Hidden Garden Steps: A Mosaic Tile Staircase In San Francisco

Hidden Garden Steps, a Mosaic Tiled Staircase in San Francisco

Lots of people talk about the famous Moraga Steps, also called the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps. What used to be a secret San Francisco Staircase isn’t such a secret anymore and there always seem to be crowds at the beautiful mosaic tile steps. Even our own family has visited the steps on numerous occasions, which was why I was sort of shocked to learn that nearby, on the same street — 16th Avenue — is a second mosaic tile staircase!

How on Earth did we visit the Moraga Steps several times and have no idea there is another equally gorgeous tiled staircase to climb?!

The Hidden Garden Steps is a 148 step ceramic tile staircase flanked by manicured public gardens in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset District. Each of the nine flights of steps features a mosaic design with flowers, plants, dragonflies, salamanders, butterflies, snails, leaves, and bees in a garden.

The Hidden Garden Steps, stretching from Kirkham Street to Lawton Street on 16th Avenue, were designed by the same artists who were responsible for the tiled Moraga Steps: Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher. Installation of the tiled steps happened in late 2013 and the opening ceremony was in December 2013. Since then, two plaques and a painted bench have been added at the base of the stairs.

Barr and Crutcher’s mosaic design consists of large-scale elements that encompass multiple stair steps. The project’s largest element — a salamander — extends up 26 steps and exploits the curved structure of the staircase. Many tiles include messages and text chosen by project donors.

Hidden Garden Steps Background

The idea for the Hidden Garden Steps came from the neighborhood’s desire to stop the graffiti, tagging, and littering on the 16th Avenue staircase. Inspired by the Moraga Steps, the community wanted to reestablish the stairs as a safe place to use and enjoy by turning it into a public art space.

The Hidden Garden Steps project has achieved success:

  • The graffiti, tagging, and littering have been almost eliminated.
  • The community has come together in new ways, by enjoying climbing the steps, reading the texts, and volunteering on clean-up days.
  • The dense shrubbery and overhanging trees were trimmed back, opening up the space to more light and creating a greater sense of safety. As a result, the use of the stairs has increased substantially.

The Hidden Garden Steps is our favorite San Francisco staircase!

When we visited the Hidden Garden Steps, a very nice older gentleman who lives in the neighborhood was sweeping the steps. We stopped to chat with him a bit and learned more about the community project and the other tiled staircases. In our neighborhood, we have neighbors who don’t seem to care that their lawns are dead and brown, so it was really inspiring to see someone taking care of not only their own property but the community steps to keep them looking beautiful.

Know Before You Go

  • The Hidden Garden Steps are located at 1520 16th Avenue, San Francisco, California 94122 in the Golden Gate Heights neighborhood of San Francisco’s Inner Sunset District.
  • The mosaic tiled staircase runs on 16th Avenue from Kirkham Street to Lawton Street. Use the address 1201 Kirkham Street to find the base of the tiled steps.
  • The Hidden Garden Steps is made up of nine flights of stairs and 148 total steps.
  • The staircase is a project of the San Francisco Parks Alliance and the Department of Public Works’ “Street Parks” initiative.
  • Signs are posted warning visitors of car break-ins. Do not leave anythig of value in your vehicle visible or not.
  • Installation of the Hidden Garden Steps happened in late 2013 and the opening ceremony was in December 2013. Two plaques and a bench have since been added at the base of the stairs.
  • The neighborhood pays for and maintains the plants and garden surrounding the staircase. Leave them for everyone to enjoy and keep your dogs on a leash and out of the plants.
  • The steps are in a quiet residential neighborhood, so be respectful. Don’t block any driveways, don’t stand in the middle of the street and block traffic, don’t be too loud and bother the neighbors, and don’t leave any trash.

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