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Living Innovation Zones

Improving public space with creative projects and innovative technologies

The Living Innovation Zone (LIZ) program aims to enhance the public realm with innovation, simplify the permitting process for projects in public space and support innovators by providing real-world demonstration opportunities.

LIZ sets forth a model to make it easier and less expensive for innovators, artists and designers to engage with specially designated public spaces in the City. These types of urban infrastructure “hacks” have already created new types of public space, community participation, and socio-cultural development in San Francisco via the success with parklets.

LIZ seeks to build on these successes, providing innovators with a real-world setting to test new ideas, evaluate next generation technologies, collect data about impact on street activation and educate the public about innovative solutions. In doing so, LIZ aims to steer San Francisco’s tech and creative communities toward advancing sustainable community development, efficient government and a better quality of life for San Franciscans.

To learn more about Living Innovation Zones, visit

In the Press

San Francisco Is Rolling Out High-Tech Playgrounds for Adults

November 5, 2013

Travel to downtown San Francisco and you might notice what look like two satellite dishes with groups of people jabbering into them. The bowl-like objects, which face each other at Market Street and Yerba Buena Lane, are actually parabolic acoustic amplifiers – whisper into one, and somebody at the other one 50 feet away will hear it loud and clear.

On Scene with Bill Wilson: Living Innovation Zone

October 29, 2013

“The Exploratorium is thrilled to partner with the Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation to create the city’s first Living Innovation Zone,” said Exploratorium Executive Director Dr. Dennis Bartels. “The whole idea of the Exploratorium is to inspire curiosity and to facilitate informal learning, and we are able to bring that same sense of excitement to Market Street. It’s to the credit of the City and Mayor Lee that an ambitious project like this, which truly reflects the intellectual and creative capital of the city, can happen in San Francisco.”

SF rolls out ‘innovation zones’ with whispering dishes

October 29, 2013

The initial Living Innovation Zone — a first-in-the-nation initiative, according to Mayor Ed Lee — is a partnership between the Exploratorium and Yerba Buena Community Benefit District and will focus on Market Street from Octavia Boulevard to The Embarcadero. The Mayor’s Office said The City plans to streamline permitting in order to boost participation in the program and bring more projects to sidewalks.

Market Street teaching a whole new set of lessons

October 29, 2013

Mayor Ed Lee sees the effort as a source for inspiration while also making Market Street more inviting. (We should note, though, that this is several blocks away from the perennially sketchy Mid-Market area that is in the midst of its most concerted transformation effort yet after decades of efforts.) Similar sites are planned elsewhere in the city.

The LIZ: A Plan To Get More Art Into Urban Public Spaces

October 8, 2013

On October 29th, the Exploratorium, a San Francisco science museum known for its creative exhibits, will debut a new project out on the street. The exhibit, which will contain two “whispering dishes” where passersby can sit down and whisper to each other across a fairly large space, won’t actually be near the Exploratorium at all. It’ll be on Market Street, a busy thoroughfare in the heart of the city.

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October 29, 2013

City Partners

Planning Department, Department of Public Works

External Partners

Exploratorium, Yerba Buena Community Benefit District, Gehl Architects