Crocker Galleria-compressed Photo: Matthew Lew/

In a city where space is at a premium, it’s hard to believe that even one square inch of land could be “undiscovered.” But San Francisco boasts a number of Privately Owned Public Spaces just waiting to be explored. Matthew Lew gathered information for 21 such places on Medium:

Scattered throughout Downtown San Francisco are public plazas, atriums, and roof gardens. Privately Owned Public Open Spaces (POPOS) hide behind secret elevators, security guards, and stairs. Their elusive trait raises the question: if they are public, then why are they hidden?

In a city where land is scarce, POPOS allocate open space to prevent overdevelopment. The 1985 Downtown Plan mandates developers build and maintain 1 sq ft of public space for each 50 sq ft of commercial space. Yet, developers hide them from the public to keep cost of maintenance low.

Lew details parks in the South of Market area, Financial District, Embarcadero and more. Explore penthouse gardens, quaint squares, indoor/outdoor spaces, a modern ziggurat, bronze sculptures and water features.

What’s your secret spot in San Francisco? Take a look at our favorites and let us know!

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