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Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

Where’s the POPO? (No, not that kind)

Little-known and scattered across the city’s downtown area are several areas open to the public and free of charge — pay them a visit if you get tired of cafes and coffee shops
Sunthi Jong
A towering building located in San Francisco’s Financial District on March 22, 2024. (Sunthi Jong / Golden Gate Xpress)

I have yet to meet a college student who didn’t go crazy for free stuff. Whether it be food, pens, or plastic water bottles, the allure of something costing $0 has lured in many a broke student. But there is something much harder to get ahold of than a free t-shirt or bag of chips — a cost-free workplace.

Scattered throughout San Francisco’s downtown are several buildings called Privately Owned Public Open Spaces, also known as POPOS. They were developed as part of San Francisco’s 1985 Downtown Plan; Section 429 of the Planning Code requires that all new building projects in the downtown area provide public art equal to at least 1% of the building’s total construction cost. As a result, there is a wealth of publicly accessible areas that take the form of plazas, rooftops, and urban gardens — all of which are available to students looking for a place to work or socialize.

343 Sansome Rooftop

The rooftop terrace on the 15th floor of 343 Sansome St. on March 22, 2024. (Sunthi Jong / Golden Gate Xpress) (Sunthi Jong)

343 Sansome St., Floor 15

Open Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

There’s a rooftop terrace on the 15th floor of 343 Sansome Street. Visitors must sign in at the front desk, where a security guard will grant access to an elevator taking you up to the public space. The terrace includes multiple tables and chairs, as well as benches and ledge seating that overlooks the towering skyscrapers of San Francisco’s Financial District. If no security guard is available, visitors can call (415) 434 – 0343.

Citigroup Center 

The ground floor lobby of the Citigroup Center, located in San Francisco’s Financial District, on March 21, 2024.  (Sunthi Jong / Golden Gate Xpress) (Sunthi Jong)

1 Sansome St.

Open Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Located on the ground floor of the Citigroup Center, this plaza sits under a glass roof and towering arches that let in natural sunlight for employees and members of the public alike. The white marble interior provides a luxurious backdrop for anyone seeking an environment to work or catch up with friends. In addition, there are several food and drink businesses nearby.

Millenium Tower Atrium

The inside of the atrium next to Millenium Tower on March 22, 2024. The atrium faces toward the city. (Sunthi Jong / Golden Gate Xpress) (Sunthi Jong)

301 Mission St.

Open Monday-Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. 

The atrium next to the Millennium Tower houses several art pieces. Of all the locations compiled in this list, it has the largest number of chairs and tables, making it perfect for larger groups of people. 

Floor-to-ceiling windows face out toward the street and a restaurant and bar are next door. 

101 Second St.

One of the workspaces located inside 101 Second St. on March 21, 2024. There is seating in the upstairs and ground-level areas. (Sunthi Jong / Golden Gate Xpress) (Sunthi Jong)

101 Second St.

Open Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.

101 Second St. is home to a veritable greenhouse, which upon entry, lobby visitors are greeted with indoor table seating, as well as bench seating at the foot of several trees housed near high windows. Located upstairs are more table seating, a balcony overlooking the rest of the interior and a bird’s-eye view of the lobby and surrounding artwork.

55 Second St. Lobby 

A workspace is pictured at 55 Second St. on March 21, 2024. (Sunthi Jong / Golden Gate Xpress) (Sunthi Jong)

55 Second St.

Open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.

This workspace on Second Street requires visitors to traverse a marble hallway and a small staircase leading to an open work area. Tables and chairs are on the hardwood floor portion of the space, and larger armchairs and couches are across the room in a carpeted area. The space is illuminated by arched windows peering into the city below, and arched enclaves provide smaller, cozier nooks in which to gather.

For people who want to get out of the house but have no desire to frequent their usual haunts, POPOS provide the opportunity to gather in areas that are full of compelling art and architecture that may have gone unnoticed if they were only available to employees of the private developers that own those spaces. Whether visitors seek to be more cost-effective in their establishments or want to explore the city, the above spaces are simply a few of many.

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About the Contributor
Sunthi Jong
Sunthi Jong, Co-Copy Editor
Sunthi Jong (she/her) is a copy editor for the Golden Gate Xpress and is a member of the editorial team. She is majoring in journalism and minoring in Asian American Studies. She was born in the East Bay and grew up both there and in Sacramento. Jong currently lives in San Francisco and is in the final year of her degree. In her free time, Jong enjoys reading, baking and exploring the city.

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