UTOPS Brochure / by Celeste Christie

For our project UTOPS (Utopian Transformation of Public Spaces), we created a tri-fold brochure that we handed out to participants. Following is the text from that brochure.

UTOPS: Utopian Transformation of Public Spaces

redevelop your dreams for tomorrow, today!


UTOPS is in the process of preparing a comprehensive plan for the utopian redevelopment of the San Francisco Financial District. Like any city planning process, this requires a process of vetting with the community. Except in our case, the community is involved from step one.

Starting in the spring of 2016, UTOPS is initiating a grassroots community-based, collaborative discussion and study of the utopian possibilities for the future of the Financial District.

UTOPS wants to know how residents of the Bay Area would choose to organize and utilize city spaces in the absence of powerful developers and politically appointed city development agencies.

Through this public comment phase of the redevel- opment of the Financial District, UTOPS is not simply seeking approval from the community on pre-made designs for the future*. The objective of this discussion is to revitalize abandoned and derelict urban utopian visions; to uncover and reclaim discarded potential for democratic and egalitarian urban life.

*We understand that any redevelopment project can cause tensions with populations currently residing in that area of the city. UTOPS is sensitive to these concerns and strives to honor the memories of the finance, insurance, real estate, and tech industry communities who have migrated through this part of the city in the past.


1. Transamerica Pyramid
Former home of the Transamerica Corporation, the building, which was once the tallest in San Francisco, is now home to several financial and venture capital firms, including Merrill Lynch.

2. 555 California St.
The tallest building on the West Coast until the comple- tion of the Transamerica Pyramid, this building once
housed Bank of Americaʼs headquarters. Donald Trump owns a 30% interest in the building.

3. 345 California Center
This building is often called the “Stun Gun Towers” for its distinctive double-spire shape. It houses the Loews Regency Hotel and office space.

4. 101 California St.
The site of the 1993 mass murder dubbed the “101 California Street Shootings,” this building is home to
Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, and several financial and real estate development firms.

5. Federal Reserve Bank of SF
Once at 400 Sansome St., the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco is the federal bank for the West Coast, including Hawaii and Alaska. The building is home to one of the largest collections of U.S. paper money.

There is nearly 30,000,000 square feet of office space in the Financial District. This is about the equivalent of 30 Alcatraz Islands. Generally this space is only used for about a third of each day. How would you use this space if it were up to you?

6. Justin Herman Plaza
Named for M. Justin Herman, executive director of the SF Redevelopment Agency from 1959-1971. Under his direction, thousands of residents, many of them poor and non-white, were forced to leave their homes and businesses.

7. (former home of) Pacific Stock Exchange
Closed in 2001 due to encroachment by online trading,
the Pacific Stock Exchange was an equities and options trading market. The Moderne-style building now houses an Equinox Fitness location.

8. McKesson Corporation Headquarters
One of 6 Fortune 500 companies located in downtown San Francisco, McKesson distributes pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, and health care technology.

9. Wells Fargo Headquarters
Wells Fargo is the third largest bank in the US. It is one of 6 Fortune 500 companies in SF. In 2008, the bank received $25 billion in bailouts from the Federal government. Wells Fargo has been investigated for targeting African-Americans for subprime loans, and for gouging customers on overdraft fees.

10. PG&E Headquarters
Pacific Gas and Electric, one of the 6 Fortune 500 Companies headquartered in San Francisco, provides natural gas and electricity to most of Northern Califor- nia. After declaring bankruptcy in 2001, the state of California bailed out PG&E for $40-45 billion. PG&E regained solvency by charging its customers above-market rates. The company contaminated groundwater in Hinkley, California with carcinogenic Chromium-6, resulting in a $333 million settlement.

11. Salesforce Headquarters
Salesforce currently resides on Market Street while it awaits the completion of Salesforce Tower in SoMa, which will be the tallest building in San Francisco. One of 6 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in SF, it is the only tech firm on the list. 

The land of the Financial District is 0.46 square miles or almost 13 million square feet. If people in the Bay Area decided to raze the Financial District, how could that land be used instead?


From the Gold Rush to the Tech Boom, the creation and development of the Financial District has radically changed not just the economy of the San Francisco, but the Bay Area as a whole.

While the Financial District had been home to the cityʼs finance and industry since the nineteenth century, in the post-war period, the Financial District grew to dominate the skyline of the city. During this time, the city built freeways and the BART system to direct business and a workforce towards the Financial District. Federal powers in the post-war decades gave cities incentives to revitalize urban centers and the powers to demolish and reorganize neighborhoods and displace residents.

Renewal plans and a property boom reshaped down- town San Francisco in the 1960s. High-rise towers went up as San Francisco started to transform from a working-class city centered on shipping and the docks to a financial center surrounded by expanding suburbs.

The development of new high-rises and the influx of financial companies radically altered some neighbor- hoods, while the remaining working class communities faced neglect and aging homes and infrastructure. Tech-booms in the late 20th and early 21st centuries fed new housing and development, as ailing neighbor- hoods became tantalizing business opportunities for residential real estate developers.

Today the Financial District is a symbol of the contradictions of modern cities. It is headquarters to some of the wealthiest companies in the world and also the site of increasing anger at social and economic inequality in the “Wall Street of the West,” fueling protests such as the Occupy Movement. 



Utopian Transformation of Public Spaces (UTOPS) is a people's redevelopment agency and project of Art for a Democratic Society (A4DS).

UTOPS endeavors to support and contribute to the revitalization of the notion of utopian imagina- tion and possibility regarding the organization and nature of urban life. We specialize in collab- orative and interactive projects aimed at promot- ing public discussion and investigation of the current use and development of urban space.

UTOPS invites you to join us in surveying the landscape of the way public space, and urban space in general, is conceived and utilized in contemporary society. After examining the dimensions and features of existing terrain we can begin to discuss possible plans and blueprints: to dream about public space, what it could be used for, and how we could interact with it.



Art for a Democratic Society (A4DS) is an art and politics collective that combines aspects of traditional grass- roots political organizing with participatory perfor- mance art and social prac- tice techniques.