The joke that is "privately owned public space" gets even more jokey.

Little-Known Public Open Spaces Could Be Made Private

While not widely publicized, over 12,000 square feet of public open space was constructed in the form of two sunny terraces off the fourth and sixth floors of the 31-story Intercontinental Hotel at 888 Howard Street, a condition of the development's approval and the result of a 1980s-era city policy which requires new South of Market commercial buildings to provide such privately owned public open spaces.

Next month, a proposed amendment could be adopted which would allow developers to pay an in lieu fee rather than provide any on-site public open space in their buildings.

If the amendment is passed and the Intercontinental is successful, don't be surprised if a flood of similar requests to privatize other existing public spaces in San Francisco soon surface.

In other words: when required to build public parks, developers used a loophole to build terrible, inaccessible, effectively-private balconies instead. So let's close that loophole by not requiring even that much.

I can't find any details on this supposed amendment, though. This appears to be the only source.

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16 Responses:

  1. Lloyd says:

    does the DNA lounge have a roof terrace? could it?

    • mattyj says:

      I don't think the roof of DNA Lounge is flat. It would take some infrastructure, and undoubtedly a lot of political red tape, to get a deck up there.

    • jwz says:

      We have a parklet...

      • Lloyd says:

        and it is manifestly your parklet.

        so, instead of building public spaces in private buildings that are de facto private, you built a private space in a public street that you enforce as private.

        • jwz says:

          If you watch that lovely fellow's other videos, you will see that his hobby is tormenting random public workers like Muni drivers until they have lost their cool, and only then turning on his camera and playing lawyer. He's the human 4chan.

          • Anonymous says:

            What's the story with the space that the guy in the video is talking about, though? Do you know if he was being a dick or something here, immediately prior to what's shown in the video? Was security guy just trying to pre-emptively deal with problems based on a history with camera guy? Even so, it looks like security guy chases off some uninvolved people from an otherwise empty space, probably for the appearance of consistency. (I wouldn't be able to get behind anything like, "Look how how he ended up ruining it for other people.")

            Seeing this is a huge bummer. I mean, I'm not in the Bay Area and I'm only tangentially in DNA's market segment, so it's not even like you're at risk of losing business here. But, you know, as someone who a decade ago would've found myself miffed about this kind of thing on boingboing and posts like this, I'm geting some secondhand embarrassment over the staff's posturing and tone here, so, like I said, huge bummer.

            • jwz says:

              That employee did several things wrong and handled the situation poorly. (Partly because he was dealing with a troll who has trained extensively in goading people into handling this particular situation poorly.) However, one of the things he did right was telling that guy, "you're trespassing, it's time for you to go." Camera Guy had been harassing people all night, doing things like filming women without their permission even after they asked him to stop, and basically trying to start fights like a nine year old going "I'm not touching you, I'm not touching you, nyah nyah."

              Yes, we are legally allowed to decide that someone in front of our business is trespassing even if they're in the parklet. It's not a Temporary Autonomous Zone, and the reason that law exists is precisely to deal with people like this guy.

  2. mattyj says:

    Hey, they're required to mark the entrances at street level so you know where they are! Never mind that this usually consists of a six inch wide plaque down near your feet.

    It's kinda fun trying to find these places. There's one on the roof of SF Centre, which is situated next to the dome. The fun part is that you have to get to it by entering one of the businesses along Market, and only one of the four elevators in there goes to the top. Even better, once you get up there the building's venting system is up there and you can probably imagine how loud a bunch of fans that circulate air in a giant mall are going to be.

  3. mlis says:

    I know there are other lists, but it's always worth throwing this guide out so people can go take a look on their own. I love a lot of these places, and I enjoy wandering into the ones that the owners try their hardest to make seem private or inaccessible (e.g. the mentioned Intercontinental or the new park at the ESE corner of Fremont & Harrison near the Rincon towers, which is visible from street level but surrounded by fuck-you fencing).

    That said, POPOS seem like a solution after the fact, a stupidly designed kludge to work around a problem SF only noticed after building out massive building infrastructure. The importance of maintaining or adding, or including in planning, public open and green space cannot be IMO overstated while SoMa and SF are going through this freakishly fast rate of development. Unless you can get to the waterfront, SoMa is currently pretty deficient in parks. The developments I see going up and the ones I see proposed (e.g.,, need some sort of pressure/guarantee that the firms that are making the money don't just turn these blocks into a Bladerunner caricature or the Santana Row-style glass shitshow a la Mission Bay.

    That said, has a lot of good intentions language. If the report of the amendment is correct, keeping pressure on SF to keep POPOS open could help send a message that spaces like this are valued & holding developers of new buildings to the letter (or spirit) of the law is going to make everyones' lives more pleasant for decades. The entire 'oh well I will just make up my obligation by paying someone off/building it in Bayview' position is such crap.


  4. NT says:

    Rebar Group did a survey of POPOSs many years ago. Among other things, they would test how public the space was by getting people together to do the Balinese Monkey Chant. Someone would stand by with a stopwatch to see how long it would take them to get kicked out by the private security guards.
    Sadly, Rebar went respectable and removed it from their website.

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