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Did you know there are more than 60 so-called ‘privately-owned public open spaces’ that can be accessed freely in San Francisco? If you didn’t know they existed, you’re not alone. Luckily, legislation enacted more than 20 years ago means you can explore these hidden treasures that are built atop, in, and around many of the office buildings that crowd downtown. Here are ten of the best spots to soothe nerves frayed from too many tourist traps.
Visitors to 515 Mission Street may be thrown off by a confusing address above the building’s garage entrance, an abandoned lot across the street, construction scaffolding on the way to the rooftop, and the absence of a sign announcing the POPOS. Do not be deterred; perseverance pays off. Next to the tall brown building at 100 First Street, enter the terrace through the stairs in between the parking garage and the building itself. The second floor reveals a beautiful terrace with fragrant flowers, well-kept topiary, a rippling water feature, convenient tables, and comfortable lounge chairs. Gleaming buildings surrounding the terrace provide comforting isolation for those looking for a break. The breeze seems gentler, as the city drops away. This clean, quiet spot is also open seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
Striving to fan the flames of a budding romance? Try the Crocker Galleria Roof Terrace — a hideaway in the heart of the Financial District at Union Square. Take an escalator up to several available lunch spots on the third floor of the Crocker Galleria, then go up one more flight of stairs to the fourth-floor roof garden. You’ll find numerous benches, clipped shrubbery, and a fountain. It also provides an excellent view of Market Street, which is good to keep in mind during the city’s many parade days. A second sun terrace can be accessed by an obscure staircase in the northwest corner of the Galleria’s top floor. It is a quiet refuge, offering sunny and shady places, many benches, a trellis, and planters.
50 Post Street, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 393 1505
Six floors above street level, the garden terrace at 150 California Street offers long periods of sunlight and several types of seating, with 40 chairs and ten tables. The terrace also offers mesmerizing views of the Financial District’s shining office towers, and Ed Carpenter’s ‘Arch‘ – a huge metal art installation. To access the space, head to the second set of elevators towards the back of the main entrance. Once on the sixth floor, sprawling glass doors give way to a garden of nicely manicured trees and flowers. Visitors will find some tables in the sun and others in the shade.
Get away from the crowds around Westfield Center Mall by stealing away to the ninth-floor Sky Terrace. The rooftop looks onto the mall dome and provides westward views of City Hall and surrounding hills in the bright sunlight. The terrace also offers about 60 chairs and other seats along planter boxes. It’s a great place for lunch; visit the mall food court and enjoy a picnic. This one’s the hardest to find, however. Don’t go into the mall, but into the building to the left at 835 Market. Past the guard in the lobby are the elevators, only one of which goes to the ninth floor. And there’s no need to be offline; Westfield wi-fi is available on a good day.
Get two rooftop terraces for the price of one at The Intercontinental Hotel at 888 Howard Street. The hotel provides two POPOS, one each on the fifth and sixth floors. Enjoy a variety of seating arrangements and landscaping, all with views of the city. The fifth floor terrace includes seating arrangements for private events, and the sixth floor area offers 49 chairs and six chaise lounges. The public is allowed onto the terraces on weekdays from 9am to 5pm.
You can’t get much cozier than the fifth-floor rooftop at 543 Howard Street. This POPOS offers a comfortable spot for lunch with tables and chairs. Grab takeout from any of the Financial District neighborhood eateries and bask in the peace and quiet. Afterward, climb into one of the lounge chairs to digest in reclined comfort. The chairs are even flanked by parasols that can be opened or lowered. The aesthetics are improved even further by a sculpture of an enormous black heart.
Now this gem is well and truly hidden. The Green House and Galleria in the KPMG Building at 55 2nd Street is one of the few indoor, elevated POPOS in the city. Enter through a beautiful lobby of marble and granite from Stevenson Street and take a few steps to the left, inside the historic building. The second floor area is open weekdays from 8am to 6pm. It offers dining tables and chairs, wooden benches, and large leather chairs, plus restrooms. The vast space basks in sunshine from several large skylights in the high ceiling and massive arch windows along a wall. Framed artwork lines another wall above stylized benches and planters.