Wednesday, December 19, 2012

UPDATE: New Signage Requirements for Privately Owned Public Open Spaces (POPOS)

Click to enlarge.  Image from SPUR's guide to POPOS

BOMA San Francisco Members:

UPDATE - December 19, 2012

Please note that Supervisor David Chiu's legislation updating the signage requirements for Privately-Owned Publicly Accessible Open Spaces (POPOS) has been enacted.

The measure updated signage controls, requiring additional information be provided about the POPOS and regulating the size, design, and content of the plaques. A new well-designed logo brands these POPOS to help the public understand the individual spaces as part of a larger network. Installing the plaque at every pedestrian entrance will direct the public to interior and rooftop spaces.


Beginning January 2013, the Planning Department Zoning and Compliance Division will begin reviewing POPOS sites that were approved subject to the Downtown Plan (darker green icons on this map) for compliance.  Property owners of POPOS that are not in compliance with signage AND other Conditions of Approval related to open space requirements will be notified followed by a courtesy compliance period. Following the courtesy period, POPOS that are not in compliance will be subject to further enforcement action which may result in penalties per Section 176 of the Planning Code.

Please click here for more information.  Please email your BOMA Advocacy Team at and if you have any questions or feedback.

UPDATE - October 22, 2012

Your BOMA San Francisco Advocacy team has been in communication with Board President Supervisor David Chiu’s office regarding legislation to update the signage requirements for Privately-Owned Publicly Accessible Open Spaces or POPOS. The measure was heard today and passed unanimously at the weekly meeting of the Land Use & Economic Development Committee.  It will now go to the Board of Supervisors for their consideration.

This legislation, if enacted, will not immediately affect existing POPOS signage. This has been accomplished via a reasonable approach to update the existing signs based on certain requirements. You can reference that information on page 15 of the current version of the measure, lines 15-22 [SEC 138 (i)(E)].  

If your property has a POPOS, please take a moment to review the new signage requirements, e.g., standardized height positioning, measurements, among others.

With regard to the contact information stipulation, SEC 138 (i)(A)(4) on page 14, a few BOMA members questioned the requirement to provide the email address of the person responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the open space.  Supervisor Chiu’s office and the Planning Department agreed to remove the email address at BOMA's request. Omitting the email address will allow the current code referencing the contacting information requirement to remain unchanged.

Please email your BOMA Advocacy Team at and if you have any questions or feedback.

Original Post - June 8, 2012

BOMA San Francisco Members -

The San Francisco Planning Department has approved an ordinance introduced by Supervisor David Chiu that would change the signage requirements for privately owned publicly accessible open spaces (POPOS).  The Board of Supervisors must still review and vote to approve the ordinance.

This San Francisco Examiner article summarizes the issue nicely.  As the article and the SPUR guide to POPOS details, many of the spaces are in or around BOMA San Francisco member buildings.

Please take a moment to review the Planning Department's Executive Summary of the planning code amendments, examples of current and possible updated signage requirements and send your feedback to Ken Cleaveland at and John Bozeman at

From the Executive Summary

The Way It Is Now

Privately-owned public open spaces (POPOS) are publicly accessible spaces in forms of plazas, terraces, atriums, small parks, and even snippets that are provided and maintained by private developers. In San Francisco, POPOS mostly appear in the Downtown office district area. Prior to 1985, developers provided POPOS under three general circumstances: voluntarily, in exchange for a density bonus, or as a condition of approval. The 1985 Downtown Plan created the first systemic requirements for developers to provide publicly accessible open space as a part of projects in C-3 Districts. The goal was to “provide in the downtown quality open space in sufficient quantity and variety to meet the needs of downtown workers, residents and visitors.The Downtown Plan also established guidelines that define eleven types of open spaces in Downtown. These guidelines prescribe detailed standards regarding each open space type size, location, access, seating, landscaping, food service, sunlight and wind, and public accessibility. Section 138 of the San Francisco Planning Code (herein after the “Code”) refers to these guidelines and establishes required amount of open space in C-3 Districts. It also regulates POPOS signage which is the focus of the proposed Ordinance. The Planning Department designed a customized plaque template for POPOS featuring a distinctive logo and required project sponsors to install the plaque at the space. However, while the Code specified what information to include in the plaque, it did not identify the location and the size of the plaque. As a result, many of these sites do not include proper informational signage, which has created a deficiency in informing the public about the existence of open space. Section 135 and 135.3 also provide provisions for POPOS in other Districts such as Downtown Residential and Eastern Neighborhood Mixed Use Districts. Some provisions in these two Sections regarding POPOS are not in consistence with provisions in Section 138.

The Way It Would Be

The proposed Ordinance would amend Section 138 to include more specific requirements and standards for the informational plaques of POPOS. In order to maintain consistency in the Code, Section 135 and 135.3 of the Code will also be amended to match the same standards.

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