Downtown San Francisco's Top 10 Secret Spaces and Hidden Oases

spur smart phone image.jpg

We've heard lore of bamboo forests and sun decks in the otherwise inhospitable downtown San Francisco, but when we endeavor to visit such mythical places, it always ends the same way: we can't find the exact location, or a menacing security guard prompts us to quickly turn away. Surely all the good worker bees should just continue hunching in front of the computer during lunch because that's the only option, right?

Wrong. Since 1985, this fine city has required developers to provide one square foot of public space for every 50 square feet of office space, known as POPOS or privately owned public spaces. How do you find POPOS? Developers aren't keen on making it easy. Bad signage or front desk inquiries are de rigueur, the nonprofit urban think tank SPUR noted in their 2009 report, but they've been on the case ever since,  and this month they've released a new app which promises to radically alter your lunch hour. S.F.'s Secret Spaces and Hidden Oases identifies over 50 POPOS on a map, as well as hours of operations and tricks to getting to where you want to go, whether it is a five-story atrium or a sculpture garden.

We combed the app to bring you the top 10 gems hidden in plain sight in downtown S.F.

See also:

San Francisco's Top 10 Offbeat Museums

The Haas-Lilienthal House Declared a National Treasure

Photo by Noah Christman, courtesy SPUR
One Bush Street

10. One Bush Plaza

River rocks embedded in concrete, a fountain sculpture, a moat, and cherry, willow and pine trees make One Bush Street one of our favorites. Built in 1953, the urban garden surrounds the first post-war high-rise building, but sadly there is no seating to be found. On sunny days the stone walls along Sansome proved a place to recline and the opportunity to do some solid people watching.

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Photo by Noah Christman, courtesy SPUR
14 Fremont

9. 14 Fremont

A pedestrian walkway connects Fremont and First Streets, but 14 Fremont deserves far more than a cut through. A wide sitting area features an urban garden, planting beds, and plum trees, not to mention sunshine, when available. There are plenty of tables, chairs, and ledges to sit on. No lunch, no problem: Two food services open to the walkway.

Photo by Noah Christman, courtesy SPUR
425 Market Street

8. 425 Market

Large planters full of colorful flowers and long wooden benches make 425 Market a dependable, pleasant respite from the office. There is good people watching to be had in this shortcut from Fremont to Market, and should the sun decide to shine, ample trees offer shade.

Location Info


Transamerica Pyramid

600 Montgomery, San Francisco, CA

Category: General

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