Colored tiles in a zig-zag pattern were installed on the steps in 2019. The surrounding landscaping, known as the Tompkins Stairway Garden, was also completed at the same time.
These improvements were the result of the work of neighbors who were tired of how dirty and unsafe the
stairs had become due to a lack of maintenance by the city. This was a result of this block being one of
the city's many unaccepted streets: Public streets that the city won't maintain due to them not being up
to the city's standards, leaving the maintenance up to the neighboring property owners.
June 13, 2019 San Francisco Chronicle article detailing the unaccepted street issue.
Many stairways in the city are unaccepted streets, and this has caused other problems. The Bengal Alley stairs were closed for nearly a decade while the issue of who was responsible for repairing them was sorted out.
The stairs were originally built in the mid-1960s.