Many San Francisco stairways in need of repair

For years, Jafar Roudsari has been trying to get The City to take care of the Iron Alley staircase, an 80-step public right of way used by Upper Market residents as well as tourists willing to make the climb for the reward of the view.

The Department of Public Works used to make repairs, Roudsari said, but in recent years it has stopped. Now, The City has put up a sign that says the stairs are closed.

The wooden stairs are broken in some places, and some of the wooden handrail is missing in others, said Roudsari, who has lived at the base of the staircase, near Clayton and Market streets, for 11 years. A few years ago, he got an estimate to see how much it would cost to completely restore the stairs, and was quoted up to $250,000 for the job.

“They’re trying to relinquish their responsibility to the owners,” Roudsari said. “But in our deed, there is no mention of Iron Alley.”

DPW spokesperson Christine Falvey said the homeowners alongside Iron Alley are responsible for any repairs in the same way they would be for sidewalks.

San Francisco has 350 reported stairways, many of them hidden, which take people up and down The City’s hilly terrain. The Department of Public Works maintains 200 of the public walkways — those built by The City, Falvey said. Private property owners built the rest, she said.

“Our hands are tied,” she said. “We’ve never been funded to take care of property that’s not technically ours.”

District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who has several of the staircases within his district, said he’s been frustrated to learn that many of them are in a state of disrepair.

Dufty has begun meeting with officals and inquired about a possible ballot measure that would dedicate funding for maintenance of the stairways, according to his May newsletter. In an e-mail to The Examiner, Dufty said all discussions are at a “formative stage,” and that no specific funding mechanism has been established.

Mayor Gavin Newsom said The City should pitch in some funds to help restore the stairways — which he said were unique and made San Francisco “a more enjoyable experience” — but he didn’t believe a ballot measure was needed.

Dee Dee Workman, executive director of the nonprofit San Francisco Beautiful, said The City needed to stop battling homeowners and start helping to fix the stairways. The nonprofit has supported more than 20 stairway improvement projects since 1989, with grants totaling more than $75,000.

beslinger@examiner.com

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