Predictions for San Francisco’s Public Spaces

In 2023, will the city’s public spaces be reclaimed by cars, or will pandemic-era interventions lead to permanent change?

1 minute read

January 5, 2023, 12:00 PM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, John King anticipates what 2023 holds for public spaces in the city.

San Francisco’s public realm in 2023 will likely be as contested as the city itself — profoundly different than in 2019, and still in a state of turbulent flux. This year won’t bring dramatic new spaces a la Presidio Tunnel Tops. Instead, look for these aspects of life in the here and now … however murky that might be.

King predicts that many parklets and other pandemic-era interventions will become permanent fixtures, while the experimental spirit of the last few years will likely inspire future pilot projects. King also believes San Francisco will continue to improve its public parks and bring green spaces to more of the city.

However, King also believes “fights over movement will only grow more intense” as people in cars are pitted against pedestrians and other road users by misguided campaigns such as the de Young Museum’s opposition to closing JFK Drive to cars.

The year also bodes poorly for the city’s famous privately owned public spaces (POPOS), a policy innovation that requires developers in the central district to create publicly accessible spaces in or around their buildings. With the pandemic giving owners the opportunity to shutter these spaces, it’s likely some of them won’t come back.

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