October 5, 2017 Corey Smith

Build Public: Building Our Open Space

At a recent Regulatory Committee meeting, we heard from Brooke Ray Rivera, Executive Director of Build Public.  In her own words, “Build Public is a San Francisco nonprofit that empowers communities to create and sustain great public spaces. They leverage creative public-private partnerships to create win-win public realm improvements that benefit the city, community and our developer partners.” We wanted to hear from the experts about the ideal open space, and how it can enhance any neighborhood.

Build Public’s foundational vision is based on a simple concept: Our cities and neighborhoods deserve great public spaces. But how exactly is that achieved? Rivera explained that the collaborative public place-making process requires a few things for great ideas to become useful public spaces:

  • It needs to be collectively cared for and valued, they need to involve the community.
  • It needs a certain level of innovation and imagination to understand what can be done.
  • It needs the City, developers, stewards, the neighborhood and property owners.

The innovation, both in the planning and long term maintenance, is where the dream becomes  reality. Taking a space, working with a team to create a vision, finding a funding platform, then turning it into a long term success is not simple. Over the last few years (and looking ahead) the spaces Build Public have worked on have improved neighborhoods all over the City.

Two of Build Public’s early successes are in the Dogpatch: Dogpatch Arts Plaza and the first-ever Green Benefit District (GBD) in the country . The process for establishing a GBD takes time, but it’s a great example about the long term benefit open spaces and bring the community. Months of analysis and planning, a vote by neighbors on whether to introduce a new assessment to pay for neighborhood greening and improvements, will result in a neighborhood driven community benefit. So how can these be created all over San Francisco? Build Public’s Rivera says, “Collaboration is key – the future of public place-making must involve both the public and private sectors coming together around our collective shared goals of making cities better places for residents, workers and visitors alike“.

See Rivera’s Full Presentation Here

Corey Smith

Corey Smith is HAC's Executive Director and can be reached at corey@housingactioncoalition.org.

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