San Francisco ponders letting luxury property developers take away symbolic "public spaces"




Do I recall Zucotti Park was one of these?


It’s Gezi Park all over again


Socialize losses, privatize profits.
This is the neo-feudal wealth diode(at least in feudal times the lords had a nominal responsibility to the serfs they owned).
Even though the fee is allegedly going into pubic(oops!) public coffers the rule in sentence one kicks in.
Public money is used to subsidize the connected as much as it is used to benefit society, being generous these fees are as likely to end up being returned to developers in some sleazy incentive deal as they are to help build a park elsewhere or house the homeless.


So the local strip-clubs are going to benefit, then.


Not quite…this isn’t a plan to privatize existing green-space and build a mall on it.

The city plans to change a term of the city code requiring private development in one neighborhood to provide “public space” – which could mean an outside park like Zucotti or an publicly-accessible area inside like a plaza – to allow developers to pay a fee to the city instead.

In theory, requiring public space is great and can help achieve an open and welcoming city. In practice, these public areas are difficult to find and aren’t public knowledge since the developers do everything they can to hide them away in the first place. The SF plan seems well-meaning but wide enough to drive a train through, and when the local paper needs to publish an article pointing out these spots, their objective has been a failure.

What the city should be doing is tightening up their code and fighting the developers when they propose “public space” on the 4th and 9th floors of a fancy hotel, but I know from experience that can be a costly battle from the city’s perspective.

Also, the idea that it’s going into a Rec and Park fund tells you their department is coming up short on their budget.


It seems that there is pretty much zero chance of the fees paid by private developers to get out of these clauses to be anything near the full cost of maintenance, and lack of rental income, for these tiny, hidden, semi-public spaces. This really deserves a big fat “no” from the city. :-/

Oh, I miss the SFBG already…


May the books of William H. Whyte fall on their heads from a great height.


The city should publish a map for all of these spaces and require signage to locate them.


Most sane folks can agree that these hidden parks are not the highest and best use of that real estate. So yes let’s replace the requirement with something that serves the public better.

This would be the opposite of the action being taken which serves building owners at the expense of the public. Retroactive exceptions, come on.


Such as…?


SPUR in SF published this. Good map and descriptions of the ‘POPOS’ (privately owned public open spaces)


These hidden parks are like the NGO/Not-for-profit orgs which are used to purchase and own art and other nice things, AFAIK these art self-donations actually qualify as a tax deduction! Officially they have public viewing hours but good luck finding the secret public times without an inside connection.


99% Invisible has an interesting episode about the SF POPOS:


Even so, I’m sure you can find a way to take advantage of them.


There are maps out there, at least.

Legally all the spaces built after 1985 are required to have signage to help people locate them, but the city didn’t provide many guidelines for how large or prominent that signage had to be so in practice the property owners usually don’t make it very conspicuous.


I really like that, being an annoyance to those taking advantage of these tax breaks by actually holding them to what they’ve committed to.

I wonder though if this sort of thing’s ever been a plot point in a heist film/story… need to get access to a corporate building and there’s security and everything, but turns out there’s a public space on the 4th floor you can demand access to and spend as long as you want in… wait for the guards or whoever they have to watch you to get bored or forget you’re there, then use that as a staging area to sneak a floor up or down to get what you want (I’m sure in real life it wouldn’t be this simple, but the fictional possibilities amuse me).


There are an infinity of options that would serve the public better than hidden parks. The first one that comes to mind is to calculate actual (not bogus) value of that space based on what commercial tenants in that area are paying per square foot for office space. Then have the building owner send that money to the city to subsidize rents of individuals who have been living in the same apartment for more than 10 years and are facing eviction or higher than average rent increases. And let the building owner turn the space into offices. In short, use the value for stabilization of long term residents situations rather than creation of new opportunities for the wealthy to move in.


No need to get physical in the age of TEMPEST, wireless networks and keyboards, and all other no-contact threats. Just get close enough…


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