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Public Space Stewardship Guide

This is a good example of:

an online guide to planning, funding and maintaining small public spaces for events, parks and more.


This innovative guide provides a toolkit with the elements needed to identify, plan, fund, and provide maintenance for activating small scale public spaces. The benefits of such a guide are:

Evolving public spaces & programming: The guide recognizes the evolving nature of parks from facilities run from a central Parks & Recreation Department to new models of partnerships with communities.

Shared responsibilities: A distributed model of public space management expands access to activities while optimizing public resources in city/town governments. This approach also gives citizens and businesses a sense of ownership in their community.

A living, updatable guide: Rather than a static pdf, the website is designed for continuous updates. The website invites other cities to contribute public space success stories.

Tips & Techniques

Background: As its population grew, San Francisco sought more value in public spaces including plazas and small parks. Parklets gained popularity as the one day event, Parking Day, expanded to include permanent installations.  Recently, the city launched Innovation Zones and Urban Prototyping for experimental uses of public spaces.

Using the guide: The Guide presents five models for sustainable public space stewardship; (1) Event-based models, (2) Grassroots partnerships, (3) Public/Private partnerships or P3’s, (4) Self-Governing special assessment districts, and (5) Maintenance/Technical assistance partnerships. Each section includes (1) a general model, (2) an illustrative case study, and (3) additional examples. The Appendices include templates, checklists and guides for maintenance budgets & programming.

Event-based models: This model centers around temporary programming and activation for one-time or a series of events. This model is good for testing, activation or where a permanent installation is infeasible. Events require clear delineation of roles and are logistics-heavy. Examples include street festivals and film nights. Philadelphia hosted a series of beer gardens.

Grassroots Community Partnerships: Community, business and stakeholders convene for the purpose of creating/maintaining parks, gardens and public space programming. This model requires well-organized groups of volunteers and stable funding/fundraising.

Public Private Partnerships: P3’s are compose of a government entity and one or more private sector or non-profit entities. These are the most formal arrangements for community stewardship, with trade-offs between control and creativity.

Special Assessment Districts:  These are defined areas where property owners agree to pay assessments for additional services as a benefit, for example Special Benefit districts of Business Improvement Districts.

Maintenance/Technical Assistance Partnerships: These partnerships delegate some/all of the maintenance and operations to a community group.’

Hot Buttons: Community members often view parks as a service they’ve already paid for in taxes.  Less organized communities may not have the critical mass of support needed to take advantage of programming.


Public Space Stewardship Guide

Funding for this project was provided by the Friends of City Planning.


URL link to Main Resource:

Project Location :

San Francisco, CA

Development Context:





City of San Francisco, Open Street Plans, Friends of City Planning.

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