Stepping into Mission Valley from Hillcrest


About 30 years ago I heard about some concrete stairs leading from the area around UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest down to Mission Valley. I went exploring and found them, but I only went part way down because it was overgrown and creepy. I think they were around Bachman Place, so maybe the street has replaced the stairs? If you know anything about their history or construction, I’d love to know.

— Terri

Rumors and tales of the lost staircase are plentiful, but actual evidence is hard to come by. I asked a series of friends, many of whom would have been young troublemakers during the age of the steps, if they had any memory of the fabled stairway, but nobody could do any better than, “Oh, I remember hearing about them, but I never used them.” I’d been scratching my head and trying to put together half-remembered facts until it hit me that the U-T had actually published a kind of obituary for the stairway during the ’80s. A little bit of rifling through the musty Alice archives later, and I can confidently report that the 344-step stairway stood for almost 75 years until old age brought it into disrepair and forced its removal. It was 1984, to be exact, that the stairs were demolished to make room for the Bachman Street parking garage. Initially constructed as a part of the old County Hospital complex in the early 20th Century, the stairs connected the hospital with Anthony Home, a juvenile-detention facility. Later, hospital employees and patients would park their cars in Hotel Circle and use the stairs as a shortcut out of Mission Valley. There are also stories about a series of ladders that supposedly led from University Heights down to the TGI Friday’s in Mission Valley, but that’s a tale for another day.

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I believe the stairs are still there. I walked them a few years ago, and they can be seen on Google Maps (satellite view) right now. Evidently, they were not demolished to make way for the parking garage. Rather, their bottom end was cut off and left hanging by the road that leads from Mission Valley up to the parking garage (Bachman Pl.). So you can get to them from Hillcrest pretty easily, but somewhat harder from Mission Valley.

I was under the impression that the original stairs weren't even in the same country as the building codes that were developed after their original construction and had to be removed for the parking garage to be installed. However, if you're right that a few of the old stairs got spruced up and are used to access the garage, it's only a small fraction of the original 344, and it definitely doesn't descend into the valley.

Matt: The stairs are still there. Ernie is right. They are a bit north of the photo you used. That stair only goes to an old electrical equipment pad. Look at Google maps satellite view. Email me a proper email address and I can send you more photos.

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