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City and County of San Francisco

Privately-Owned Public Open Space and Public Art

Public art space plaza

public art space lobby

public art space rooftop gardern

public art psace stone scultpure

public art space interior greenery


Privately-Owned Public Open Space (POPOS)

Privately-owned public open spaces (POPOS) are publicly accessible spaces in forms of plazas, terraces, atriums, small parks, and even snippets that are provided and maintained by private developers. In San Francisco, POPOS mostly appear in the Downtown office district area. Prior to 1985, developers provided POPOS under three general circumstances: voluntarily, in exchange for a density bonus, or as a condition of approval. The 1985 Downtown Plan created the first systemic requirements for developers to provide publicly accessible open space as a part of projects in C-3 Districts. The goal was to “provide in the downtown quality open space in sufficient quantity and variety to meet the needs of downtown workers, residents and visitors.1” Since then project sponsors may provide POPOS instead of their required open spaces in other districts such as Eastern Neighborhoods (Section 135 of the Planning Code).

Public Art

San Francisco has a "1% Art Program" that requires that large projects in the Downtown and nearby neighborhoods provide public art that equals at least 1% of the total construction cost. This program was established by the 1985 Downtown Plan and is governed by Section 429 of the Planning Code. Since May 2012, some projects may choose to dedicate a portion of their 1% Art requirement to the City's Public Art Trust. To read more about the requirements, and the Public Art Trust, please read the Public Art Requirement Fact Sheet. 

POPOS & Public Art Map

In the summers of 2011 and 2012, the Planning Department staff visited all POPOS and required Public Artworks and created a comprehensive database. The map below is intended to raise awareness on such spaces and works of art that are available to the public. This map displays Privately Owned Public Open Spaces (POPOS) and Public Artworks in San Francisco.


Map Instructions: Click on any POPOS to get more information. Type an address and click 'Search' to move the map to that address. POPOS with certain features can be selected in this map. When “Food Available” is marked, only POPOS that have Food available directly adjacent to the space will show. When two or more features are selected at the same time, only POPOS that include ALL those features will remain on the map.


darker green icon POPOS marked with the darker green icon are subject to the Downtown Plan.
lighter green icon POPOS marked with the lighter green represent POPOS that are provided prior to 1985 and may or may not be subject to signage requirements.
public art icon Public Artworks provided as a part of the Downtown Plan requirement are also available on this map.

POPOS Signage

POPOS provide a great value to workers, residents and visitors of the Downtown. This value is lost if the spaces are not readily identifiable and accessible. In 2012 the City approved legislation that upgraded the signage controls, requiring additional information be provided about the POPOS and regulating the size, design, and content of the plaques. A new well-designed logo brands these POPOS to help the public understand the individual spaces as part of a larger network. Installing the plaque at every pedestrian entrance will direct the public to interior and rooftop spaces.


POPOS Official Designation Sign
To help property owners and managers comply with signage design requirements, the Planning Department is providing guidelines and artwork templates for designing POPOS Informational Plaques.


POPOS Sign Design Template
( requires Adobe Illustrator CS )

ZA Bulletin on POPOS Informational Plaques


Beginning January 2013, the Planning Department Zoning and Compliance Division will begin reviewing POPOS sites that were approved subject to the Downtown Plan (darker green icons on the map) for compliance. Property owners of POPOS that are not in compliance with signage AND other Conditions of Approval related to open space requirements will be notified followed by a courtesy compliance period. Following the courtesy period, POPOS that are not in compliance will be subject to further enforcement action which may result in penalties per Section 176 of the Planning Code.



Moonrise Sculptures by Ugo Rondinone
The office tower at 555 Mission Street features a through-block plaza. Among other features, the plaza contains a trio of mottled aluminum heads by artist Ugo Rondinone that was provided in compliance with the 1% for Art Requirement of Planning Code Section 429.

Fine Arts Guidelines

The “Fine Arts Guidelines”, approved in 1986, clarifies how this requirement should be met. This document stresses that the goal of the Downtown Art program is to achieve a more vital and interesting downtown while safeguarding the many subjective choices which can be made in the process. The Guidelines specify the process and the roles that developers, architects and artist play, emphasizing the many avenues by which the 1% expenditure can be creatively made.

Today's Downtown Gallery

More than 25 years since the adoption of the Downtown Plan, has seen the growth of an extensive outdoor gallery downtown that enriches the environment for workers and tourists alike. The spirit of the 1% for Art requirement is to ensure that the public has access to high-quality and variety in art. To help catalog the Downtown public art gallery and to increase public access to this art, the Planning Department has created a map displaying the locations and images of public art in the downtown district (see below), and a printable guide available for download: Today's Downtown Gallery.

About the Downtown Plan

The groundbreaking "Downtown Plan” adopted in 1985, was developed under the fundamental assumption that significant employment and office development growth would occur. New commercial development would provide new revenue sources to cover a portion of the costs of necessary urban service improvements. Specific programs were created to satisfy needs for additional housing, transit, childcare, open space, and art. The public art requirement created by this plan is commonly known as the “1% for Art” program. This requirement, governed by Section 429 of the Planning Code, provides that construction of a new building or addition of 25,000 square feet or more within the downtown C-3 district, triggers a requirement that provide public art that equals at least 1% of the total construction cost be provided.

Documents & Links



Last updated: 10/6/2015 3:35:36 PM