

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150 California St
San Francisco, CA 94111

The Garden Terrace at 150 California has great views of the FiDi's gleaming office towers, and plenty of space to sit and take in some fresh air. A huge metal art installation adds some pizzazz to the terrace, and it's rarely ever crowded. Image via Yelp

5. Transamerica Redwood Park

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600 Montgomery St
San Francisco, CA 94111

Located in the shadow of the Transamerica Pyramid, Redwood Park is one of the Financial District's greenest and most serene spots. Here, towering redwoods surround statues and a large central water feature. Plus, the park is often empty, which means there's almost always a bench available for the hogging. Potential visitors take note: the park is closed every evening. Photo via Sally Kuchar

6. 101 California Street

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101 California St
San Francisco, CA 94111

101 California has the most expansive public plaza on California Street. The space features orderly rows of planters placed on terraced podiums, as well as a central fountain and seating. Image via the Examiner

7. 50 California Street

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50 California St.
San Francisco, CA 94111

Right across the street from 101 California's giant POPOS is the plaza at 50 California Street. This green space comes complete with a Starbucks and lots of areas to sit and watch the cable cars clang down California.Image via SPUR's Photostream

8. Citigroup Center

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1 Sansome St
San Francisco, CA 94104

The former Paris-London Bank building was built in 1912, and hollowed out to make way for public space at the base of the Citigroup Center. The elegant enclosed atrium features a crêpe stand, a fountain, seating, and more than a dozen queen palms. Image via SF Weekly

9. 555 Mission Street Plaza

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10. 100 First Street Rooftop Garden

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100 1st Street
San Francisco, CA 94105

Located on the roof of 100 First Street's parking garage, this public space is chock-full of impressive water features (including a water garden) and sculptured grass areas. It's the perfect place to wind down and enjoy a lunch break. Even though it's a POPOS, the terrace is open 24/7. It's mostly empty on weekends. Photo via Sally Kuchar

11. 100 Pine Street Urban Garden

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100 Pine Street
San Francisco, CA 94111

Tucked away amid a stand of supertall buildings, the urban garden at 100 Pine is accessible via the building lobby or through a not-so-obvious passageway on Front Street. It doesn’t get much in the way of sun, but last we checked in, there’s a cafe open till 3 p.m. as well as seating and planters.Image via SPUR

12. 525 Market Plaza

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525 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94105

The plaza at 525 Market is one of the most pleasant plazas in the Financial District, thanks in part to the huge fountain and rock sculpture that blocks out noise from the street. The plaza is surrounded by eateries, which makes it one of the most popular lunch spots in the FiDi. Image via Flickr

13. Crocker Galleria Roof Terrace

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50 Post St.
San Francisco, CA 94101
(415) 393-1505

The Cocker Galleria roof terrace is tough to find, but totally worth the search. The rooftop garden filled with shrubbery, benches, flowers, and a fountain is accessible from the the top floor of the Crocker Galleria, and features great views of the surrounding skyscrapers. Photo via Yelp

14. One Kearny Roof Terrace

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1 Kearny Street
San Francisco, CA 94108

The roof terrace at One Kearny is one of San Francisco's best POPOS. The well-appointed garden is located on the building's 11th floor, and features sweeping views of downtown, and a close-up look at the mansard roof of the building next door. Image via Sherwood Engineers

15. Indoor park at 101 Second Street

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101 2nd Street
San Francisco, CA 94105

The indoor park at 101 Second Street is open every day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and features a bright multistory atrium with seating, trees, and public art. The space is a great place to eat lunch on a rainy afternoon. Image via Cater 2 Me

16. Westfield Sky Terrace

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835 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
Image via Yelp

17. 123 Mission Street

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123 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94105

This large public courtyard is subdivided into three distinct spaces, all of which include plenty of greenery and seating options.The plaza is often shaded by adjacent buildings, but it's still one of downtown's best places to sit and relax. There are plenty of take-out dining options nearby, and the space is open at all times.Image via g-l-o-b

18. 560 Mission Street

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560 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94105

With its massive water feature, modern centerpiece sculpture, and bamboo grove, 560 Mission Street's POPOS is pretty much the zen oasis of downtown. The plaza features plenty of movable tables and chairs, and is accessible from both Mission and Jessie streets. Plus, this POPOS is open 24/7. Image via KSDG

19. 425 Market Street

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425 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94105

With plenty of seating, this pleasantly shaded spot is a great place to escape the hubbub of the FiDi. This POPOS is easily accessible, has a cafe, and never closes down.Image via Flickr

20. 199 Fremont Street

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199 Fremont Street
San Francisco, CA 94105

This delightful urban garden was designed with the help of conceptual sculptor PaulKos and poet Robert Hass. The garden features a massive centerpiece boulder and a poem engraved along the garden's main wall. There's also a fountain, and plenty of seating shaded by a row of of birch trees. The plaza is a great place to eat lunch on a sunny day, and is open to the public at all times. Image via KQED

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1. Empire Park

642 Commercial St, San Francisco, CA 94111

Empire Park is a charming little oasis tucked away on Commercial Street, where Chinatown meets the Financial District. This space was once an alleyway, and now features plenty of seating, a fountain, and ample amounts of greenery. The park is a must-visit for anyone needing respite from the busy streets of downtown. Photo via Dylan Pilaar

642 Commercial St
San Francisco, CA 94111

2. Embarcadero Center Walkways

275 Battery Street, San Francisco, CA 94111

Embarcadero Center West features pedestrian paths filled with places to stop and smell the flowers. The spaces all share an unmistakably '70s vibe, as well as numerous fountains. Nonetheless, the POPOS at the Embarcadero Center is a fantastic spot for kicking back or cracking open a good book.Image via San Francisco Days

275 Battery Street
San Francisco, CA 94111

3. 343 Sansome Street Roof Garden

343 Sansome St, San Francisco, CA 94104

The terrace at 343 Sansome Street is one of the FiDi's best-kept secrets, and it's also been called downtown's best outdoor lunch spot. It features tables, benches, planters filled with seasonal flowers, and views of a portion of the bay. Plenty of the space's Yelp reviews mention that it's never crowded. The space is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.Image via Yelp

343 Sansome St
San Francisco, CA 94104

4. Garden Terrace at 150 California Street

150 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

The Garden Terrace at 150 California has great views of the FiDi's gleaming office towers, and plenty of space to sit and take in some fresh air. A huge metal art installation adds some pizzazz to the terrace, and it's rarely ever crowded. Image via Yelp

150 California St
San Francisco, CA 94111

5. Transamerica Redwood Park

600 Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94111

Located in the shadow of the Transamerica Pyramid, Redwood Park is one of the Financial District's greenest and most serene spots. Here, towering redwoods surround statues and a large central water feature. Plus, the park is often empty, which means there's almost always a bench available for the hogging. Potential visitors take note: the park is closed every evening. Photo via Sally Kuchar

600 Montgomery St
San Francisco, CA 94111

6. 101 California Street

101 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

101 California has the most expansive public plaza on California Street. The space features orderly rows of planters placed on terraced podiums, as well as a central fountain and seating. Image via the Examiner

101 California St
San Francisco, CA 94111

7. 50 California Street

50 California St., San Francisco, CA 94111

Right across the street from 101 California's giant POPOS is the plaza at 50 California Street. This green space comes complete with a Starbucks and lots of areas to sit and watch the cable cars clang down California.Image via SPUR's Photostream

50 California St.
San Francisco, CA 94111

8. Citigroup Center

1 Sansome St, San Francisco, CA 94104

The former Paris-London Bank building was built in 1912, and hollowed out to make way for public space at the base of the Citigroup Center. The elegant enclosed atrium features a crêpe stand, a fountain, seating, and more than a dozen queen palms. Image via SF Weekly

1 Sansome St
San Francisco, CA 94104

9. 555 Mission Street Plaza

555 Mission St., California 94105

10. 100 First Street Rooftop Garden

100 1st Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

Located on the roof of 100 First Street's parking garage, this public space is chock-full of impressive water features (including a water garden) and sculptured grass areas. It's the perfect place to wind down and enjoy a lunch break. Even though it's a POPOS, the terrace is open 24/7. It's mostly empty on weekends. Photo via Sally Kuchar

100 1st Street
San Francisco, CA 94105

11. 100 Pine Street Urban Garden

100 Pine Street, San Francisco, CA 94111

Tucked away amid a stand of supertall buildings, the urban garden at 100 Pine is accessible via the building lobby or through a not-so-obvious passageway on Front Street. It doesn’t get much in the way of sun, but last we checked in, there’s a cafe open till 3 p.m. as well as seating and planters.Image via SPUR

100 Pine Street
San Francisco, CA 94111

12. 525 Market Plaza

525 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94105

The plaza at 525 Market is one of the most pleasant plazas in the Financial District, thanks in part to the huge fountain and rock sculpture that blocks out noise from the street. The plaza is surrounded by eateries, which makes it one of the most popular lunch spots in the FiDi. Image via Flickr

525 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94105

13. Crocker Galleria Roof Terrace

50 Post St., San Francisco, CA 94101

The Cocker Galleria roof terrace is tough to find, but totally worth the search. The rooftop garden filled with shrubbery, benches, flowers, and a fountain is accessible from the the top floor of the Crocker Galleria, and features great views of the surrounding skyscrapers. Photo via Yelp

50 Post St.
San Francisco, CA 94101

14. One Kearny Roof Terrace

1 Kearny Street, San Francisco, CA 94108

The roof terrace at One Kearny is one of San Francisco's best POPOS. The well-appointed garden is located on the building's 11th floor, and features sweeping views of downtown, and a close-up look at the mansard roof of the building next door. Image via Sherwood Engineers

1 Kearny Street
San Francisco, CA 94108

15. Indoor park at 101 Second Street

101 2nd Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

The indoor park at 101 Second Street is open every day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and features a bright multistory atrium with seating, trees, and public art. The space is a great place to eat lunch on a rainy afternoon. Image via Cater 2 Me

101 2nd Street
San Francisco, CA 94105

16. Westfield Sky Terrace

835 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
Image via Yelp
835 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

17. 123 Mission Street

123 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

This large public courtyard is subdivided into three distinct spaces, all of which include plenty of greenery and seating options.The plaza is often shaded by adjacent buildings, but it's still one of downtown's best places to sit and relax. There are plenty of take-out dining options nearby, and the space is open at all times.Image via g-l-o-b

123 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94105

18. 560 Mission Street

560 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

With its massive water feature, modern centerpiece sculpture, and bamboo grove, 560 Mission Street's POPOS is pretty much the zen oasis of downtown. The plaza features plenty of movable tables and chairs, and is accessible from both Mission and Jessie streets. Plus, this POPOS is open 24/7. Image via KSDG

560 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94105

19. 425 Market Street

425 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

With plenty of seating, this pleasantly shaded spot is a great place to escape the hubbub of the FiDi. This POPOS is easily accessible, has a cafe, and never closes down.Image via Flickr

425 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94105

20. 199 Fremont Street

199 Fremont Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

This delightful urban garden was designed with the help of conceptual sculptor PaulKos and poet Robert Hass. The garden features a massive centerpiece boulder and a poem engraved along the garden's main wall. There's also a fountain, and plenty of seating shaded by a row of of birch trees. The plaza is a great place to eat lunch on a sunny day, and is open to the public at all times. Image via KQED

199 Fremont Street
San Francisco, CA 94105