Arts and Culture

Exploring Your City’s Privately Owned Public Spaces

Updated: Nov 17, 2022 09:54
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Photo by JP Cavender

One of the most interesting urban planning concepts (taught to me by my urban planner best friend) is the privatization of public space.  Once she pointed it out using the tiny, rotating bus shelter seats that one can hardly sit on, let alone sleep on as an example, I can’t help but notice the pattern all over most cities I’ve been to.

In some cases, city planners have attempted to curtail this trend with zoning regulations and laws such as the 1985 Downtown Plan in San Francisco.  The plan helped to control growth and put guidelines into place for the creation of more publicly accessible open space in downtown San Francisco.  These Privately Owned Public Open Spaces (POPOS) have some of the greatest views and are the best secret oases in any urban landscape.

The result can now be found in hard-to-find, but worth-the-search public gardens and plazas that it can take a treasure map to find.  Lucky for you, some wonderful people in San Francisco, LA and New York have taken the time to make such a map.  Here are some that I have found.  Let me know if there are more out there!

San Francisco
-This Map shows 68 POPOS all over downtown and the financial district.  Try a new spot for lunch as often as you can!

New York
Here are some POPOS broken out by district.  There have also recently been some interesting, and of course controversial, attempts at spreading the public space love.

Los Angeles
-Fun Fact: The entire California coastline is public land.  This includes the '˜private’ beaches of the '˜Bu (cool speak for Malibu), up to a certain point on the sand.  Here is a guide to legally gaining access to the beaches of the rich and famous.

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Alison Lambert - Half Price Headliner

Alison Lambert - Half Price Headliner

Ali was born and raised in the Wholesome/Creepy capital of the world, Salt Lake City, UT. Once she was old enough to blow that pop stand she escaped to the place that was the anti-SLC: The Peoples Gay-public of Drugifornia aka San Francisco (holla 30 Rock!). You can now find her throughout this glorious city slurping Pho and scheming with her best friend Pinky doing what they do every night; try and take over the world.