“POPOS” stands for privately-owned public open spaces – publicly accessible spaces owned and maintained by the owner of an office building. POPOS come in many forms: plazas, roof gardens, greenhouses, atriums and others. Some POPOS are easily accessible, while others are tucked away and more difficult to find.
If you can get past the public policy debates, POPOS are an unsung treasure of many big downtown areas. They feature unconventional architecture, great sculptures, and gardens ranging from delicate flower arrangements to small forests. Some we pass by every day and never really notice, others are out of sight just beyond a door or up a flight of stairs. Office workers may have a favorite for lunch or coffee breaks, but may not explore others or visit outside of work, and the rest of us might never discover them at all.
Starting on Mission between 1st and 2nd St., we managed to find a wide variety in just a single city block. The urban garden at 555/575 Market was lush and opulent, if a bit inaccessible. 25 Jessie’s garden was a hidden gem, cozy and out of the way and clearly very loved. 525 Market had a fountain and sun terrace protected by a thick cluster of trees. The plazas at 555 and 560 Mission were roomy and substantial, especially 560’s deep bamboo grove. Finally, the tea garden at 100 1st was the coup de grace, a massive sunny pavilion with plenty of seating, water, and greenery. It’s popular during working hours, for good reason.
Next time you’re in downtown SF, take a few extra minutes and check out a nearby POPOS or two. They’re worth it!