A staircase will ultimately replace a steep and rugged dirt path that follows 22nd Street between Missouri and Connecticut streets. The project is being led by Friends of the Potrero Hill Recreation Center (FOPHRC), a community group operating under the auspices of San Francisco Parks Alliance, whose board includes Jennifer Serwer, Kara Portnow, Maulik Shah, Tucker Kalman, and Lisa Tehrani.
According to Serwer, who lives on Caire Terrace, which crosses the 1200 block of Carolina Street, the stairs are being funded through a $102,000 planning grant from the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD), as well as $500,000 provided by the University of California, San Francisco. The project is expected to be completed by the end of next year.
FOPHRC started planning the project in 2015. Serwer, who owns Hibiscus Studio, a design firm, created an initial version of the staircase pro bono. “Potrero Hill will have beautiful contemporary steps that function like the Filbert steps up Telegraph Hill,” she said.
FOPHRC is now working with MOHCD to identify a landscape architect to finalize staircase design. In addition, the Department of Public Works (DPW) will complete a site survey to determine the parcel’s size, location, and utility needs.
“FOPHRC wants 22nd Street to become a well-traveled pedestrian thoroughfare from Dogpatch to the Recreation Center, and of course the top of Potrero Hill and beyond,” said Serwer.
The staircase is intended to be safer, more accessible, and better looking than the existing path, which is uneven and difficult to traverse. It’s spotted with loose gravel, bits of broken glass, and large rocks. There are no lights or guard rails.
“There are concerns about safety where the Recreation Center runs into Connecticut Street. It can be dark and treacherous. The Rec and Parks staff, DPW staff, and FOPHRC have been working together very well to create the stair connections along 22nd Street down the hill,” said J.R. Eppler, Potrero Boosters president and a candidate for District 10 Supervisor.
According to San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) Captain Steven Ford, Hill residents have expressed concerns about young people loitering and vandalism in the area. SFPD responded with increased police presence, including “passing calls” and intermittent surveillance. “I will continue to meet with merchants and residents to make certain lines of communication remain open,” said Ford. “Moreover, information is consistently disseminated through the Bayview Newsletter, tweets, and ongoing meetings and presentations.”
“UCSF is building two new developments in Dogpatch, student housing on Minnesota Street and a Department of Psychiatry Child, Teen, and Family Center on Third Street,” said Christine Gasparac, UCSF senior director of community relations. “In accordance with UCSF’s community planning principles, whenever we expand our presence in a neighborhood or (develop in) a new neighborhood, we engage in a voluntary process in which we work with the community to offset any particular effects of our development. We consulted our advisory group, the UCSF Community Advisory Group, which meets quarterly, as well as a task force we formed to look at UCSF’s expanded presence in Dogpatch. This was a priority project for the neighbors and was on their list.”
According Gasparac, UCSF’s decision to fund the staircase involved an eight-month review process. “In April 2017, we announced the projects that would be funded as a result of the task force. In order to spend University funds on the project, there needed to be a nexus between the project’s benefits to the neighborhood and UCSF. This project will be mutually beneficial for UCSF staff and students as well as neighborhood residents. This staircase is a critical pedestrian connection for the neighborhood. It provides better access to the Library, the Potrero Hill Recreation Center, the shops on Potrero Hill, and the CalTrain station,” she said.
Joan Goldman, a resident of the 600 block of Arkansas Street, is enthusiastic about the prospect of the staircase. “Right now, it’s sort of a rocky runoff. It’s great; I’ve wanted a stairway and lights for years,” she said.