February 2014

Arkansas Street Resident Leads Effort to Beautify Neglected Stairway

Paul McDonald

Roughly four years ago, Sara Harreld Lai and her husband, Mike, moved from Dogpatch to a renovated home on Arkansas Street. Soon after, the couple had the first of their two children. With motherhood, Lai started spending more time walking the neighborhood, often passing an overgrown patch of land surrounding an aging stairway that connects Wisconsin Street at the top, to Arkansas Street at the bottom. The stairway is effectively the continuation of 22nd Street; the hill is too steep for 22nd to continue as a road.

Lai became concerned about her walking route after several muggings took place at a bus stop at the foot of the stairwell. After participating in a monthly SAFE neighborhood watch meeting, at which the issue of crime occurring on the neglected stairway and adjoining patch of land was discussed, she decided to organize “The 22nd Street Steps Project.”

The project’s first task was to identify who was responsible for the land, which ended up being a mix of public—the City—and private— adjacent homeowners-entities. Lai equated the public-private ownership to a sidewalk: publicly owned, but privately maintained.

After receiving advice from Annie Shaw, who created the Pennsylvania Street Garden at Mariposa and Pennsylvania streets, last April, on Earth Day, Lai and upwards of 30 other volunteers spent the day cleaning, cutting and clearing the area. The strip’s full potential began to emerge. Lai spearheaded an effort to raise funds to construct a retaining wall, collecting nearly $12,000 in contributions from almost 30 households. With a portion of that money, an attractive curved concrete retaining wall has been installed, setting the stage for further improvements.

Future plans for the area are to paint the railing, add plants and get the City to repair existing water pipes, all of which is targeted to take place this spring.

For further information: saraharreldlai@gmail.com.



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