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UncategorizedFinally, the MTA cares about illegal church parking

Finally, the MTA cares about illegal church parking

Who gets to park in the middle of the street on Sunday? Maybe not just one set of Christian church-goers

Would Jesus park in the middle of the street?
Would Jesus park in the middle of the street?

By Tim Redmond

NOVEMBER 18, 2015 – San Francisco transit officials have finally, after about 100 years, decided that it’s worth asking whether churches have the right to use the middle of the street as parking spaces – with no permits.

If you live in the Mission, you know the drill: Sunday morning, people heading for worship services take over the medians of Valencia, Guerrero, Dolores … they just put their cars in places where, at any other time, they would be ticketed and towed away.

There is no legal process to get permission to do this. It’s just, as the cops have told me, “tradition.” The police have decided since forever that if you’re going to church on Sunday, you don’t have to follow the parking laws.

As Mission Local notes, some churches even give (fake) parking permits to their members.

I have been writing about this for (literally) more than a decade. No politician wants to touch it. As I noted in the Bay Guardian:

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If you go to see the (secular) Mime Troupe in Dolores Park and you stick your car in the middle of the street, you get a ticket. If you drink at a (secular) bar or eat at a (secular) restaurant and you leave your car in the Valencia Street median, you get cited. You can’t double park while you run in for a (secular) cup of coffee at Muddy Waters.

You can’t even do it when you go to yoga, which for a lot of people is a spiritual experience.

I have no problem with people parking in the middle of the street on Sunday – if everyone gets to do it. I do have a problem with people who follow a certain religious tradition (Christian – the Jews don’t get to park in the middle of the street on their Sabbath and I’ve never seen a mosque get this privilege) getting a special perk just because “we’ve always done it that way.”

A few cranky people like me complain every once in a while. But it never goes anywhere.

Now, it appears that the Municipal Transportation Agency is paying attention. The agency is putting out a survey to seek input on whether anyone should be allowed to park in the middle of the street, and if so, who it should be.

Says the MTA:

Vehicles parked along the center medians of Dolores and Guerrero streets have been a common occurrence for years. However, despite the practice’s longstanding nature, it has in turn not been equally available to all potential users, been sporadically enforced, has at times generated unsafe conditions due to drivers parking in intersections and between medians, and has caused some vegetation along the Guerrero center medians to be damaged.

If you live in the area near Dolores Park, you can vote in the survey. So far, there’s nothing about Valencia Street, where it’s been going on just as long, but that could be next.

If we’re going to stop enforcing parking laws on Sunday morning, fine: But let’s not just limit it to a certain religious practice.

Besides, Jesus would ride the bus.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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  1. Good thing they are suckers working 70 hours so they have less time to mess with ordinary mortals out of envy. Circular I know.

  2. I’m pretty sure the laws that forbid parking in traffic lanes come from the CVC not SFTC. I defy you to show us an exemption from CVC for Sunday parking. (The cops also turn a blind eye to such parking during evening services, but let’s stick with Sunday for now.)

  3. My faith revolves around parking. Why can’t I park my car in the middle of the street like the Yahweh-botherers do?

  4. Church goers use the middle of the street as parking spaces – with no permits because The San Francisco Interfaith Community fills critical gaps in human services that the City of Francisco cannot afford to provide. The city counts on THOUSANDS of volunteers from the Church Community to run homeless shelters, food pantry’s, veterans services, senior services, drug counseling and rehab and more.

    Church programs enable seniors and people with disabilities to stay safe and independent in their homes and to lead more productive lives. Volunteers from the Church provide cash donations and in-kind contributions, provide rides to the hospital, grocery shop, help with seasonal chores, and much more. Social service work cannot be coordinated with email or Social Media and most church volunteers drive to Churches


  5. Actually some Jew do get to park in the median on Shabbat. Congregants at Sha’ar Zahav park in the median on Dolores during Friday night and Sat morning services.

  6. Tim’s outrage is always in inverse proportion to the seriousness of the issue.

    For instance, he hasn’t said a word about the Paris attacks, but becomes apoplectic if he thinks someone in the city is using Airbnb to share their home with a visitor from France.

  7. The law is the same for everyone. We are talking more about the discretion that cops have in enforcing those laws. Enforcement priorities are a legitimate topic for a public policy. Likewise cops do not enforce the jaywalking laws in this city because presumably the voters don’t think that is a priority either

  8. I think a lot of voters would support a public policy where one class of miscreant is downgraded in enforcement priorities. We see that already where, for instance, cyclists and pedestrians do not get ticketed as aggressively as drivers.

    Catholic services take a long time because of the sermons. Bck when I went to Episcopal church (albeit a long time ago; I am an athiest these days) we were done in about 40 minutes

  9. Yes, it matters. And no it’s not envy. I don’t want what they have -the right to park illegally. I just want everyone to be treated equally by the law.

  10. I don’t think you would get a ticket because the cops don’t go there. So you’d be fine to park there most likely. Unless of course it was a crosswalk or intersection.

    Tim mentioned that some churches give out pseudo-stickers for their patrons to display in the car. They have no legality of course but a cop might take note of it. I doubt that a church would call the cops to ticket a car that didn’t have one.

  11. In the eyes of the law, it shouldn’t matter if you’re pious. If a religionist should get to park illegally one day a week, then so should a secular person.
    BTW, I don’t know of any church services that last a mere hour.

  12. About the time that Valencia was becoming the place to go at night, SFMTA re-designed the street. It went from 2-lanes each way to one lane each way and a center “turning lane” that is mostly not used at all. So SFMTA created the problem.

    Dolores and Guerrero are four-lane streets that see much less traffic on a Sunday, so the impact of traffic is not significant. This is more about people getting all pissy because someone has what they don’t have. I’d call that pettiness.

  13. I’ve always wondered what would happen if I just go there at the same time as everyone else, and then start walking in the other direction… say to Dolores Park. I’d actually welcome someone from the church calling the police to give me a ticket. The only reason I’ve never done it is because I have better things to do. But maybe I’ll test it out if the city doesn’t change its policy.

  14. What principle? That pious law-abiding churchgoers should not get a break for one hour a week? That cops should target them rather than criminals?

    Or the principle that we should not issue parking tickets to blacks?

  15. I’ve seen people park in the middle turn lane on Valencia on the weekends and I don’t see any potential problems from it. Not sure about Guerrero/Dolores, though.

  16. The stranger obsession is with rights. Is it really matter if one class of people get a good deal on something? It sounds more like envy to me.

  17. Yes, the problem is that some people want to preserve the city in amber based on some “tradition.” This city has always been about change. New people arrive and they may not understand or agree with “traditions” such as discrimination. Some may call it tradition, but the techie hipster may look at it and say, “Dude, why do those duchebags get to park anywhere they want, and I don’t? This is my only day off from my 70-hour a week coding gig. I make $120K and for that money I think I’m entitled to park in the middle of the street while I get in line for my artisanal gluten-free organic burrito.”

    That’s life. Change is good. We need to embrace change.

  18. I am not aware that the de facto immunity for church parking depends on the denomination.

    In any event a cop doesn’t know that a car parked near a church actually belongs to someone in that church. Rather the cops simply do not target that area for tickets on Sundays when, in any event, far fewer tickets are issued anyway because many parking restrictions do not apply on Sundays

  19. I wouldn’t expect it to be dismissed by the Parking Gestapo, but it would be interesting to see how the courts look at the city allowing illegal parking for Christians, but not Muslims or Jews (or secular people for that matter). Like I said, hopefully the city will come to its senses now and none of that will be necessary. The times they are a-changing.

  20. I doubt that the ticket would be dismissed in such a situation. If you are parked illegally then the ticket is valid. The fact that someone else didn’t get a ticket isn’t relevant.

    A special dispensation for churchgoers is not “discriminatory” any more than a college that reserves some scholarships for specific races or religions.

  21. Let’s say you’re Jewish, and you park in the middle of the street during Temple services, get your ticket, and then sue. Obviously you’ll sue to get the ticket dismissed, but that won’t be the main point of the lawsuit. The main point would be to change the city’s discriminatory policy.

  22. So if there are so few cars then why is it a problem anyway?

    And how can you tell the race of a car owner just by looking at a parked car?

  23. I was asking you whether black churchgoers who were not displaced could still park without penalty under your idea?

    And whether white churchgoers who were displaced could not?

  24. Irrespective of redevelopment, it appears that Ed Lee and Greg Suhr are the slums in SOMA through their homeless containment policies.

  25. We’re talking about church congregations here in this thread. I don’t know what’s swirling around your twisted mind nor do I care to address it.

  26. Churches get lots of special treatment anyway. Like not paying any taxes. There is a holiday for Christmas Day. Our President is always a Christian. America is a very religious nation.

  27. It doesn’t? My last fender bender was a Sunday on Dolores – I was having difficulty seeing around the cars parked on the median and I didn’t notice the car in front of me that was turning right had stopped, and I clipped his fender.

  28. So there should be a special sticker for cars owned by black people?

    If a building is demolished then all its residents are displaced and not just the residents of one race.

  29. It was a slum like a good part of SOMA was, and in some places still is. It made sense to redevelop those areas, reducing blight, crime and squalor.

  30. Displacement today is de minimus when compared to the wholesale government sponsored displacement of communities that was redevelopment in the Western Addition.

  31. So long as they are people who were displaced through racist redevelopment.

    Interesting how no white congregations were displaced through redevelopment!

  32. > Jews don’t get to park in the middle of the street on their Sabbath

    Jews don’t even get to drive on their Sabbath.

  33. There shouldn’t be any exception. Secular people are getting displaced too. I’m surprised no one has sued over this yet.

  34. It’s an interesting issue – I like Tim’s slant. I’m inclined to leave well enough alone since tbh it doesn’t really inconvenience anyone that much. But I think it’s an interesting and unlikely conversation to have, and worth a review.

  35. Tech is the new God. We must all bow down to their money. They want our bus stops no problem. Churches are a distraction to the tech worship so no more Sunday parking fir them.

  36. Well, obviously any race-based policy or preference is repugnant. But it is important that this total non-issue not be allowed to gain purchase just because people like Tim hate religious blacks

  37. Not sure what the building that Cornerstone now occupies once was, but if you’ve ever gone by when the garage door was raised, you’ll see a huge parking garage extending the full length and width of the building.
    As well, the curb cut is about half again as wide as the garage door. Whatever purpose the building once served must have had some large trucks rolling in under it for a curb cut that wide.

  38. The two churches at Ellis and Webster like to park in the bike lane and on the sidewalk. If I had more than two bikes, I’d wheel them out to the bike lane early on a Sunday and park them there. Obviously, if a bike lane is really a parking place, it must be meant for bikes. I wonder if the police would arrest me.

  39. There was a thing about this on SFGATE a few years ago, the people at the Cornerstone on 17th in charge of parking say they get a pass from the city. When they are done with services they call the city and rat out the cars remaining cars, the cars “left behind” I suppose. Religion and morality are such odd bedfellows.

  40. The only exception should be for the Black community that was displaced from the Western Addition that coalesces its diaspora on Sunday mornings.

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