It’s good thing that San Francisco, a city of hills, is also a city of stairs. There are some 670 stairways in the city, according to author Adah Bakalinsky. And she should know. An avid walker, the 88-year-old urban explorer has logged nearly every stairway in her beloved book, Staircase Walks in San Francisco.
When Bakalinsky moved from Minnesota to San Francisco in the 70s, she began exploring the city on foot. That quickly developed into a crush on the city’s many stairways.
“I discovered up on 14th avenue that there was a retaining wall and there was stairs,” said Bakalinsky. “I couldn’t get over it. And then there was more stairs, I was just going crazy.”
Bakalinsky began hauling a camera and notebook on her many jaunts around San Francisco. She started logging the stairways, from the ornately tiled 16th Avenue stairs, to stairs that weren’t much more than blocks of wood on the side of a hill.
“There are elegant ones, there are ones that you wouldn’t give it a second thought,” Bakalinsky said.
Her research never sought out the tallest stairway, the steepest or the most historic. To her, a stairway is a barometer of a neighborhood. A well-kept one, she reasoned, would probably reflect manicured yards, neighbors who know one another by name, and a shared stairway bathed in palm-sweat.
“They go through a cycle the way neighborhoods go through,” she said.
Now in its 7th edition, Staircase Walks has become a must-read for the urban explorers chasing the city’s many hills, once the domain of goats.
But now it seems Bakalinsky is getting some notice up the stairs of San Francisco City Hall. On Monday, a Board Of Supervisors Committee approved a plan to rename the Waller Street Steps in Buena Vista Park, Adah’s Stairway.
“Her book is incredibly useful and has helped a lot of people explore the city,” said Supervisor Scott Weiner. “So we thought it would be appropriate to name one of our beautiful stairways after her.”
The city is hoping to announce the name dedication on July 3rd, Bakalinsky’s 89th birthday.
Despite the honor, Bakalinsky isn’t hanging up her walking shoes just yet. Afterall, there are a lot of streets left to explore, and a heckuva lot of stairs left to climb.