San Francisco 1905 (Burnham plan)

The Plan


  • Make San Francisco more livable
  • Beautify the city through parks, open places, and municipal art
  • Create better ways of traveling through the city
  • Provide set areas for specific activities, such as government areas and public spaces

Key Features

  • The San Francisco Plan employs a traditional model of rational planning
  • Burnham identifies problems as he sees them and provides recommendations as design treatments
  • Emphasizes that all aspects of the plan cannot be implemented immediately – it is an incremental plan
  • Acknowledges budgeting public funds
  • Appreciates that the plan will fall short of perfection
  • Recognizes that a plan must be flexible to accommodate the growth of the city.

Core Themes


  • Parks: weaving parks together with residential and public areas
  • Ocean views and vistas in parks and roads

Communication with the city

  • Promoting city accessibility through circular and diagonal roads
  • Creating a boulevard around the city and close to the ocean, connected by the diagonal roads to the inner city with the government space, museums, and public spaces
  • Open spaces examples include City Hall Square and “Field house”: park areas with gymnasiums, libraries, baths, and club rooms

Geography and livability


  • Creating contour/circular roads and terracing for hilly neighborhoods
  • Ending roads at parks
  • Putting hospitals near parks and elderly homes further away from the central city but accessible to parks as well
  • Widen streets and create arteries – examples include the Panhandle, Mission Street

And what about the people?

From Burnham’s perspective, the plan makes San Francisco a better place to live through beautification and access to open spaces in the city. The public is not explicitly defined in the plan however is inferred with Burnham’s inclusion of private landowners and the city of San Francisco as key players in the plan’s implementation. He includes quasi-public enterprises as a key method in the improvement of the city. The public interest will be served when civic pride is soaring. Burnham looks to the creation of spaces, the organization of streets and the increase of park-to-person ratio as markers of success.

The Plan of San Francisco, Daniel Burnham 1905