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Urban Hike: POPOS Exploration #1

You’ll recall back in December I posted that I would be exploring San Francisco POPOS (Privately Owned Public Open Spaces), both for my own Urban Hike series and in connection with a piece I’m doing for Pacific Horticulture. My bit will be in the Spring 2013 issue this April, and I needed to submit some pix to go with it. A couple of weeks ago I took the opportunity to go poke around a few of these critters.

The idea behind these POPOS is that we are seeing an ever-increasing condensing of living quarters in cities. As the concentration intensifies we need to come up with ways to incorporate open space where people can interact with plants and satisfy a primal need to connect with a sense of nature. These POPOS are far from “natural”, but they still provide a retreat from the busy pedestrian corridors and offer a (sometimes) quiet place to remove yourself from the frenzy of shoppers, tourists, and business commuters. They can be a place to relax, to eat your lunch, or simply just to stand and look and enjoy the soothing sounds of a fountain.

SF downtown POPOS map.

SF downtown POPOS map.

The photo above is from a printable PDF map and guide of SF POPOS in the dense downtown area. The SF Planning Department also just did a post with a fantastic interactive map. Seriously awesome. Stop for a sec and go check it out. I’ll wait. There. Wasn’t that just the coolest? You can click the icons and get a description of the spot, and even narrow the search with checkboxes to narrow down to spots that have seating, art, restrooms, or are open all the time.

With the printable map and guide, I set out to explore. I decided to check out the cluster around the Montgomery Metro Station. Including some more recent spaces not even listed on the map, I was able to see nearly 20 POPOS on both sides of Market Street within a couple of blocks. Quite a fantastic density of urban retreats in a busy area!

On the north side of Market Street I checked out POPOS numbers 18-22. These included rooftop gardens, street plazas, sunken plazas, and an enclosed courtyard. Scroll through the slideshow:

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The rest I visited were on the south side of Market. Immediately along Market, and in the alleys connecting it to Mission Street, is San Francisco’s greatest density of POPOS. I stuck to the one square block of Market, First, Mission, and Second, and had so much to see! I was blown away by a couple of spots in particular: an indoor public garden on Stevenson and the enormous Sun Terrace at 100 First Street. Equally impressive was that I came across many a POPOS that was not on the map, not to mention several that were built purely as design elements and not because it was required for that building. Nice.

Slideshow of numbers 24 & 25, along Market Street, and #48 on Stevenson:

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Deeper into the block were a couple of little ones on Jessie Street. The map doesn’t show the plethora of pedestrian alleys linking Market to Mission, but that’s where all these little ones are hiding. Mission Street has some newer construction, though, and the POPOS there are comparatively HUGE. Bigger than many SF parks, in fact! This slideshow is from numbers 43, 44, and 49-51:

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Lastly, I visited #27 on the map. It’s listed as “14 Fremont Street”, but the address on the colonnade lists it as 50 Fremont. Regardless, the city gardeners were working on sprucing it up. It’s a popular office-day lunch spot, with lots of eateries along a block-long corridor and around the square plaza, so they do their work on Saturdays. I happened across them, and actually knew one of them. He told me that a couple of years ago they had removed all the boring boxwoods and roses in favor of water-wise plantings of Mediterranean climate plants and California natives. They even had endemic frogs moving in on their own now!

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In a couple of weeks, I’ll go tackle another group of POPOS, and continue the posts!

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3 responses to “Urban Hike: POPOS Exploration #1

  1. I really loved and appreciated your photos. They are so full of ideas and inspiration.

  2. Pingback: My Latest Pac Hort Article! | boZannical Gardens

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