SAN DIEGO — Once covered with weeds and collecting trash, the “secret stairs” of Valencia Park have a new look, thanks to some local artists and a dedicated group of volunteers.
The more than 150 steps connect Las Alturas Terrace, Trinidad Way and Churchward Street. The narrow strip of concrete links residences on either side of the southeast San Diego neighborhood, used by generations of residents.
The unique pathway has long been a part of the community’s character, but residents say it also developed into a trouble spot. Beyond overgrown plants and trash, a lower portion of the stairs is prone to flooding. The area has also been a magnet for graffiti and drug use, residents told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
A community group called the Urban Collaborative and other volunteers set out to clean up the steps starting last year. A donation by Blue Shield of California turned that grassroots effort into a major beautification project. A bright mural now greets visitors to the steps, with colorful California poppies adorning the stairs throughout.
Local artists Herbert Delong, Isabel Garcia, Shannon White and Shirish Villasenor painted the flowers.
“It was just a really exciting project for all of us to get our own input in this, and kind of talk to the people around, and get what they think would mean a lot to them,” Garcia said at a news conference unveiling the steps’ new look Thursday.
“We didn’t want to come in with the idea of like, ‘gentrification,’ and like a bunch of strangers out of nowhere come into this community. We kind of wanted to get to know the people who lived around here and get their ideas involved with this.”
San Diego City Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe, who also helped organize the clean-up through the area’s town council, was present for the proud unveiling Thursday. She thanked Blue Shield, the artists and the community members who made the project possible in her Council District Four.
The Urban Collaborative has hired landscapers for monthly upkeep on the stairs, according to the U-T, but the group’s CEO Barry Pollard is still looking for donations for the drainage problem. He is also working on getting solar lights that make the staircase usable at night.
You can learn more and donate to the Urban Collective on the group’s website.