Council approves plan to renovate Highland/Guilford Steps

Piedmont Beautification Foundation

Highland-Guilford Steps and handrail project

The Highland/Guilford Steps on the eastern tip of Piedmont Park will soon get a thorough refurbishing, with the approval by the City Council Monday night to spend $155,000 to renovate this popular pedestrian thoroughfare.

The unanimous council vote authorized city staff to solicit bids for the proposed work, which is set to include reconfigured colored concrete steps and landings with a non-slip light broom finish (replacing worn out wooden railroad ties used as steps); decorative metal handrails on both sides of the steps and landings; a new small pedestrian plaza with a permeable-paver surface to allow surface run-off to help recharge groundwater; plus added commemorative benches and trees and other amenities.

Much of the impetus for the Steps redesign project, Public Works Director Daniel Gonzales told the council, was when a resident living nearby — a frequent Steps user, he said — tripped and fell on the deteriorating wooden stairs before Gonzales assumed his Piedmont job in January. That person, Gonzales said, was “injured fairly significantly.”

That the deteriorating wooden steps – soaked in creosote as railroad ties usually are – are of varying heights and widths, which Gonzales said, is a “no-no,” warranting their replacement. The steps, he added, have “numerous deficiencies,” notably a lack of handrails.

Of the estimated $155,000 project cost, about $55,000 of that will be covered by donations from the Piedmont Beautification Foundation and the Piedmont Garden Club, both of which raised funds specifically for this project. The other $100,000, Lillevand said, was included in the city’s 2021-22 facilities maintenance budget. She called this funding plan “a remarkable public/private enterprise.”

Gayle Lambert, president of the Piedmont Beautification Foundation, told the council the Steps provide access to the Tea House, is a city revenue source, hosting weddings and other events.

“Making the entry safe there was an important factor” in the foundation’s fundraising effort, Lambert said.

The permeable pavers, Gonzales said, aren’t formally required for a project of this size footprint — this project covers slightly less than the 5,000-square-foot minimum — but they’re a good idea anyway, he said.

“Anytime we ask residents to adhere to a standard, we have to set an example,” Gonzales said.

Councilwoman Jen Cavenaugh said she appreciates the need for safety and the “green” aspects of the project, especially the permeable pavers. She also noted there are several similar projects in Piedmont that are still awaiting funding. Lillevand agreed.

“We have a lot of projects, a lot of needs and limited resources,” Lillevand said.

Contact Sam Richards at 

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