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A public space with a pattern painted on the ground. There is a sculpture in the center which is red and black and shaped like a monument. There are buildings surrounding the public space. Photo by caltex98

The best privately owned public open spaces in SF

Neither obvious nor clearly marked, POPOS are all over—and everyone is welcome

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These privately owned public open spaces (aka POPOS) have been a development requirement in San Francisco since the passage of the 1985 Downtown Plan.

Looking back at said plan’s effects, San Francisco Chronicle urban design critic John King said in 2011, “Early years were marred by fussy design reviews, including so-called ‘beauty contests’ to decide what could be built, but that’s less important than the plan’s emphasis on publicly accessible spaces that, for instance, translates into plazas that help make the new towers near Second and Mission streets humane despite their height.”

What the 1985 Downtown Plan lacked in foresight (who could’ve have predicted the unprecedented wealth set to descend 35 years later?), it made up for in dozens of POPOS scattered around 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 busy sidewalks, not all POPOS are created equal. From lush rooftops and sunny indoor atriums to redwood mini-forests and free Wi-Fi, 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.

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Transamerica Redwood Park

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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 a half acre of 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.

A post shared by Cameron (@cam13mac) on

Empire Park

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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.

Be sure to check out the charming water feature by Pepo Pichler in the courtyard.

50 California

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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.

A courtyard with trees and garden areas. There are places to sit. Photo by SPUR

Embarcadero Center Walkways

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Embarcadero Center West features pedestrian paths filled with places to stop and smell the flowers. The spaces all share an unmistakably 1970s vibe, as well as numerous fountains. Nonetheless, the POPOS at the Embarcadero Center is a fantastic spot for kicking back, eating lunch, or cracking open a good book. 

A post shared by tb_415 (@tb_415) on

343 Sansome Roof Garden

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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.

A post shared by Daydreams & Disco (@djemils) on

Garden Terrace at 150 California

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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. 

A post shared by CeritaSF (@ceritasf) on

101 California

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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.

100 Pine Urban Garden

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Tucked away amid a stand of soaring 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.

A post shared by Daria (@missdhutch) on

525 Market Street Plaza

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The plaza at 525 Market is one of the most pleasant plazas in the Financial District, thanks in part to the new fountain near the sidewalk: a two-tiered circular water element made of clear acrylic. The plaza, which gets a lot of sunlight during the daytime, is surrounded by eateries, which makes it one of the most popular lunch spots in the FiDi.

A post shared by Christine Hung (@coffeebun) on

Citigroup Center

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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 Moolicious (a crepe stand), a fountain, seating, and more than a dozen queen palms. It’s also smack dab in front of Bird’s new headquarters.

A post shared by Curbed (@curbed) on

Crocker Galleria Roof Terrace

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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.

A post shared by Daydreams & Disco (@djemils) on

100 First Street Rooftop Garden

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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.

A post shared by Dan Parham (@danparham) on

The Plaza at Apple Union Square

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A 24/7 private public park area (with public Wi-Fi) featuring outdoor seating and artwork, most notably the famous 1969 fountain by San Francisco sculptor Ruth Asawa and Love by local artist Laura Kimpton. Also a choice spot for unboxing your latest Apple doodad acquisition.

560 Mission

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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.

555 Mission Street Plaza

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The plaza next to 555 Mission Street stands out thanks to its funky Ugo Rondinone sculptures and lovely green wall. The space also features a towering art installation by Jonathan Borofsky, which adds color and grandeur to this little gem.

Indoor park at 101 Second Street

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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.

A post shared by William Quan (@quan.william) on

One Kearny Rooftop

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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.

A post shared by adelyn designs (@adelynsf) on

Linkedin

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Don’t be deceived—the first-floor plaza inside (cringe-worthy) 222 Second Street is for everyone, not just LinkedIn employees. An enclosed open space, with operable floor to ceiling windows and doors, can be access via the street-level lobby. It also boasts a cafe, restrooms, and Wi-Fi to boot.

An ideal spot of worker drones and techies who want to chill while gazing into their laptops.

Westfield Sky Terrace

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Few know about it, but there's a terrace with great views of the skyline on the roof of the Westfield San Francisco Centre. The space isn't easy to access, and you'll probably need to get clearance from one of the shopping center's many security guards before they let you enter. That being said, the deck's views and relaxed atmosphere are well worth the hassle.

This POPOS is only open during the mall's business hours.

San Francisco Federal Building

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Located on the polarizing building’s 11th floor, the wonderfully austere Skygarden has seating and views of South of Market. You have to make it through the security checkpoint on the first floor to access this quiet spot.

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Transamerica Redwood Park

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 a half acre of 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.

A post shared by Cameron (@cam13mac) on

Empire Park

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.

Be sure to check out the charming water feature by Pepo Pichler in the courtyard.

50 California

A courtyard with trees and garden areas. There are places to sit. Photo by SPUR

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.

A courtyard with trees and garden areas. There are places to sit. Photo by SPUR

Embarcadero Center Walkways

Embarcadero Center West features pedestrian paths filled with places to stop and smell the flowers. The spaces all share an unmistakably 1970s vibe, as well as numerous fountains. Nonetheless, the POPOS at the Embarcadero Center is a fantastic spot for kicking back, eating lunch, or cracking open a good book. 

A post shared by tb_415 (@tb_415) on

343 Sansome Roof Garden

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.

A post shared by Daydreams & Disco (@djemils) on

Garden Terrace at 150 California

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. 

A post shared by CeritaSF (@ceritasf) on

101 California

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.

100 Pine Urban Garden

Tucked away amid a stand of soaring 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.

A post shared by Daria (@missdhutch) on

525 Market Street Plaza

The plaza at 525 Market is one of the most pleasant plazas in the Financial District, thanks in part to the new fountain near the sidewalk: a two-tiered circular water element made of clear acrylic. The plaza, which gets a lot of sunlight during the daytime, is surrounded by eateries, which makes it one of the most popular lunch spots in the FiDi.

A post shared by Christine Hung (@coffeebun) on

Citigroup Center

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 Moolicious (a crepe stand), a fountain, seating, and more than a dozen queen palms. It’s also smack dab in front of Bird’s new headquarters.

A post shared by Curbed (@curbed) on

Crocker Galleria Roof Terrace

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.

A post shared by Daydreams & Disco (@djemils) on

100 First Street Rooftop Garden

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.

A post shared by Dan Parham (@danparham) on

The Plaza at Apple Union Square

A 24/7 private public park area (with public Wi-Fi) featuring outdoor seating and artwork, most notably the famous 1969 fountain by San Francisco sculptor Ruth Asawa and Love by local artist Laura Kimpton. Also a choice spot for unboxing your latest Apple doodad acquisition.

560 Mission

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.

555 Mission Street Plaza

The plaza next to 555 Mission Street stands out thanks to its funky Ugo Rondinone sculptures and lovely green wall. The space also features a towering art installation by Jonathan Borofsky, which adds color and grandeur to this little gem.

Indoor park at 101 Second Street

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.

A post shared by William Quan (@quan.william) on

One Kearny Rooftop

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.

A post shared by adelyn designs (@adelynsf) on

Linkedin

Don’t be deceived—the first-floor plaza inside (cringe-worthy) 222 Second Street is for everyone, not just LinkedIn employees. An enclosed open space, with operable floor to ceiling windows and doors, can be access via the street-level lobby. It also boasts a cafe, restrooms, and Wi-Fi to boot.

An ideal spot of worker drones and techies who want to chill while gazing into their laptops.

Westfield Sky Terrace

Few know about it, but there's a terrace with great views of the skyline on the roof of the Westfield San Francisco Centre. The space isn't easy to access, and you'll probably need to get clearance from one of the shopping center's many security guards before they let you enter. That being said, the deck's views and relaxed atmosphere are well worth the hassle.

This POPOS is only open during the mall's business hours.

San Francisco Federal Building

Located on the polarizing building’s 11th floor, the wonderfully austere Skygarden has seating and views of South of Market. You have to make it through the security checkpoint on the first floor to access this quiet spot.