16th Avenue Tiled Steps| San Francisco Steps #4
I remember the eighties, those weird salad eating days of decades past; Reagan was President, Kurt was still alive and giving voice to the teen angst of an era, and I was sporting my Motley Crue rocker tee; the one with Nikki Sixx dangling off the C, while his cartoon counterparts (Tommy Lee, Mick Mars and Vince Neil), clad in tattoos and ink, observe the potential crisis in their anesthetized bliss. Oh those were the days and those days were over two decades ago. Now as I make that slide towards the mid-century mark, it makes no difference how much salad I eat or how many ‘downward dogs‘ I bite; my butt and breasts continue their descent, racing towards my knees. I need to exercise, but let’s face it, I don’t like to exercise. Oh sure, I have purchased many a health club membership, wandered around with the FREE personal trainer, donuts in hand, nodding towards the body bending machines, knowing full well, ‘yeah right, that ain’t gonna happen‘. Instead, I took up the quest to visit staircases in San Francisco. Exercise, fresh air, no health club membership required, no wondering what the steroid ingested jock-meister staring down at me is thinking and I get to discover my city. A winning proposition all around. However, I soon came to realize the fundamental flaw to my plan; staircases, by definition, are in the direction of Up; sometimes very, very Up. And San Francisco has a lot of Up.
16th Avenue Tiled Steps Project of San Francisco–163 mosaic steps of very UP.
The story behind the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps Project of San Francisco–, is at its heart, a story about a community celebrating itself; the births and the deaths, the marriages and the graduations, the young and the old and all manner in between. Histories and memories, tears and joys are captured in the mosaic fish and flowers on these steps, with names and dates, permanently ingrained in the colorful textures. The project officially began in 2003; but the idea had been planted long before. Jessie Audette, a resident of Golden Gate Heights, spent five years in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. While there, she and her husband enjoyed walking up the beautifully patterned Santa Teresa steps, which were decorated by Chilean artist Jorge Selaron . The steps, a gift to Rio, were so beautiful and impacted the couple so much, they brought the idea home as a gift to not only their neighborhood, but also the city of San Francisco.
In 2003, the grassroots effort began in earnest, and included support from The Golden Gate Heights Neighborhood Association, neighbors, volunteers from all backgrounds and skill sets, members of government, artists, fiscal sponsors, fundraising drives, grants, endowments, donated materials, mosaic workshops and more. Eventually all the supplies were collected, the idea was firmly committed to paper, permits were attained, the Mayor signed off and construction on the steps began. Although the steps themselves were officially completed in 2005, the community continues to receive donations of plants, bricks and landscaping to beautify and maintain their hill. Today people gather for cleanups, maintenance and community connection (with refreshments!).
The steps themselves are located at the corner of 16th Avenue and Moraga, in the heart of Golden Gate Heights, and what a heart it is. Beautiful homes overlooking the city, freshly paved roads lacing through the hills. Having ridden my bike from the Richmond District, across Golden Gate Park and through the inner Sunset; I eventually gave up and pushed my bike up the hills between 19th to Irving to Judah to Kirkham. Soon, I gave that up to, and chained my bike at 15th & Kirkham, and walked to 16th & Moraga. I mention all of this, as a suggestion to take the #28 bus, the N line or simply drive, there’s tons of parking and the bus lets you off at the steps.
The steps are amazing; all 163 of them. You will want to stroll and gander; read and contemplate the stories and creation of this staircase. At the top; don’t turn around yet. There is more, and that more is well worth it. But a couple of precautions. The ‘more‘ is not only cold, but very windy. And here is where I want to help prepare those many peeps visiting our fair city by the Bay; this is NOT Southern California, awash in tan-lines and bleach blondes. This is San Francisco, a city with a chill vibe, in more ways than one. Always carry a jacket and a hat; no matter the day of the week, the time of the year–or for that matter, the time of the day. In San Francisco, saying you don’t look good in a hat, is like you saying you don’t look good in shoes. My only complaint is, so many hats, yet I have only one head. Staying true to my mantra of always supporting indie artisans, I go to Berkeley and buy my hats from the fantabulous Grace Love. I have in fact, bought several of varying colors. They are all handmade with natural fibers and extra love added. I have an affinity for Grace, as we are both birds of a feather. She is a single parent, who pays $248.00 per year, to set up and sell her handmade wares on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. Check out her cool designs here: http://www.crochetnlove.com/ With hat and jacket, you are now ready to tackle the next set of steps, which will deliver you to Grand View Park. A most fitting name for a most grand view.
This final set of 143 wooden steps, gently slope and meander to the top of the hill. There are benches along the way, with plaques and notes. The wind is substantially more fierce here and you will need your hat, but once you are there, the view is spectacular. There is a bench at the top, where you can sit and watch the fog gently roll in and envelop the city. Or on a clear day, the sun glints off rooftops in the distance. Either way, the view is breath taking. And much like the hat, which has become a sort of art for me, so does this city seem to be.
To learn a little more about this project and/or volunteer, visit: http://www.tiledsteps.org
or email: Alice Yee Xavier@ firstname.lastname@example.org