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Public Open Spaces in Downtown San Francisco

Upon first blush, downtown San Francisco may seem a modern canyon dominated by sleek skyscrapers and revered architecture, but dig just below the surface and you’ll find our footprint punctuated with plentiful pocket parks and public places of respite that go by a peculiar name, POPOS! The City of San Francisco terms POPOS as “privately owned public spaces”, which are publicly accessible places such as atriums, plazas, small parks and terraces that are provided and maintained by private developers, yet open to the public during designated hours.

This funny-sounding nomenclature provides for restorative points of rest, relaxation and quiet contemplation among the hustle and bustle of a thriving downtown, and you’re invited to seek respite and enjoy a moment of serenity and greenery in any of the over-a-dozen “pocket park” POPOS beautifying our downtown district. All POPOS are indicated by signage at the location with the words “Public Open Space” inside a tree-like design, so you can identify them.

Crocker Galleria — 50 Post Street, Mon - Sat, 10am - 6pm. Crocker Galleria is home to designer boutiques and dining, but the rooftop terrace is where it's at! This sky-high garden is literally blooming with flowers, trees and shrubbery and contains benches and even a fountain. The terrace offers spectacular views of the surrounding skyscrapers, as well as a welcome respite anytime the galleria is open.

Empire Park — 648 Commercial Street, Mon - Fri, 7am - 5:30pm. Formerly known as Grabhorn Park, this POPO is provided and maintained by The Empire Group and contains a shady pergola, park benches and a lovely water feature designed by artist Pepo Pilcher. Just off an auto-free portion of Commercial Street, the park is planted with humongous tree ferns, climbing vines and wisteria, and has ties to one of San Francisco’s most notorious historic residents, Emperor Norton (who is featured on some of our “Trash Talk” Big Belly designs).

Market Center — 555 - 575 Market Street, Open 24/7. Situated between two vintage, brutalist skyscrapers, this striking urban garden is stunningly landscaped with diverse plants, grasses and a water feature imitating a mountain stream running through the space. While there is no seating, the landscaped area provides a welcome respite within the public realm.

One Bush Plaza — 1 Bush Street, Open 24/7. A relaxing place to catch a quick lunch on the steps or people watch, One Bush Plaza features a sunken garden, a trickling fountain, river rocks and plantings of cherry, willow and pine among others. There are plenty of nearby eateries like Barbacco, Barcha, Lee’s Deli, Louie’s Bar, and Wayfare Tavern, so check our restaurants page for more info.

One Sansome Street — 1 Sansome Street, Open during Business Hours. Strikingly different from many of the other outdoor POPOS in downtown San Francisco, One Sansome Street is housed in the atrium of the former London-Paris Bank building, built in 1912. Its distinguished interior evokes the Edwardian era with stunning white and black marble, a polished marble fountain, majestic, potted queen palms and art deco accents to boot — all under a two-storey expanse enclosed with a glass skylight rooftop. Enter through the Citigroup Center to be transported back in time with this classy POPOS.

Transamerica Redwood Park – 600 Montgomery Street, Mon - Fri, 7am - 5:30pm. Located in the shadow of San Francisco’s tallest building, the Transamerica Pyramid, this tranquil urban oasis is home to over fifty towering redwood trees, distinctive architectural elements and a reflecting pool and fountain designed by Anthony Guzzardo. Be sure to look for the endearing frog and lily pad sculptures by Richard Clopton and the bronze sculpture of children by Glenna Goodacre.

Trinity Plaza – 34 Trinity Place, Open 24/7. Books. Benches. Better grab a coffee because you’ll want to stay here a while. This POPOS on Trinity Plaza is nestled between a Barry’s Bootcamp, Escape from New York Pizza, and 34 Trinity Arts & News, a quaint newsstand and bookshop. Made up of several wooden block benched beneath the greenery of trees (a rarity in this part of the city), this is the perfect spot to grab a book or paper on your next lunch break. 34 Trinity Arts & News offers used books as well as items from Bay Area-specific writers and artists.

14 Fremont — 14 Fremont Street, Open 24/7. Both sunny and shaded by plum trees, this charming pedestrian walkway contains a multitude of seating options like benches, tables and chairs, as well as planter boxes with succulents along a travertine colonnade that extends along First Street. Food is available nearby, so grab a bite and sit a spell.

49 Stevenson — 49 Stevenson Street, Open 24/7. One of two POPOS along Stevenson Street, this one is also a pedestrian passageway, with engaging paving under your feet. The vetted Yank Sing, one of the best Asian restaurants in downtown San Francisco occupies the same address, and has been serving up mouth-watering dim sum since 1958.The space contains tables and chairs that are used by the public as well as dim sum diners.

55 Second — 52 2nd Street, Mon - Fri, 8am - 6pm. Also known as a popular place for affordable parking, 55 2nd Street boasts an outstanding indoor park. Located just off a marble lobby on Stevenson Street, warm leather chairs, carpeted floors and windows envelope potted plants and a commendable selection of paintings. Not to be missed!

71 Stevenson — 71 Stevenson Street, Open 24/7. The second of two POPOS along Stevenson Street, this one is a pedestrian walkway connecting to Jessie Street. This passageway contains marble paving, plants in black granite planters that do double duty as sitting ledges, and a blue tiled fountain. Multiple popular restaurants like Yank Sing are located nearby and this POPO is popular with works from the coworking space in the throwback 1980s building above. 

100 Pine — 100 Pine Street, Daily, 10am - 6pm. The tiny, quaint urban garden at 100 Pine is quietly tucked away from the commotion of the surrounding city. It’s small. Really small, but so adorably nestled between large buildings with a soothing fountain, seating and an art installation. This space doesn't get much direct sunlight, but reflective surfaces pick up the rays making this one of our favorite little hideaways in Downtown San Francisco. Enter through the building lobby or via an opaque passageway off Front Street.

101 California — 101 California Street, Open 24/7. Geometrically engaging, a series of terraced blocks punctuated by podiums and planters make up this massive public plaza. The soothing sounds of a gushing granite fountain create a special urban ambiance, and nearby restaurants open out onto the plaza.

150 California — 150 California Street, Mon - Fri, 9am - 6pm. The garden terrace located at 150 California Street almost feels like a hidden gem in our bustling downtown. To access the terrace, enter the building and let security know you’re there to visit the gardens. Enjoy a pleasant pocket park with trees, plants, flowers and a break from the hustle of downtown.

343 Sansome — 343 Sansome Street, 15th Fl., Mon - Fri, 10am - 5:00pm. Looks may be deceiving, but rest assured, this 15th-floor POPO rises above the city to offer a beautiful rooftop view adorned with flowers, trees, seating and a colorful, one-of-a-kind obelisk in the middle of a variegated terrazzo floor. This POPO often gets crowded at lunch time, but the views are compelling and make this a must-see pocket park in the clouds for any visitor to downtown San Francisco.

425 Market — 425 Market Street, Open 24/7. An urban park and a secret passageway from Fremont to Market Street, this landscaped garden is a hidden gem downtown. Situated at the base of two high rises, the POPOS is populated with trees, large planters with flowers, multiple benches and folks just enjoying a coffee or people watching. It is conveniently located by plenty of popular restaurants, such as Barcha and The Melt. Stop by a nearby café and grab your favorite cuppa and enjoy a little bit of relaxation city-style here.

456 Montgomery — 456 Montgomery Street, Open 24/7. This unique, multi-tiered POPO features a cascading urban garden and water feature that trickles down two stories into the recesses of the building. Appointed with linear seating and moveable chairs, the terraced space is open at all times, with nearby dining, hotels and conveniences.

525 Market — 525 Market Street, Open 24/7. The new 525 Market Street Plaza to the west of the building tower is a crossroads for pedestrians moving from BART to the Transbay buildings and the east west path along Market Street. The central focus for the plaza and pedestrian activity is the 25-foot-wide ring of water standing mysteriously 5 feet high in the middle of the plaza. Viewed from Sutter Street or passing by on Market Street, the supporting acrylic rings are hidden under the flowing water, all of which is standing in a circle of rough-cut obsidian stones. Surrounding this are tables, chairs and umbrellas providing seating for the nearby restaurants such as Chipotle, Joe & The Juice, and Proper Food as well as general use for others. An expanded stairway on which people can sit leads upwards to the second-floor terrace which also provides outside seating and a more intimate garden setting and views across Market to neighboring buildings.

555 California  — 555 California Street, Open 24/7. This gorgeous plaza is made from the same red granite used in the construction of the adjacent former Bank of America HQ at this address, colloquially referred to as “Triple Five” or “Triple Nickel”. Don’t miss this urban garden oasis located on the northeast corner, that’s bedecked with beautiful bamboo, and olive trees in planters, as well as the famous “Bankers Heart” sculpture by Masayuki Nagare mentioned on our Public Art in downtown San Francisco page.

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