Issue 554October 2016

Urban Field Notes: Oakland POPOS

Words and pictures by Brandon Durant
Urbanist Article October 26, 2016

1111 Broadway: this lively POPOS near Oakland City Center can be accessed via a small entrance on 11th or 12th Street. 


Cities move quickly. Finding a place of serenity is becoming increasingly difficult, as we continue to build and densify. POPOS — an awkward acronym for “privately owned public open spaces” — allow people to pause from the hustle and bustle. Some POPOS are designed in plain-sight as plazas or large seating areas but many are hidden from view. Developers are often required to incorporate these types of public spaces into new buildings but tend to tuck them behind or perch them on their rooftops. 


500 12th Street: City Center is a popular destination in downtown Oakland (described as “BARTable, walkable, shoppable.”) It is a large open space, but is relatively hidden from street view. 


SPUR has extensively documented San Francisco’s many POPOS but across the bay, the story of Oakland’s POPOS has remained largely untold (Wikipedia page notwithstanding). Five of these spaces, which all feel like hidden natural oases, are within a half-mile radius of SPUR’s Oakland outpost at 1544 Broadway. By highlighting these relatively new spaces, we aim to encourage people to take more time to reconnect with nature in the city and with themselves. 


Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse This POPOs is located 1301 Clay Street, adjacent to City Center. 


2121 Harrison: directly across from Lake Merritt, this space serves as an extension of The Cathedral of Christ the Light, which was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in 2008.


300 Lakeside: this lush rooftop landscape is so large it seems to have its own microclimate. It’s accessible by an elevator located within the Kaiser parking garage. 


Get The Urbanist

Join SPUR and get our magazine in your mailbox

Become a member