The Best Secret Rooftop Gardens In San Francisco

The rooftop garden at 100 First Street in San Francisco, California
The rooftop garden at 100 First Street in San Francisco, California | © San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers / Getty Images
Alexandra Brown

In a busy city like San Francisco, it is difficult to find a quiet moment away from the rush to take a lunch break or just observe the city. Thanks to city planners, terrace gardens are popping up all over downtown. These areas are called ‘POPOS,’ or ‘Privately Owned Public Open Spaces,’ and exist due to a 1985 downtown planning code. Here are the best rooftop POPOS.

One Kearny

Building

© San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers / Getty Images

Possibly one of the most well-hidden and secluded rooftop gardens in San Francisco, One Kearny is truly a calming urban oasis perched above city life below. This POPOS offers great views of the city, fresh air, and plenty of surrounding greenery and benches to allow you to sit back and relax on a sunny day. To experience this rooftop yourself, just walk into the lobby on the Geary entrance and ask the guard for access to the 11th floor roof terrace, which will be granted after going over a simple list of rules.

Sansome

Park, Building

© San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers / Getty Images

The garden at 343 Sansome is one of the more lunch-friendly and sunny rooftop POPOS, offering tables, chairs and benches unobstructed by shadows from surrounding buildings. Seasonal flowers and olive trees fill the planters, which are all centered around a colorful sundial obelisk designed by Bay Area artist, Joan Brown. To enjoy your own lunch here, walk into the lobby and take the elevators up to the 15th floor. The rooftop is only accessible during the building’s business hours, 10 am- 5 pm.

Sky Terrace At Westfield Mall

Park, Shopping Mall

© Martin Williams / Alamy Stock Photo

The Sky Terrace at Westfield Mall, also only open during business hours, is a great area to get away from the crowded mall below, get a breath of fresh air, or enjoy a snack. Getting to this rooftop is slightly more complicated than others, as it is not accessible directly from the mall. The entrance is at 835 Market, next to the Walgreens and Timberland store. Walk in and ask the guard for roof access, where you will be directed to the first elevator on the left (this is the only elevator that goes to the 9th floor sky terrace level.) Since this is a more hidden POPOS, it is usually pretty empty, so the sprawling city views can be enjoyed in private.

Crocker Galleria

Building, Shopping Mall, Market

© Yuval Helfman / Alamy Stock Photo

The Crocker Galleria building actually has two different roof terraces; the first can be accessed through the Wells Fargo bank lobby at the corner of Montgomery and Post Streets (just go in and ask for roof access) and the other is located one flight of stairs up from the 3rd floor of the Galleria. Both terraces get crowded during the lunch hour, but are only open during business hours. There is ample seating, food services in the Galleria, great views, and interesting sculpture; this is one POPOS that definitely cannot be missed.

100 First Street

100 First Street POPOS is one of the largest and most accessible on this list. A staircase on Mission between 1st and 2nd streets leads up to the terrace, which sprawls across the roof of an entire parking structure. Despite the vast size, intimate areas are created by the 45-degree grid layout of planter beds and benches. There are water features with undulating glass panels that resemble waves and numerous planters filled with flowers and grasses, providing a truly naturalistic escape from the bustling city below.

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