On Scene with Bill Wilson: Living Innovation Zone

Supervisor Jane Kim joins Mayor Lee and Exploration Director Dennis Bartels and others at the Ribbon cutting for the first Living Innovation Zone.

. Mayor Edwin M. Lee today, as part of Innovation Month, officially opened the nation’s first Living Innovation Zone (LIZ) – an enterprise that links partners with the City to sponsor the installation of innovative exhibit spaces that make science and technology more accessible in public for the public. The first Zone, a partnership with the Exploratorium and the Yerba Buena Community Benefit District (YBCBD), is being launched on Market Street and Yerba Buena Lane


 Invitation at 4th and Market


“This unique initiative brings innovation that is sometimes behind closed doors and brings it out into the light of day where we can all learn and be inspired by it,” said Mayor Lee. “I’m excited to see our sidewalks come alive with new ideas, and I believe it is initiatives like these that underscore our commitment to innovation and helps secure our reputation as the Innovation Capital of the World.”

Living Innovation Zones (LIZ) will enhance the public realm by supporting innovators with real-world demonstration opportunities in specially designated public spaces in the City.




“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.”


 Mayor Lee tries out one of the Singing Benches


The LIZ is part of the broader efforts to activate, revitalize and reconstruct Market Street from Octavia to the Embarcadero. The LIZ allows the City to incrementally make Market Street more inviting, more inclusive and more livable as longer-term projects are being developed. The City is making an effort to simplify the permitting process to give creative people and entrepreneurs a venue to test new ideas and at the same time bring fun and activity to the sidewalks. The LIZ is one of the many types of activities planned along Market Street. As an early prototype of the LIZ program, the lessons-learned will inform a policy to open proposals for other organizations to partner on future LIZ sites that will expand down Market Street to Octavia Blvd.




Funded in part by contributions from individuals through an Indiegogo campaign (www.exploratorium.edu/livinginnovationzone), which ends November 13th, the LIZ will be continuously prototyped with new ideas, and will be adapted to public input. For more information about the Exploratorium’s approach, go to: exploliz.tumblr.com.


The first LIZ features an exhibit called “Whispering Dishes,” which consists of two 8-foot tall parabolic dishes facing each other across a 50-foot part of the sidewalk. The dishes focus sound so that people can easily hear each other whispering, even while surrounded by street noise. For the day of the kick-off, the Exploratorium also showcased their “Singing Bench,” “Rickshaw Obscura,” and a solar-powered charging station for electric bicycles and mobile electronics. The LIZ will be continuously prototyped with new ideas, adapting to input.


Mohammed Nuru, Executive Director Department of Public Works tries out the “Whispering Dishes” on Market Street.


With the City’s continued effort to be more open and responsive, the LIZ program is built on the success of Open Data and Parklets, extending the scope to enhance the public realm through partnerships. In doing so, LIZ aims to drive a better quality of life for all San Franciscans through innovation. For more information about the Living Innovation Zones, go to: www.sfliz.com.


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