32: Public space


San Francisco has the concept of Privately Owned Public Open Spaces – ‘parks’ built as part of new developments. This was set out in the 1985 Downtown Plan but it has been proposed that the requirement come to an end, with a payment in lieu of setting aside the increasingly rare space.

The existing parks are apparently little-used: “the locations are deliberately hidden to keep the public out. In consequence, the lack of usage enables a legitimate case to stop building public spaces.” The spaces are deliberately hard to find and therefore neglected. One ironic effect of this: “The tourism industry has turned this into a tour of “San Francisco’s secret spots” — tourists are entertained by on POPOS that locals are not even educated about.”

A guide to these parks has now been produced, enabling people to go to these public areas – to take lunch, to meet friends or just enjoy a calm space.

There is a similar contest between public and private space in Brighton. Two of the town’s main spaces, Churchill Square and Jubilee Square, are both privately operated. In Churchill Square there is a line in the pavement separating the wide private space from the narrow strip of public land. A sign on the library wall reads “No public events or performances without Owner’s written permission”. Jubilee Square has no buskers or people handing out leaflets. It is mostly left as empty space.

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