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Privately Owned Public Open Space Symposium on Wednesday

I wanted to mention the symposium on privately owned public open space (POPOS) this Wednesday and add some editorial this go around.

As you may know, I’ve been querying about meeting spaces where 40-50 folks from our neighborhood could get together for our Association meeting on May 13th (and for future meetings). It would seem that a POPOS would be an excellent option. The problem I’ve run into is that these “open spaces” that are located indoors tend to close at 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. As anybody with any common sense knows, most of the residents in the Rincon Hill neighborhood are working Monday through Friday during the daytime hours and do not get home from work until 6 p.m. or later. This brings up my first question about these spaces which is – how is this a community benefit if the majority of the residents cannot use them due to limited hours of availability?

The next step in my quest about POPOSes and their potential for a neighborhood meeting was to inquire about the possibility to use them after their typical hours for a neighborhood meeting. There are signs mentioning that they’re available for parties and meetings after all. Sadly, the cost is completely prohibitive to a non-commercial community group like the Rincon Hill Neighborhood Association. I was quoted about $1,000 to rent one of the POPOSes in the Rincon Hill neighborhood that would be excellent for our community meeting. This makes the Pier 1 meeting spaces owned by The Port of San Francisco seem like an absolute steal at $300 or so for a non-profit for a full day’s use (the full day ending at 5 p.m., I still need to inquire about evening rentals that require payment for a security guard). Again, what is the benefit of these spaces to our community if they’re not available when the majority of the residents can use them and they are prohibitively expensive to try to use them for non-commercial, neighborhood-building purposes when folks could use them? It seems to me that the talk of public benefits, at least in regards to indoor POPOSes, is just bunk – these spaces are profit centers for the building owners and not really all that useful as public open spaces.

In my opinion, the indoor POPOSes in the Rincon Hill neighborhood entirely miss the point of why communities ask for open spaces. The point is to provide a common space where folks can gather and socialize and meet as a community. From what I’ve learned so far, these indoor “open spaces” only work for the minority of folks who do not work Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. That’s my personal opinion … but maybe I’m wrong. I’ll be interested to hear the discussion on Wednesday.

Space in the City: Privately Owned, Publicly Used
4/23/2008 from 6:00 PM until 9:00 PM
This event will be held from 6-9 p.m. at the privately owned and publicly used open space at 55 Second Street in San Francisco. RSVP today to events@spur.org or by calling 415.781.8726 x120.

Join SPUR Young Urbanists and Next American City magazine for a symposium on the accessibility and design of privately owned public open spaces (POPOS) in downtown San Francisco. Participants will include Rebar, San Francisco’s home-grown art collective, who will present examples from their COMMONspace project; Josh Switzky, an urban designer for the local Planning Department; and Margie O’Driscoll, executive director of the San Francisco chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The discussion will be moderated by Sarah Karlinsky of SPUR.

This event is generously supported by the Koret Foundation.

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