Washburn

Partnership Building and Public Spaces in San Francisco

It’s hard to get a feel for San Francisco in only three days. Like most big cities, there’s more to it than what you see on postcards and TV shows. Yes, the Golden Gate Bridge is beautiful (as is the Bay Bridge), and Lombard Street is charming and quirky. But I work for Island Press, publisher of great urban thinkers like Jan Gehl and Peter Calthorpe! I’m interested in healthy, active public spaces. I want to know where they are in the city, who uses them, and what benefits they provide to residents, tourists, and business travelers.  

Speaking as a member of the latter group, I found San Francisco’s Privately Owned Public Open Spaces (POPOS) to be an invaluable resource: not only did they provide me with a place to stop, relax, and orient myself, they also made convenient meeting spots for my discussions with Island Press’ Bay Area partners. And since the purpose of my visit was to find new ways of supporting local partners in order to improve and capitalize on the city’s unique assets, what better place to conduct business?

SPUR exterior

According to the Bay Area's leading civic planning organization and longtime Island Press partner, SPUR, there are 68 POPOS scattered throughout San Francisco's downtown area. My colleague and I visited several during our three day tour, stopping into the 101 Second Street Greenhouse POPOS to meet with Orli Cotel from the Sierra Club, and later using the 55 Second Street POPOS to check email, relax, and chat with some of the locals.  

Later in the day, the Overhead Wire's Jeffrey Wood and I found a shaded spot in the Annie Street Plaza parklett to discuss his past work as New Media Director and Chief Cartographer with Reconnecting America, and how he's using the Direct Transfer Daily to educate the public about transportation, design, and urbanism. From there it was a short hop (a half block to be exact) to our next meeting with SPUR's Noah Christman at their impressive San Francisco location on Mission Street to discuss their fall speaking lineup, and talk about how Island Press can help contribute to and promote SPUR’s great work.

So if you’re going to San Francisco, don’t spend all your time at Fisherman’s Wharf. Act like a local: find a public space, sit down, and take in the city. 

2nd Street POPOS