Hidden Garden Steps Wins Neighborhood Empowerment Network Award

The Hidden Garden Steps is among 14 projects in San Francisco to be honored with a NEN (Neighborhood Empowerment Network) Award in City Hall on Wednesday, January 27, 2016 starting at 6 pm. Reservations to attend this free event can be made at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/nen-awards-tickets-18894018518, and we’re hoping to see as many members of our community of support there as possible.

NEN_Logo“It’s been an amazing nomination process over the last few months and so many deserving people and organizations were submitted for consideration,” NEN representatives noted in their announcement this week.

“NEN awards is a partnership between the Neighborhood Empowerment Network and the Community Challenge Grant Program of the City and County of San Francisco to produce an annual celebration in honor of the individuals and organizations that take an active role in improving our neighborhoods,” the formal Awards Ceremony site shows.

“For many years, individuals and organizations have invested valuable time and energy to help improve the communities & neighborhoods of the City and County of San Francisco. The Neighborhood Empowerment Network and the Community Challenge Grant want to turn the spotlight onto these committed stakeholders by dedicating an evening celebration for their work. The NEN wards will be an evening reception that will elevate and celebrate the people who have made our neighborhoods better places to live. The awards will be given out by various City agencies. The evening will also include a presentation on the work of the recipients of last year’s Community Challenge Grants and an announcement of the recipients of this year’s grants.”

NEN_Logo[2]Award categories and winners include:

Best Community Green Project: The Euclid Gardens Expansion Project

Best Neighborhood Watch Group: 500-700 Block of San Bruno Neighborhood Watch Group

NERT Leadership Award: Sylvia Borgonovo

Most Empowering City Employee of the Year Award: Captain Joseph McFadden

Youth Neighborhood Leader Award: Joshua Cardenas

Best Graffiti Watch Volunteer Award: Kappa Sigma Fraternity Pi-Upsilon Chapter

Comeback Neighborhood of the Year: Cayuga Terrace

Best Merchant Association/CBD: Outer Mission Merchants and Residents Association

HGS--Steps_After_Cleanup--2015-12-12

Section of Hidden Garden Steps After Recent Clean-up

Best Community Challenge Grant Project: Hidden Garden Steps

Outstanding Park Volunteer Group: Friends of North Beach/Joe DiMaggio Playground

NEN Lifetime Achievement Award: Joelle Kenealy

NEN Hall of Fame: Rosario Anaya

Best Community Building Event: Art Night SF

Invest in Neighborhood Project Grant: Bayview Opera House’s Winter Wonderland

For more information about the Hidden Garden Steps (located on 16th Avenue, between Kirkham and Lawton streets in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset District), please visit our blog and website.

On Our Second Anniversary: Gratitude

The Hidden Garden Steps mosaic and gardens are (already!)  two years old—as of today—and the site continues to be as attractive and appealing as all of us hoped it would be, thanks largely to the ongoing contributions of volunteers and visitors from all over the world.

HGS--Gratitude_Tile[2]--2015-12-07

Detail from “gratitude” passion flower on the Steps

It’s a place where we celebrate community in a welcoming, tranquil, and well-respected setting—a place where neighbors and other members of our world-wide Steps community  meet, talk, exercise, and simply enjoy the benefits of the collaborations that continue to grow here in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset District.

If you haven’t been onsite (on 16th Avenue, between Kirkham and Lawton streets) recently to see the 148-step ceramic-tiled mosaic designed and fabricated by project artists Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher, you’re in for a treat: recent tree-trimming completed by volunteers has made more of the mosaic visible from 16th Avenue between Judah and Kirkham streets, and the gardens (particularly at the bottom and top of the Steps) are beginning to flourish again thanks to recent rainfall after the long, dry summer and autumn months.

Our partners in the San Francisco Department of Public Works are also continuing to work on a long-term solution to a drainage problem at the foot of the Steps. Neighbors continue to donate succulents and drought-tolerant native California plants to expand the gardens. And our next monthly clean-up and planting is scheduled for Saturday, December 12, 2015 from 1 – 3 pm if rain doesn’t force cancellation of the event. As always, new and returning volunteers are welcome to join us; for more information, please contact Paul Signorelli (paul@paulsignorelli.com).

N.B.: For additional reflections in the second anniversary of the completion of the Hidden Garden Steps mosaic, please visit the Building Creative Bridges blog.

Hidden Garden Steps: Onsite and Online

Continuing our efforts to keep the Hidden Garden Steps accessible to onsite (16th Avenue, between Kirkham and Lawton streets in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset District) as well as online visitors, we now have a short video providing a virtual walk up the Steps.

Those interested in a more high-resolution view of the Steps online can continue to access the website virtual-photographic tour prepared by Steps webmaster Liz McLoughlin and photographer Gilbert Johnson, who were among the organizing committee members who helped bring the project to fruition between January 2010 and December 2013 under the auspices of the San Francisco Parks Alliance and the San Francisco Department of Public Works. Gilbert’s wonderful high-quality photographs and Liz’s links to those photos will continue to be added to the Hidden Garden Steps website as the two of them move toward completing that online project.

Liz is also continuing to collect, edit, and post the backstories from the more than 600 donors whose names appear in the tiles that project artists Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher wove into the entire mosaic.

For more information about ongoing Hidden Garden Steps activities (including monthly clean-ups), please contact site stewards Paul Signorelli and Licia Wells at hiddengardensteps@gmail.com.

Hidden Garden Steps as Community Partner  

The recent 10th anniversary celebration of the San Francisco Department of Public Works (DPW) and San Francisco Parks Alliance (SFPA) Street Parks Program reminds us that the Hidden Garden Steps community is continuing to become seamlessly interwoven with other communities of volunteers.

A brief video prepared for the Alliance by students from San Francisco State University places the Steps project within the larger context of volunteers collaborating with others to incrementally improve the neighborhoods in which we live. Onsite conversations at the celebration, which was held in San Francisco’s Progress Park (another highly successful Street Parks project), gave Steps and other Street Parks Program stewards a chance to see how they can work more closely together to support even more street parks in San Francisco. And stewards currently engaged in trying to complete projects including the Athens Avalon Greenspace clearly realized from Steps and other colleagues that they are not alone in the ever-growing family of volunteers nurtured and supported through DPW and the SF Parks Alliance.

Volunteers engaged in their weekly sweep of the Steps

Volunteers engaged in their weekly sweep of the Steps site

The interactions between Hidden Garden Steps volunteers and others around San Francisco consistently provide rewards far beyond the effort required to initiate and maintain those interactions. Through the donations of plants we receive from other volunteer-maintained gardens for the Hidden Garden Steps gardens, we are literally planting reminders that those succulents and native California plants connect us to a network of public and private gardens lovingly tended by Street Parks Program colleagues like John Priola and Paul Matalucci. Through the conversations that take place on an almost daily basis between Steps neighbors and visitors from many different parts of the world, friendships clearly blossom. And through the efforts of the ever-growing group of people who take the times to sweep the Steps, remove the small amounts of trash that sometimes end up on the Steps, and tend the gardens, people who might otherwise feel as if the Steps belong to someone else are drawn into conversations that lead to their own participation in preserving and adding to the beauty of the site on 16th, between Kirkham and Lawton streets, in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset District.

What clearly is at the heart of successful Street Parks Program projects are the people and connections they inspire. Volunteers like Liz McLoughlin are working to document the individual stories behind the more than 600 tiles supported by donors to the Hidden Garden Steps project. Other volunteers capture and share photographs via Facebook and Twitter to document some of the interactions that add to the sense of community that continues to grow on the Steps. And neighbors who might otherwise never meet are increasingly stopping to chat with each other onsite.

If you haven’t yet joined the Steps community, please don’t hesitate to come onsite to see what you’ve been missing.

N.B.: Numerous articles documenting the Hidden Garden Steps project remain available on the Building Creative Bridges blog. Steps updates can be found on this Friends of the Hidden Garden Steps blog. Stories provided by donors to the Hidden Garden Steps project are currently being added to the project website by Steps volunteer Liz McLoughlin, and a step-by-step virtual tour created by McLoughlin and by project volunteer Gilbert Johnson is also under development.

Hidden Garden Steps: Helping Our Gardens Grow

While the drought continues to take its toll, the gardens on either side of Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher’s 148-step ceramic-tile mosaic on the Hidden Garden Steps are thriving thanks to the love and attention they are receiving from Steps volunteers and donors.

Steps volunteer Barbara Meli planting succulents

Steps volunteer Barbara Meli planting succulents

Volunteers continue to meet for planting and maintenance on the second Saturday of each month from 1 – 3 pm onsite (16th Avenue, between Kirkham and Lawton streets in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset District)—the next gathering, open to new and returning volunteers, will take place on September 13, 2014. And when we convene this month, we’ll have plenty to celebrate, and plenty to do.

A large donation of succulents, arranged by project volunteer Barbara Meli, helped plug several gaps in the gardens earlier this week, and more plants from the same neighborhood donor are on the way.

Bill DiFrancisco amid plants on Harry Street Stairs

Bill DiFrancisco amid plants on Harry Street Stairs

Equally exciting is the continuing expansion of our Steps garden donor base through collaborations with volunteers in other parts of San Francisco. Former garden-shop owner Bill DiFrancisco, for example, has provided more than a dozen succulents taken from a site he helps maintain along the Harry Street Stairs, located between Laidley and Beacon in San Francisco’s Glen Park neighborhood. This donation came about when a couple of us involved with the Hidden Garden Steps met Bill on the Harry Steps recently and ended up comparing notes about plantings in these urban public settings. His need to thin some of his plants was a perfect match for the need for additional drought-tolerant plants on the Hidden Garden Steps site, so several bags of succulents made their way across town this morning for planting on Saturday.

To join the Friends of the Hidden Garden Steps’ gardening efforts or for more information about the Hidden Garden Steps and the Friends of the Hidden Garden Steps, please visit the project website at http://hiddengardensteps.org and the Friends blog at https://hiddengardensteps.wordpress.com.

 

 

Hidden Garden Steps: Via and Visitors

September began with a noticeable increase in the number of people visiting the Hidden Garden Steps, thanks to a one-line mention in Kristina Malsberger’s “Secrets of San Francisco” article in the September-October 2014 issue of Via magazine in print and online.

HGS--Via_Cover--2014-09-11The article is a wonderful combination of brief write-ups of “superstar” sites (e.g., the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, and the Filbert Steps, with its set of gardens—the Grace Marchant Gardens—that indirectly influenced the gardens around the Hidden Garden Steps) accompanied by photographs and longer features about “don’t miss” sites around the city. Mount Sutro (along the edge of the Inner Sunset District), for example, is the “don’t miss” feature connected to the brief mention of Golden Gate Park, and the 16th Avenue Tiles Steps/Moraga Steps (on Moraga Street, between 15th and 16th avenues here in the Inner Sunset) is the “don’t-miss” feature connected to the mention of the Filbert Steps and the Grace Marchant Gardens.

Malsberger’s popular feature story and photograph of the original set of ceramic-tiled steps ends with a boost for the Hidden Garden Steps: “When you’re ready for your next stairway adventure, the nearby Hidden Garden Steps, at 16th Avenue and Kirkham Street, were completed in 2013 by the same artistic team [Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher] and offer their own gorgeous tile tapestry.”

HGS--Via_Article--2014-09-11A brief informal survey of visitors during the Labor Day holiday weekend showed that plenty of people from San Francisco Bay Area cities (e.g., Berkeley, Palo Alto, San Rafael, and Santa Rosa), from other parts of the United States (Florida, Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania), and a few other countries (France, Mexico, and China) were attracted to the neighborhood by the article. They expressed a tremendous amount of appreciation for the numerous volunteers who helped bring the Hidden Garden Steps project to fruition and who continue to maintain the site. And, through their presence, they helped strengthen the sense of community that remains at the heart of the project.

For more information about the Hidden Garden Steps and the Friends of the Hidden Garden Steps, please visit the project website at http://hiddengardensteps.org and the Friends blog at https://hiddengardensteps.wordpress.com.

Hidden Garden Steps: Good Sign

Post-installation work on the Hidden Garden Steps site (16th Avenue, between Kirkham and Lawton streets in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset District) continued in August as a formal plaque identifying the site was installed.

HGS--Plaque[1]--2014-08-18 The plaque reminds visitors that the project was completed through magnificent volunteer-driven, community-based collaborations between members of the Hidden Garden Steps organizing committee and the San Francisco Parks Alliance (formerly the San Francisco Parks Trust) and San Francisco Department of Public Works Street Parks Program.

Also included on the plaque are acknowledgments of the important role played by project artists Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher, whose 148-step ceramic-tiled mosaic has transformed a drab staircase into a community gem that is increasingly attracting visitors from the neighborhood and far beyond.

Supporters noted on the plaque include Country Floors, which provided the beautiful tread tiles at a discounted rate; KZ Tile Company, Inc., which installed the artists’ mosaic and the tread tiles at a reduced rate; the San Francisco Community Challenge Grant program, which provided a $32,500 grant to support the overall project; the San Francisco Department of Public Works, which completed extensive repairs on the concrete steps that were originally installed in 1926, and which also built and installed the massive erosion-control woodwork that provides the foundations for the volunteer-maintained gardens still being added on either side of the Steps; Schluter Systems LP, which provided the DITRA material that is underneath the mosaic and tread tiles; and the more than 600 individuals and businesses contributing cash to support the project.

SF DPW colleagues positioning plaque for installation

SF DPW colleagues positioning plaque for installation

The plaque, prepared by EGO Enterprises here in San Francisco, is highly visible at the foot of the Steps (the intersection of 16th Avenue and Kirkham Street) directly above the bench that was provided by the Public Bench Project and painted by art students from Woodside International School.

For more information about the Hidden Garden Steps and the Friends of the Hidden Garden Steps, please visit the project website at http://hiddengardensteps.org and the Friends blog at https://hiddengardensteps.wordpress.com.

Friends Summer 2014 Newsletter Now Online

News updates, photographs, and calls for volunteers are among the items included in the latest edition of the Friends of the Hidden Garden Steps quarterly newsletter, available on the Friends blog at https://hiddengardensteps.wordpress.com/newsletter/.

Visitors are approaching the Steps in numerous ways

Visitors are approaching the Steps in numerous ways

Originally created in early 2012 as a way to attract donors and other supporters to the Hidden Garden Steps project, the newsletter has evolved into a vehicle for providing a quarterly digest of how the Hidden Garden Steps site continues to grow as a community-supported resource that is increasingly attracting visitors from all over the world.

Among the latest updates is a brief report on efforts to begin a docent program on the Steps, located on 16th Avenue between Kirkham and Lawton streets in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset District. A four-part training course comprised of weekly 90-minute sessions is currently under development. Several members of the Hidden Garden Steps organizing committee continue to spend time on the Steps to informally answer visitors’ questions about the project, the 148-step ceramic-tile mosaic completed by project artists Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher, the volunteer-maintained gardens, and how others can organize to bring volunteer-driven, community-based projects to fruition. New docents, upon completion of their training, will be asked to sign up for one one-hour shift each month on a Saturday or Sunday so we can expand the amount of time visitors find project representatives onsite.

To learn more about the docent program or to join a contact list for additional updates, please write to Paul Signorelli, one of the Steps volunteer site stewards under the auspices of the San Francisco Parks Alliance/San Francisco Department of Public Works Street Parks Program, at paul@paulsignorelli.com.

Playful Interactions on the Hidden Garden Steps

The Hidden Garden Steps site (16th Avenue, between Kirkham and Lawton streets in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset District) has increasingly become a playful venue for unplanned community interactions over the past several months.

Toy salamander left in spiral at top of Steps

Toy salamander left in spiral at top of Steps

While work was underway to install project artists Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher’s 148-step ceramic-tile mosaic in fall 2013, visitors to the site began leaving small objects. A couple of plastic figures appeared (and just as quickly disappeared) at the foot of the Steps, followed by the addition of a small plastic salamander in the soil at the top of the site—an apparent homage to the ceramic-tile salamander that extends across two flights of stairs on the top third of the site.

Visitors have, at times, brought all sorts of objects (including large stuffed animals) to include in their onsite photographs, and other plastic figures (including a tiny frog) have replaced the salamander in the spiral at the top of the Steps.

Magnets left on hand-rail

Magnets left on hand-rail

Our latest gift from an anonymous donor is a series of words on refrigerator magnets attached to the recently-installed handrails. Comments formed from those words are already beginning to express a variety of sentiments to augment the expressions of delight, gratitude, and wonder that we hear on a daily basis from those drawn to the beauty of what community collaboration has produced.

For more views of our onsite community in action, please visit our Google+ photo album—or, better yet, join us on the Steps.

Hidden Garden Steps “From Vision to Reality”: Monday, July 28, 2014, 7 pm

Hidden Garden Steps project artists Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher will join organizing committee members and other project volunteers on Monday, July 28, 2014 beginning at 7 pm for “From Vision to Reality,” a panel discussion sponsored by S.H.A.R.P. (Sunset Heights Association of Responsible People).

Sharp--LogoThe session, in S.H.A.R.P.’s community meeting room (1736 9th Avenue, near Moraga Street in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset District), will include a brief virtual photographic tour of the site and include plenty of time for interactions with audience members interested in knowing how large- and small-scale community collaborations are organized for success.

Ribbon-cutting ceremony on the Steps (December 7, 2013)

Ribbon-cutting ceremony on the Steps (December 7, 2013)

Although only open since December 2013, the Hidden Garden Steps site on 16th Avenue between Kirkham and Lawton streets has joined the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps (Moraga Street, between 15th and 16th avenues) as a neighborhood landmark attracting visitors from around the world. Four years ago, success for the Hidden Garden Steps was hardly assured. Neighbors, a variety of organizations, local government representatives, and more than 600 individual donors came together with discipline, perseverance, and the faith required to make it happen.

To learn how the artists and these dedicated volunteers turned an attractive idea into a beautiful reality–and how others can engage in similar “tactical urbanism” endeavors to benefit our community, please join us at the event. In addition to the artists, panelists include steps organizing committee members Sherry Boschert and Licia Wells, and garden volunteer Connie Ngarangad. Steps organizing committee member Paul Signorelli will serve as moderator.

For more information, please visit the S.H.A.R.P. website at http://sharpsf.com/index.html.