Phase 1 of the project was completed in June 2015. Local artist and CAT teacher Matt Christenson and the Excelsior Action Group worked with students and residents of the Excelsior Community to design and paint a mural along the apartment building adjacent to the walkway leading to the stairs. For several recent years, a theme of emerging arts in the Excelsior District has revolved around cleaning and “greening” the Excelsior through art. A list of animals, native plants, flowers and areas were used in the design of the mural now located on the northern exposure of 4945 Mission Street, along Kenny Alley.
Phase 2 of the project began in Spring 2016 will introduce a mosaic installation on the face of the Kenny Alley stairs. This phase will include concrete cleaning and repair, improved security lighting, landscape and greening, and a mosaic tile installation on the step risers. Phase 2 coincides with the City Arts and Tech High School year, and will join efforts with local art teacher Kim Jensen and her mosaic students to complete the mosaic panels for the Kenny Alley Stairs. The mosaic design will incorporate the look of flowing water, and use a combination of glass, mirror and river rocks, to complement the adjacent mural. This phase will also introduce lighting and landscaping to complete the beautification of the stair end of the passage.
Phase 3 of the project is targeted for 2017. We intend to replace or repair the fence along 4941 Mission Street, to create a more welcoming walkway and still create a sense of security with visibility and lighting. We will also resurface and restore the mural along Kenny Alley that was damaged in the rain of Winter 2015. Finally, we hope to install a beautiful mosaic arch sign at the entrance of Kenny Alley, welcoming visitors and residents to the newly revitalized public passageway.
The effects of the newly cleaned, beautified and revitalized Kenny Alley Stairs will be long lasting. The community involvement in the Kenny Alley Stairs Facebook Page is already active. We intend to share progress, photos and stories throughout the journey. The improvements of landscape, lighting and art will address the main issues of littering, graffiti and loitering. The Alley, previously recognized by residents as unsafe and undesirable, will become a showcase of local talent and an area of pride on the affected London and Mission Street blocks. These changes will create a sense of space, and a place to congregate safely.
The mosaic and mural together will also impact the greater Excelsior community as it will add to the many existing art pieces in the neighborhood. Residents and visitors alike will be welcome to visit and appreciate the new Kenny Alley Stairs. By involving local neighbors, residents, and youth from the local high school, we hope to engender a new sense of pride and stewardship in the stairs and passage. This activity will connect the youth to their community and show them how they can make a change in their own neighborhood, thereby creating a sense of pride, ownership and stewardship. The investment of time, money and resources shifts the culture of neglect, no longer will the passage be used as the neighborhood’s trash can, but instead as a new urban space to be appreciated.
The Excelsior is known for its many streets named after foreign countries and capital cities reflecting early residents of predominantly Italian, Irish and Swiss descent. In the 80’s the Excelsior become home to many Central Americas relocating because of turmoil in their home counties and to Mexican temporary workers. The most recent influx of residents is from China and other Asian countries. The Excelsior is known for its diversity reflected in restaurants and other family owned businesses. We have had an increasing number of public art works translating and celebrating the rich culture of the Excelsior. The Kenny Alley Project will take us back even farther to our roots when the Excelsior was open space and watershed by expanding on the visual narrative of Matt Christenson’s new mural there and reminding us about the beauty and importance of water through the work of local high school art students and multi-generational/multi-cultural community members led by Kim Jensen.
Kim Jensen and students from City Arts and Tech (CAT) High School, as well as local resident volunteers will play a key role in the final design selection and creation of the mosaic art panels. The “flowing water” mosaic is specifically designed in conjunction with Matt Christenson’s mural painting, which incorporates many local and unique plants, animals and marine life. Greenery and landscaping selected for the stairs and pathway planters will use native, drought-tolerant plants that thrive in our local climate.
The Kenny Alley Stairs Beautification Project reuses many existing components of the space. Demolition and disposal needs will be minimal, as there are no plans to remove and replace existing concrete or fencing. Green waste will be disposed of responsibly.
Plants and landscaping will use drought-tolerant grasses, succulents and flowers that will thrive with little care and maintenance, and are adaptable in a variety of microclimates and sidewalk conditions. Recycled rain gutters will be used along one side of the steps for the urban succulent garden.
Solar lighting will be used to provide additional stair lighting, and increased security lighting along the walkway. By choosing a green, renewable energy source that is durable, eco-friendly and low-cost, we are opting for light fixtures that are easier to install and less invasive for neighboring properties. By removing the need for further trenching, we have also reduced our dependency on the power grid, and minimized unnecessary complexity and cost in the project.
The Kenny Alley Stairs will be maintained in a number of ways, including as a part of the EAG’s Monthly Clean Up and with volunteer cleanup programs. We also intend to incorporate multi-lingual No Litter / No Dumping signs, as well as a city managed garbage can, as have been long wanted by local residents. The mosaic will incorporate a sign crediting the City Arts and Tech teacher and students that participated in the fabrication and installation, which will help to abate and deter vandalism.