The Secret Tiled Staircase in San Francisco

A gorgeous mosaic tile staircase in the middle of a quiet residential neighborhood that is well worth the hunt is as mysterious as it is beautiful.

Residential Masterpiece

Located on Moraga Street between 15th and 16th Avenues in San Francisco, lies one of the most beautiful displays of city art you have ever seen. The 16th Avenue tiled staircase is a work of art created by neighbors that wanted to make something beautiful for people to see and enjoy.

Beyond this gorgeous mosaic tile staircase, there are beautiful gardens where you’ll also see many Green Hairstreak butterflies.

But there is more than meets the eye with this secretive masterpiece that you’ll definitely want to know before you visit. 

Labor of Love

What began in 2003 with volunteers from the neighborhood, turned into the masterpiece of this secret tiled staircase.

As Atlas Obscura writes, the staircase is 163 steps in the middle of the quiet Sunset District in San Francisco. Two local residents, Jessie Audette and Alice Yee Xavier, decided they wanted the neighborhood to create something special. They enlisted the help of artists Collette Crutcher and Aileen Barr, and the project took flight. 

Completed in 2005, the tiled staircase has a definite theme. The base of the staircase depicts images of the sea, with beautiful blue colors that rise up the staircase, eventually becoming the sky. At the top, you’ll see the sun as the highest point in the sky.

Those that purposely find or stumble upon the staircase have been completely awestruck. You see, once the sun goes down, the tiles reflect the moonlight in a beautiful glow-in-the-dark way that is simply amazing to see. 

Positive Reviews

Local Google Guide Angela reviewed the staircase saying,

“This is one of my favorite places to go for my walks in the morning. It’s like paradise, seeing all the beautiful succulents alongside the steps and then being able to capture the view at the very top!” 

Indeed, the top of the staircase offers a wonderful view of the San Francisco skyline. There are additional steps at the top of the mosaic staircase that will lead you to even better views of the city including the Golden Gate Bridge. 

Warnings and Guidelines

In the years since the staircase was completed, the neighborhood has posted signs warning visitors of car theft. Because the staircase has been and continues to be an all-volunteer effort in this residential community, you are on your own to protect your belongings.

With more visitors finding the staircase than in the past, the neighbors have also established some guidelines they would like people to follow when visiting. These are generally respectful requests to help maintain the fact that it is a neighborhood. The neighbors have specifically requested that buses not drop off visitors within two blocks of the staircase.

They also identify the area as “drone free.” 

Community Volunteerism

Despite the added rules of conduct and warnings of car theft, the staircase continues to be a point of peaceful beauty for all that visit. The gardens surrounding the staircase and the tiles themselves are all maintained by the neighborhood volunteers.

Because the word is out about this gem, more financial assistance to maintain the project has been provided over the years. A list of sponsors identifying a number of institutions and individuals appears on the staircase website, signaling the massive efforts to create and now maintain this local treasure. 

While the secret tiled staircase isn’t a complete secret any longer, because it’s not in a tourist area, it takes some extra searching to find. Once you are there, you’ll appreciate the beautiful gardens, spectacular views and the majesty of the 163 mosaic tile staircase that transformed this quiet neighborhood into a true city treasure!