Yerba Buena Gardens: The Iconic Place the Conservancy Manages + Operates

Yerba Buena Gardens is a civic treasure in downtown San Francisco with more than five million visitors annually. It is the centerpiece of the City’s cultural, convention and visitor district and part of the rapidly growing Yerba Buena neighborhood. The Gardens is an urban oasis of cultural organizations, landscaped lawns, extensive public art, dining, cafes and award-winning architecture built above and around Moscone Convention. A five-acre landscaped esplanade hosts the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival of more than 100 free performances annually. It is home to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and fountain, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the Children’s Creativity Museum.   A Children’s Learning Garden, Tot Lot and large play circle are adjacent to an ice-skating rink, bowling center, child care center and historic carousel. It is a place rooted in inclusivity where all can to relax, celebrate and be inspired.


Yerba Buena Gardens Conservancy Overview

The Conservancy is a new civic nonprofit organization that operates and manages the Gardens. In July 2019, the City of San Francisco approved a long-term lease agreement with the Conservancy to carry out its mission.


  • Mission: Program, operate, maintain and improve the publicly-owned open spaces, cultural facilities, and related components of San Francisco's Yerba Buena Gardens, working in conjunction with the Garden’s nonprofit cultural organizations, commercial tenants and the City and County of San Francisco, for Civic and public benefit and enjoyment by the City’s visitors and residents.


  • Structure & Governance: A proven community-based management structure aligns with public benefit goals.

    • The governing body is a Board of Directors of a cross-section of Garden’s stakeholders, community members, civic leaders, and City appointees.

    • A small administrative staff led by Executive Director Scott Rowitz continues to contract for maintenance, operations, programming and security services to sustain cost efficiencies.

    • Oversight is by the City as landlord, auditor and technical advisor.


  • Funding: Self-financing entity, where surrounding developments and retail lease financially support the operation and maintenance of its public parks and cultural facilities. New revenue streams enabled by the formation of the nonprofit Conservancy allows for private donations, government subsidies, foundation grants and other sources to fill funding gaps and support beneficial improvements.


Brief Site History

  • In 1976, Mayor George Moscone embraced a civic vision to combine the construction of a new convention center for the City’s vital visitor industry with the creation of a “public gardens” for all San Francisco residents.

  • Four decades of determination by the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (SFRA), community advocates, committed builders, old and new arts institutions, and civic stakeholders resulted in Yerba Buena Gardens, which opened in 1993. Today, Yerba Buena Gardens is considered a model for improving urban areas.

  • From 1993-2012 SFRA oversaw management and operations. After SFRA was dissolved by the State in 2012, the state authorized local successor agency, the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure (OCII), assumed the SFRA role.

  • From 2012-2019, the community in collaboration with the City worked tirelessly to create a new model for the governance, management and operations of the gardens.

  • In 2019, the City approved the Conservancy’s 42 year lease: this change completed the shift in the overall management and ownership to a collaborative partnership between the Conservancy and the City of San Francisco: the next era in successful management of the Gardens.


The mission of the Yerba Buena Gardens Conservancy is to sustain the integrity and interconnectedness of Yerba Buena Gardens. The Yerba Buena Gardens Conservancy ensures that:

  • Yerba Buena Gardens operate and are maintained as a vibrant, accessible, public space in the urban heart of San Francisco, and

  • Yerba Buena Gardens continue to provide interconnected and sustainable cultural resources, open green space, and supporting commercial amenities for central city neighborhoods and the communities of the City of San Francisco.


5 Third Street, Suite 610

San Francisco, CA 94103