Public Space and Public Life Studies

two men playing chess on sidewalk

Overview

Public Life Surveys are critical to our understanding how public spaces function. Through careful and systematic observation we are able to understand if public spaces serve the needs of people. These needs include dimensions of comfort, safety, and ease of mobility for pedestrians. Surveys include counting of pedestrians and cyclists; and inventory of stationary activities and behaviors.

The findings of surveys can inform strategies to change the public realm, as well as help us understand the impacts of changes. Have our changes to the City increased or decreased the number of people walking, and, the ‘walkability’ of the City? Gathering data on pedestrians at regular intervals provides important tests for how a city performs for the people who use it, giving everyone a good idea of where to focus future efforts. For cities that have never counted people, the first pedestrian counts are the most important, because these counts establish a baseline for future comparisons.

By conducting a survey of stationary pedestrians in public areas, we learn when, where, and why people are using public spaces. Understanding this basic information can lead to ideas about how the space can function better to support a lively atmosphere, as well as how to improve the quality of the space.

On this page, you can access reports produced or commissioned by the San Francisco Planning Department. If you have any questions related to methodology, reports, raw data, or anything else, please use the contact below.

Reference Materials

Public Life Survey Manual
Public Space / Public Life: Standards Manual
Robin Abad Ocubillo, SF Planning, January 2017
Citywide Assessment of Parklets & Plazas
Public Life Geodatabase: A Guidebook
Rachelle Sarmiento, SF Planning, August 2016
Citywide Assessment of Parklets & Plazas
Mobile Data Collection: A Primer
PData Collection Methodology
Gene Stroman, SF Planning, May 2015

Map of Studies

Studies

Citywide Assessment of Parklets & Plazas
Market Street Prototyping Festival: 2016 Wrap-Up Report
Pre- and Post-Occupancy
SF Planning, June 2016
Citywide Assessment of Parklets & Plazas
San Francisco Plazas Public Life Study
Post-Occupancy
Stella Kim, SF Planning, June 2016
Citywide Assessment of Parklets & Plazas
Makers on Market: Lessons from the Market Street Prototyping Festival
Pre- and Post-Occupancy
Gehl Studio San Francisco for SF Planning, December 2015
Citywide Assessment of Parklets & Plazas
Citywide Assessment of Parklets & Plazas
Pre- and Post-Occupancy Studies
Justin Panganiban and Robin Abad Ocubillo, SF Planning, August 2014
Living Innovation Zone
Living Innovation Zone
Pilot Evaluation Study
Post-Occupancy
MKThink for SF Planning, December 2013
Mission Street Public Life Study
Mission Street Public Life Study (part of the Mission St. Public Realm Plan)
Pre-Occupancy Study
Robin Abad Ocubillo, SF Planning 2013-2014
Castro Street Public Life Study
Castro Street Public Life Study (part of the Castro Street Design project)
Pre-Occupancy Study
Nicholas Perry, SF Planning, May 2013
Polk Street Public Life Survey
Polk Street (part of the Polk Streetscape Project)
Pre-Occupancy Study
Robin Abad Ocubillo, SF Planning, March 2013
Columbus Avenue, North Beach: A Public Space and Public Life Study
Columbus Avenue, North Beach: A Public Space and Public Life Study
Pre-Occupancy Study
Alexandra Sweet, SF Planning, September 2010
Walking, Bicycling and Public Space on Market Street
Walking, Bicycling & Public Space On Market Street
Pre-Occupancy Study
Adam Popper, SF Planning, March 2010
Public Space & Public Life in Fisherman's Wharf
Public Space & Public Life in Fisherman's Wharf
Pre-Occupancy Study
Gehl Architects for SF Planning, April 2009
Pedestrian Study of 9th and Irving and Upper Market/Castro
A Walk in San Francisco: A Pedestrian Study of 9th and Irving and Upper Market/Castro
Pre-Occupancy Study
Melinda Alice Stockman, SF Planning, August 2008
A Pedeswtrian Study of Valencia and Leland Streets
A Walk in San Francisco: A Pedestrian Study of Valencia St. and Leland Ave.
Pre-Occupancy Study
Chee F. Chan, SF Planning, August 2007

Contact

SF Planning Department
Robin Abad Ocubillo, Program Coordinator
City Design Group
(415) 575-9123
robin.abad@sfgov.org