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What’s the story behind the Berkeley Hills’ hidden staircases?

Daniel Parks, used under CC BY-NC 2.0 / Cropped
Berkeley hills snapshot.

If you’ve ever spent time in the Berkeley Hills, you may have noticed staircases winding between houses or disappearing into the trees. KALW listener and Berkeley Hills resident Ansley Luce wanted to know how and why these staircases came to be.
Those who know the staircases best are the members of the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association. So I met their president, Colleen Neff, at Rose Walk on Euclid Avenue.

The Path Wanderers maintain the staircases that connect these winding streets. This neighborhood was built around the turn of the century. And back then, just like today, people wanted a smooth commute.

The Euclid streetcar is a thing of the past, but the paths remain — and they are in the Oakland Hills, too. But as people started driving more and using the stairs less, the paths became overgrown. Then, in 1991, there was a huge fire in the Oakland Hills. And people saw the paths in a new light.

When the Berkeley Path Wanderers started, there were 111 pathways in the hills. They’ve built 25 more. And there are still 22 narrow plots of land scattered around the hills where the group plans to build more staircases the future.