The City of San Francisco has long had an understanding with local churches that their members can park in the middle of the street on Sundays, as long as residents tolerate the unusual arrangement.

That is no longer the case on Valencia Street, according to some neighbors, who said they have complained to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority (SFMTA) and district supervisors without success.

“This issue has been an immediate inconvenience and concern to me for over a decade,” said Elizabeth Zitrin, a resident who is unhappy about the disruption created by the Sunday parking privileges on Valencia near 19th Street.

“I have been actively attempting to get information from the City and County of San Francisco about the authority and any legal basis for private parking in public roadways since February of 2011,” she said.

A recent proposal, supported by Mayor Ed Lee, to enforce parking meter fees citywide on Sundays could make the informal parking arrangements even more difficult for churches and residents.

The SFMTA doesn’t give churches official parking authorization, leaving it up to the establishments to reach agreement with residents.

“There has been a longstanding agreement between authorities and churches that religious groups can accommodate their members as long as it does not disturb traffic,” said Paul Rose, a spokesman for the SFMTA.

“If neighbors are inconvenienced,” he said, “we encourage them to call 311.”

That’s exactly what Zitrin did. With the help of other neighbors, she’s been trying to find out how to get the cars parked in the center of Valencia moved for close to 12 years. She has contacted several enforcement agencies, including the SFMTA and the City Attorney, but obtained no clear answer.

One church in particular, St. Mark’s Institutional Missionary Baptist Church at Valencia and 19th streets, causes problems every Sunday, Zitrin said.

St. Mark’s prints what it calls parking permits.

“Are these legitimate permits to park in the middle of the traffic lanes on Valencia Street?” Zitrin asked. The short answer is no, but permission from the churches does have a certain amount of moral authority.

Zitrin isn’t the only resident who is bothered by the churches’ parking practices.

“It’s a nightmare to find parking [around Valencia street] on Sundays,” said Roxanne, a resident who declined to give her last name.

A bartender at the 500 Club on Guerrero Street said it’s unfair that churchgoers get to park in the middle of the street.

“Where are my customers supposed to park?”

St. Mark’s staff gives the parking flyers to worshippers to put on their dashboards when parking in the middle of the street, but they are not legal permits, according to city representatives.

The flyers state that members are allowed to park in the middle of Valencia Street during worship services. They also list the church’s phone number.

St. Mark’s administrator, Shirley Forman, is adamant that her congregation of 30 to 60 members is not disobeying the law.

“The city allowed us to park in the middle of the street,” she said. However, the SMFTA did not confirm this explicitly. The piece of paper, Forman said, “is meant to identify the owner of the car, if someone needs it to be moved in case of an emergency.”

District Supervisor Scott Wiener agreed with Forman. “It is a traditional agreement of sorts,” he said, that allows churchgoers to park in the middle of the street. “Some constituents have commented on the issue,” he added, but these were “not many.”

SFMTA spokeswoman Kristen Holland said that the so-called permits are only “informal” and bear no official recognition from enforcement agencies. It is the churches’ responsibility to deal with parking, she added, insisting that groups “are advised to be good neighbors.”

Other churches in the neighborhood have similar parking practices.

A few blocks away, on 17th and Guerrero streets, Cornerstone Church uses the middle of the street to accommodate its members.

Here churchgoers park in the middle of Guerrero Street, leaving just enough space on each side for cars to get through.

Cornerstone’s Pastor, Kyung Kim, said that although the church has approximately 1,200 visitors each Sunday, there are usually no issues with parking thanks to the agreement he reached with the police and SFMTA.

Four volunteers stand by as people park to make sure that only churchgoers use the parking spaces. People attending mass know that parking is to be used only during service. If they stay longer, they will get a ticket.

However, the volunteers acknowledge that they don’t always know whether the people who park there are going to church or to nearby cafés and restaurants.

Many neighbors seem accustomed to the parking arrangements and don’t have a problem with them.

“It’s always difficult to park here anyway,” said a grocery shop owner on Guerrero Street near Cornerstone Church.

“Church people do not take extra space.”

Mike Kimball, who owns an art gallery nearby, agreed that churchgoers shouldn’t be blamed for parking woes.

“The street does not empty out after services,” he said.

Others, far from being inconvenienced, see the numerous churchgoers as a blessing.

“It is good for business,” said Johannes, a shopkeeper on Guerrero Street. “Church people often stop here when the service is done, and I can’t complain about the traffic flow either; it is usually OK.”

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  1. As far as I’m concerned the mid-street parking for various religious institutions are a selfish and self-righteous, i.e., I’m worshiping — better than you — and I deserve a break. It is disruptive and dangerous, with car doors opening into the street, and jaywalkers.

    With as broke as the city is, for a long time I’ve thought that in order to take up the Public right-of-way, they should pay for a permit every time they use the street for their own benefit.

    When neighborhood groups need to use a lane of traffic for a safety buffer while planting or maintaining medians, a permit is issued. The churches should apply the same way.

  2. In another unrelated note, what’s up with these stalky Mission Fashion pictures that keep showing up that are mostly images of female legs and buttocks? In many images it doesn’t look like the subject is aware they have been photographed.

  3. Was thinking about having a party at my place next Saturday night. Anyone have a problem if 30 or so of my friends park in the left lane of Guerrero between 21st and 22nd for a couple of hours? I can print some permits that they can put on their windshield.

    1. Do it. And then sue the city when the laws are selectively enforced based on religious discrimination.

  4. I have seen emergency vehicles have a hard time getting through traffic because there is less room for cars to move out of the way.

  5. I am a native, grew up my entire life in the Mission. This is community, the complaining and anti communtiy backlash is not what San Francisco is all about. The Mission has changed but that is growth, lets continue the diagloue but also bear in mind in keeping change.Churches are not the problem, people are and their obession with cars. Churches and business are part of the Mission, it is what makes the Mission a beautiful place to live. Stop the anti community sentiment and help and support change. Churches could be charged and bring added revenue to the community, think outside the box.How boring would the Mission be if you take out the heart and soul of what made the Mission soulful? Yes, I said soulful, this is my hood and what made it soulful was going to church ever sunday and after church supporting local business(restaurants) with my family. Oh here is one last thought-WALK

  6. Sounds like old Zitrin has tried to park her car or friends cars and been moved on by the church attendants and is all pissed off and hissing venom! LOL get a life and leave people alone in theirs.

    1. yeah, how dare she try to stand up for equality and against religious discrimination ?

      1. you really think thats what this is about? she knows she will attract more attention with that ‘crusade’ like thinking. i am a church goer in the mission, as well as a resident who lives on guerrero street. i dont care if people park their cars in the median to go to the mission dolores, or if they are going to dolores park for the afternoon to enjoy a nice day. in fact, numerous friends have taken advantage of this more times than i can count to head down to bi rite, and NEVER have they been yelled at. its actually something to look forward to in an odd way. you should check your self righteousness.

        1. Right, so you want your special privilege to continue and that’s fine because you don’t have a problem with it.

          Do you see the issue yet ? If I was fine with people spraying graffiti all over your house cause I didn’t have a problem with it, you would be ok with it, right ?

  7. The point here is that this practice goes on all over the city once a week during religious services. In a city where parking is problematc, it’s a practice that enables people, many of whom are elderly, poorer and from minority communities to attend services that are important to them. FYI many of these churches do a great deal of tangible good in their communities and for their parishoners, Glide Memorial and St. Mark’s in the Mission being two that I lnow about. I share the anger about religious institutions supporting Prop 8, but reacting to intolerance with more intolerance doesn’t help. And in a city where children and minorities are being driven out by a combination of socio-economic factors, it strikes me as an unfortunate and unneccessary thing to get worked up about.

    1. It’s nice that it’s not a problem for you but does really mean everyone else should be fine with it too ? I think you need to check your privilege.

      1. Yes, you should be fine with it. It’s a few old ladies with funny hats parking in the middle of a very wide thoroughfare for two hours on a Sunday. Get over it.

        1. Cool, where do you live so I can come and do whatever I want to your neighborhood and then tell you to “get over it” and that you “should be fine with it”. Is that what you tell all people who try to fight inequality and discrimination ? I suspect so. CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE.

          1. Em… it’s some old folks (mainly) parking in the middle of the street on a Sunday. They aren’t running through the Mission raping and pillaging. And, how do you equate preventing old black people going to church in peace with fighting inequality and discrimination? Just silly.

  8. i live on dolores close to a church. i’ve lived in the city for almost 30 years. let’s no pretend that only churches take advantage of this. the church up the street gets out around 1pm but the cars are there till 8pm when they all get towed. there are a lot of people who park on the median and head to the park. i’m fine with it. it’s good for local business. imagine how much coffee shops and local eateries would suffer if all of a sudden this free parking disappeared…it’s a local sf tradition. let’s just leave it alone

    1. That’s fine but earlier comments have said that in some places church staff specifically are insisting the median parking spaces are only for people going to their church.

      I wouldn’t have any problem with this if it was open to everyone equally and not blatantly one set of rules for a group of religious people and one set of the rules for ‘the other 99%’. Sound familiar ? OCCUPY MEDIAN PARKING NOW.

  9. What prevents churchgoers from walking or biking to church? I guess the holy word says you must drive to church. In that case…

    Dear MTA, I am the pastor of the Church of Parking. My congregation needs to park in the middle of the street during our services, which are Monday-Friday at 4pm. Thanks for the understanding.

  10. The First Amendment protects the rights of people to say ignorant things, but its kinda ironic that zig benefits from it while attacking the establishment clause.

  11. First

    The guy at the 500 club is kidding right? Parking for his bar patrons? LOL

    Next I get that some people might have a reaction to this but it is a tradition and has been all my life. It never bothered my relatives but I realize new transplants are busy bodies and often very self important.

    I wouldn’t move to Philly and try to rewrite the rules but anyway.

    All the old black people who go to these churches will be dead soon and those churches will be gone and North Mission is gentrifying so fast that I am sure this will stop sooner or later.

    Can’t we just let these old people do their thing? Is it really that big a deal?

  12. Honestly, all the churchgoers should show up early and take every single spot on Valencia and the surrounding streets. I hope they do and keep all the non-residential assholes from coming to Dolores Park on Sundays and taking up all the parking.

    1. seriously, people who don’t live in the Mission shouldn’t even be allowed to come here without some kind of papers, right ?

      1. I ban anyone who’s grand daddy wasn’t born within one mile of the Mission

        Or at least give us preferential parking

        1. You already have it if you go to church apparently – Did you even read the original story or did you just come on here to tell people IT’S ALWAYS BEEN THIS WAY, JUST SHUT UP AND KNOW YOUR PLACE, OUTSIDERS ?

  13. I have lived in the Mission for 30 years and this has always bothered me. I’m with you, Elizabeth. Separation of church and SFMTA? If I park for high holiday services at my synagogue, it surely isn’t for free.

  14. well maybe as that merchant says, it’s good for business and of course God and business go hand in hand. i have been complaining about this issue for years to no avail and of course the newspapers are too cowardly and pro-religion to print relevant letters to the editor. years ago i was assured by some lying representative of the SFPD that illegal parking by smug churchgoers would be addressed at neighborhood meetings but needless to say this never came to pass. what’s even worse now that not one of these overpaid lazy public servants has enforced the law
    for all these decades is that the City is installing more and more parking meters and increasing the cost of tickets to subsidize Muni while the supervisor who claims to represent the Mission is crusading for his pet plan to let kids ride the bus free while meter maids just cruise by illegally parked cars and do nothing. even groups who call themselves atheists won’t put this practice on trial by parking like the pious do, getting cited and maybe towed and suing the City for its selective enforcement of the law.
    like the word God on our currency and in the Pledge of Allegiance and same-sex marriage being illegal, this is just one more example of how in America today it is tradition and personal prejudice that determine policy, not the law or the Constitution. like the Germans, let’s all just sit back and watch as it continues to get worse.

    1. I think that if they could just make sure the only people parking there are the ones actually going to church, it would go back to ‘tolerable’ for everyone.

      My admittedly unscientific observation is that a lot of people parking there are going to Dolores Park for the day, not church.

      It should be pretty easy to have SFMTA enforce parking limits of 2 hours. Also, how many churches along that route have services after 4PM? Because there are a lot of folks still parking in those spots after 4.

      I think you could really cut into the number of people parking by just checking these 2 things.

      1. The Guerrero Street church parking monitors aggressively prevent people they do not recognize as members of their congregation from parking at the Guerrero median. They even insist that THEIR churches have exclusive rights to park at the median on certain blocks. The do not permit others to park there. “Get out of here!” “This is just for church parking!” “Move your car!” And worse.

        1. I encourage everyone to park where the Sunday street parkers do. Don’t let somebody tell you you don’t have the same rights as a church goer ! You are entitled to call the police immediately if you are harassed or assaulted while trying to park your vehicle ! Don’t let yourself be discriminated against ! STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHTS.

        2. This completely wrong and should be addressed. Parking is not a right. It’s incidents like this that make me side with you.
          I do a agree to move forward is to have a forum with the affected parties and establish a working policy or understanding. Only then can all groups work together for an equitable arrangement. There needs to be compromise all around. Not everyone is going to get everything they want. If we go down the path of demanding our “rights” then it’s nearly impossible to have constructive dialogue. Both residents, business, churches/synagogues/temple and visitors need to consider what it means to be good neighbors to each other.

  15. The City and County of San Francisco has an obligation to operate openly and with transparency, but this is a closed-door back room secret process.
    If the people of San Francisco want to allow parking in the public roadways, there should be a fair and open process for getting that permission.
    IF the people want to permit this practice, there should be an application process that is open to all regardless of the content of their activity or message.
    CCSF should tell the people what the safety, traffic, financial and other implications of the practice are, so that we can make informed decisions.

    1. Well said, Miss Zitrin. All that anyone asks is that this process be open and accountable. Anyone who’s received plenty of “morally ambiguous” parking tickets over two decades in San Francisco, I’m bothered by the fact that “the city” has an “unspoken agreement” with city churches. San Francisco is past the point in its history where politicians and administrators are green-lighting sweetheart deals between large “affinity communities” without having those communities and those politicians endure the scrutiny of thoughtful citizens for potential implications of favoritism and malfeasance.

    2. This is hardly a “transparent” city with all the “process” that goes into planning and permitting of business and development

      The process excludes most normal people and is set-up for the gadflies, the connected and those who seem to have nothing to do all day

  16. Marco,
    How would you know where people are from by looking at them?

    It seems that the majority of the discussion is about Churches, taxes and contributions to the community. Anyone who cares should read the history of the role of religious communities in SF in supporting workers rights (including the support of Unions), providing quality education, support for the poor and ill (including for AIDS patients early on), support for political refugees, support for earthquake victims etc. People dismissing Churches and other religious institutions as not contributing are simple minded. As Churches do not pay taxes, congregants do. Further, paying taxes is not the only way one contributes to a community. When someone in your family dies or you plan on getting married–have your neighborhood association officiate. Fire in your neighborhood, use your gym to house and feed everyone.Community meeting–homeless shelter–shelter for abused women–use your extra bedroom and garage. Community strife–you bring people together and offer consul. These are not contributions–I suppose.

    1. I don’t know where they’re from by looking at them, I know there’s not from the neighborhood because they have to drive here.

  17. I find the attitudes of Ms. Zitrin and some of the posters here so intolerant. Many of the people who go the churches in question are older. Parking in this neighborhood is notoriously difficult. It’s hard for older people to spend hours trying to find parking, and then have to walk long distances from their cars to get to the church, if they are indeed lucky enough to find a parking space.

    Does it really impact you so much if some cars are parked in the middle of Valencia or Guerrero Streets for a couple of hours on Sunday? All you self appointed so called called crusaders for equality are doing is joining in the push to drive minorities and working class people out of the city. Shame on you – trying to remove the soul from San Francisco. Get a life.

    1. I am intolerant of a rationale based solely on “we’ve always done it this way.” That’s what the Confederacy said about slavery. It’s what the all male universities and clubs said about excluding women. It’s what teachers with “boards of education” meeting “seats of knowledge” said about beating children.
      It is because the United States and San Francisco in particular pride ourselves on tolerance and openness that there should be an open, fair and transparent process regarding permission to use public resources.
      When permits to assemble are applied for, they must be considered without regard to the content of the assembly’s message. If the Nazis don’t get a parade permit today, maybe tomorrow the Mormons won’t get one, and then the Jews won’t get one, and then the gays, or the women.
      If we don’t work hard to be even-handed and fair, we will lose our freedoms faster and faster.
      This is not about anyone disliking religion or church. It is about private use of a public resource without a transparent, open, public process or accountability. If only the Aryan Brotherhood could park in a public roadway, and the police and transportation authority refused to speak with people about it, or if only the Communist Party could do it, or ONLY anyone, there would be the same problem.
      This is about civic responsibility on the part of our representatives and fairness for all of us.

      1. I hate to break it to you, but some old ladies parking in the middle of the street to go to church is nowhere near the same level of importance as the ending of slavery. I know you are a lawyer and think the highblown rhetoric works really well, but it really comes across as just hot air.

  18. I see a lot of complaints about ‘special minorities’ being given special privileges. Every god-damned asshole special minority in this city is given special privileges from the rich assholes in Pacific Heights to heroin junkies living in SROs. Why on earth shouldn’t churchgoers (and they also have these arrangements with Jewish temples as well, so not just Christians) get a few hours of parking on a Sunday. This city is so full of itself – special privileges for everyone but people I don’t agree with.

  19. In a city where not having enough change for a meter costs you $50, why should churchgoers have special random quasi-legal privileges?

    Thank you for addressing this. Good luck getting MTA or the BoS to pay attention.

  20. I thought the deal was that we gave them free parking in exchange for the right to use certain curse words–it’s a win-win!

  21. I’ve often wondered about this practice. Churches don’t pay taxes and so they already get quite a break. Parking for free, another break, albeit a longstanding one. What do they give back? If I could see evidence of what they give back in return for these significant breaks, I’d be more sympathetic.

    The coarse comments from some of the supporters of church parking do *nothing* to make me anymore sympathetic to your cause folks…just sayin’.

    1. If you lived in the neighborhood you would know that it’s not only an hour — it’s most of the day and it’s a hazard to traffic that a privileged few are entitled to.

  22. I am a native, grew up in the area of the Mission, raised my family in the City and come back to the Mission still. Like the prior commenter Roger, the churches in/around the mentioned area have ALWAYS parked as they do – I have never seen a reason that they should change. The African American churches in the Western Addition allow double parking and I manage thru it – like I manage thru Valencia St. on Sundays. And if you live in the area, you should already have found ways to deal w. a few hours of double parked cars.

    1. but this is not a question of dealing, this is a question of equality! why should a small minority be granted a special privilege that noone else is given?

      Why should one particular spiritual path be sanctioned for illegal activity when anyone else trying to behave in a similar manner would be persecuted?

      arguments of “its always been this way” are never valid — by that logic we should still have slavery.

    2. why should church-goers who do nothing to benefit my neighborhood get free parking when I have to pay hundreds of dollars for permits to block off a lane for maintenance that I voluntarily do to clean up my neighborhood? What makes you so special? I see church-goers come and go every Sunday in my neighborhood, then I don’t see them the rest of the week. I’ve never seen a single one helping to clean up trash in my neighborhood, or do anything positive at all outside of the churches. This issue is about fairness and equality. If church-goers get to block off traffic lanes during service, then residents who actually pay taxes for those streets should get the same parking privilege.

      1. I don’t think we should blame the churches for parking.They are not taking over regular parking. We should discuss the bike culture that has removed buses, parking spots all over the mission. More so then any other neighborhood. They don’t pay for roads being paved. Those who drive cars do.

        1. So don’t blame the churches for parking wherever they want, blame the bike riders cause they don’t pay taxes ? Uhhhhhhh….

          1. Bikers do not pay the same taxes. Part of the funding for streets comes from the taxes paid on each gallon of gas…Sure their get self righteous about it but they don’t pay for using the streets as motorists.

          2. No taxes to fix local streets come from the gas taxes. Recall that we just passed a $248 Million dollar streets bond. That will all be repaid from the general fund, coming from sales and property taxes among other things, but not from the gas tax.

  23. the thing that I think about the most when I see Delores street packed with cars parked nest to the islands for blocks is: how are emergency vehicle expected to get through when the only lane left for traffic is full of cars trying to get where they are going? How would these church goers feel knowing one of their family members passed away because emergency vehicles couldn’t get through due to the clogged streets? If it’s going to remain this way, the churches should pay their fair share of taxes. Fair is fair.

  24. Ms. Zitrin is vey busy and very vocal, but it should not be assumed that she represents a common viewpoint of long-time residents. And the “neighborhood association” for whom she sometimes speaks has meetings of about six people of like mind. She is an incessant complainer who should relax.

    1. “s”seems content to hide behind a letter while libeling me.

      Have the courage to identify yourself, or do not expect to be taken seriously as anything but a nameless coward.

  25. You people need to get over yourselves–It’s once a week for a few hours. Part of actually living in a city is the realization that it’s not ALWAYS about what you want 24-7

    1. I would say you need to follow your own advice. Belonging to a church doesn’t provide carte blanche to ignore the people living in the neighbor hood you invade. Try walking, it’s good for the soul!

  26. Basically they’re giving away free parking to private business, who don’t even pay taxes! The SF government expects everyone else to walk/bike/take public transportation, why can’t the churchgoers?

    All they do is block traffic and pollute the environment. The community sees nothing.

  27. It’s amazing to me how all the “liberals” who have moved here from elsewhere are so intolerant of native San Franciscans. These congregations have been parking in those spaces as long as I can remember-I’m almost 50. Seemingly rude anti-religion comments are just one more point of attack on San Francisco’s old residents. First gentrify black neighborhoods, then move out the Latinos.Tthe working class were next and now get rid of church goers. Repopulate the city with trust funders on bikes, Prius drivers with Obama stickers, make the rents go higher, the city whiter and elect more out of towners to the Board of Supervisors. They can then permit more businesses that destroy SF’s neighborhood character. Eventually, this great bastion of liberalism will be perfect–reserved for the rich elite who muse over the working class and feel better about themselves by being nice to Mexican busboys and volunteering to teach little black kids how to play hockey in Oakland.
    Maybe if you don’t like a neighborhood’s character–or a city’s character–move. Everybody needs an affordable place to live–even the working class. Church goers need a place to park for their services-where they have worshiped for decades-just as transplants (the one’s who call native bay area residents tunnel and bridgers) need bike lanes and outdoor seating that take up all the legitimate parking spaces and ill-conceived “mercados” where not a single vendor is Latino.
    I used to think that I was a liberal-but I’m too poor and too tolerant.

    1. what we need is dialogue about what is the best strategy moving forward for the good of the community. labeling anyone opposed to your opinion as a gentrifying liberal or a racist or some such epithet doesn’t help, it just creates divisions.

      I agree that churchgoers deserve a place to park. i don’t think parking in the middle of the street is a solution that should be accepted because its always been that way. “they’ve been doing it forever” is just not a valid argument.

      Roger, instead of attacking those opposed to you, take a minute to think of a creative solution for the good of the larger community. Perhaps a nearby lot or garage (22nd and Bartlett, or Hoff St) can work with the churches/city to block off a large number of spots. perhaps the churches/MUNI can subsidize churchgoers public transit on Sunday. maybe the Valencia St police station can open up their parking lot for churches on Sundays! these are brainstorms off the top of my head… let’s work together to think of a solution instead of bemoaning the end of society as we know it.

      I love this neighborhood’s character – part of that character are the churches and their members, part of it is the hipster bike-riders, part of it is the Latin mercados, part of it is the kiddies in Dolores Park. Let’s work to sustain that community for everyone.

      1. I am with Roger

        It was never a problem before with my relatives

        Why is this a big deal now? Its big this way my whole life and we managed

          1. Are you seriously equating parking with the civil rights movement? Isn’t there a name for that type of logical fallacy?

    2. Roger,
      What makes a city great is that it is under constant dynamic change. That is why cities are the seats of innovation and the economic engines of our nation. Clinging to the idea that neighborhoods should stay the way they were 50 years ago is to ignore 2,000 years of urban history. Great cities, and great neighborhoods change. Stagnant cities and neighborhoods which cling to the past die. It is impossible to claim moral authority by saying “this neighborhood has always been XXX and newcomers shouldn’t change it.” because that is impossible to defend. What is the nature of the Mission? Is it a Hipster neighborhood? Is it a Latino neighborhood? Is it an Italian neighborhood? Is it a Polish neighborhood? It is and has been all of these, and will be many more things that we cannot even envision yet.

      Stay alive, stay dynamic, keep changing — that is a law of nature.

      1. Are you posting on the wrong thread here?

        He isn’t saying much more than the same people have been parking in the median on Sunday and it is a tradition in the area that never bothered anyone

        Now busy bodies have to change things

      2. Which is why our city finances are going down the toilet. City government is not dynamic or changing. The example that comes to mind is how many civil servants salaries, benefits and retirement packages skew towards the 1% while headcounts and salaries still remain high while services are cut. Isn’t government supposed to work for the people not the other way around? You could argue that lack of affordability is just an natural evolution because the demand out strips the supply driving prices up. We know what happen when the government takes laisse faire approach but then again I don’t want to live in a police state…

    3. We have something in this country referred to as the Establishment Clause in our Constitution. Churches, black, latino, or white or whatever, do not deserve, nor should get, any special privileges not extended to other non-religious entities or individuals. The city wants me to pay hundred, if not thousands of dollars, for permits to block off lanes on my street in order to do volunteer maintenance on the medians I help plant, but church-goers get to park in those same lanes for free every Sunday. None of the members of the congregations has ever come out to volunteer or help do anything positive in my neighborhood either. Churches don’t have to pay taxes, but they should have to pay for parking privileges.

      1. I agree — I have seen very little that these churches give back to the community — either in the way of volunteer work, neighborhood upkeep, etc. As far as I can tell, they drive in, park, worship and then leave back to…?

    4. Interestingly, I think a lot of the church-goers at these churches don’t even live in San Francisco — particularly at a church like Cornerstone.

      1. yes, they can no longer afford to live in the neighborhood most often because of housing pricing and rent control (blue collar locals have zero change of forming new families in SF)

    5. To Roger and the others reading.

      I dont like the Church and I do agree its BS to allow them free parking in this way. BUT I also agree with everything Roger has said and I love how he put it.

      I feel there is a major push from “the “liberals” who have moved here from elsewhere” that is moving out the culture, diversity, and the richness that is San Francisco. The fighting of the church parking is an example of this. The other day my friend and I were driving around 16th and Potrero and we were sad that the primarily Latin Culture was being pushed out as the “hipster” culture was being pushed in. Prime example, El Rincon is now Dear Mom…. Yes the area has become safer over the years but it is also becoming more ‘standard’.
      I know my post is off topic but I wanted to comment on Roger’s and show my appreciation for his wording.

      BTW I am a young SF native, so no I am not stuck with old mentalities.

    6. I agree completely with you. These current outsiders have no idea what community is or know how to live with working class folks. They move here cause they like it then want to change it.

      1. The more places you live, the more you realize people are the same no matter where you go. This is pretty textbook – define community to mean people who look and act like you, cast everyone else as outsiders, and then blame them for not integrating into your (closed) culture or for bringing their own culture.

        1. it’s cool, it’s not racism if it’s against white people and can be justified by ‘following tradition’ right ?

    7. How about the church goers using public transit? Seems to me many drive to church simply because they know they have this special right to park in a traffic lane. I highly doubt that they all would stop going to church if they did not get this free parking that for anyone else would be illegal.

      This has nothing to do with being liberal or not, but common courtesy for all who live there.

      1. Right on. These churchgoers don’t even live in the neighborhood, why should we encourage them to drive and park here? They should either take transit or pay for parking just like everyone else.

        I am a second generation San Franciscan and I am sick of these holier than thou types.

  28. to report illegal parking, call SFMTA 415.553.1200, press 1 for English, then 7.

    Besides being dangerous and unfair, this is a clear violation of San Francisco’s Transit-First policy. Adding additional free parking encourages car use and discourages transit, walking, and cycling.

  29. This is a disruptive and dangerous part of every Sunday in the Mission, particularly for cyclists. At minimum, SFMTA should charge for the privilege to occupy so much public space. Preferably the rules applies to churches should be the same as any other business or community activity.

    1. Churches receive benefits like NPO tax-exempt status, so they aren’t equal to businesses. and bicyclists aren’t paying for the privilege to occupy *any* public space. including the multiple parking racks on Valencia. if you want to treat everything as equal, then *everything* needs to be equal.

  30. I wish they allowed parking in the median of Valencia and in 2 of 4 travel lanes of Guerrero and Dolores EVERYDAY. Happily, because the travel lanes ‘feels’ small, people pay attention to where and how fast they are driving. My only concern with the arrangement is that people should pay for the ability to park in the right of way, whether on the side of the right of way or in a ‘travel’ lane. The only real problem with parking on Sundays comes from the self-important who don’t have the time or patience to drive reasonably slow through the neighborhoods where we live.

  31. It is absurd that a small minority gets special privileges for their weekly social event. Either everyone should be allowed to park in the center lane all sunday, or noone should be be allowed to park there. The current situations is a clear case of religious discrimination and favoritism.

    If the christian cult gets that privilege, why not all the yoga studios? It is an equally valid spiritual movement.

  32. The only thing I can say is WOW! My family has been a member of the St.Marks church for about 40 years! We’ve always had ‘permission’ to park in the middle area (only on Sunday during worship hours)! St. Marks is and has always been a cornerstone of that community…and now it seems that since that community has grown and changed around the church, you are desperately aiming to give our churchgoers a hard time! I wonder why………hmmmmmm, could it be because they are black?

    1. whoa Steve! i dont know the racial makeup of any of these churches, i just know the impact the parking rules have on the community. no one wants to give churchgoers a hard time, folks just want an equitable resolution and a clear regulation about this. fanning flames by racist accusations doesn’t contribute to dialogue. I don’t think anyone wants the churches or churchgoers out of the neighborhood – we just want to understand what ‘permission’ means, from an official source.

    2. Seriously, Steve, the “race card” has no place, here.

      So — in answer to your question — the problem I’ve had with traffic-lane parking for church isn’t because the church-goers are black; it’s because I don’t feel that “church” plays enough of a positive role in my community to merit a state-issued license for illegal parking, whether its attendees are white, black, Asian or Latino.

    3. Sad to read the race comment. But I wish there was less racism in America, because this church has seemed to be isolated from local community justice issues. All people of good faith should help to find good solutions to community issues.

    4. From what I have seen the cars parked in the driving lanes are of many different colors, not just black.

  33. Mr. Big, thanks for the correction. Nathaniel Ford was still at SFMTA when we started corresponding about this, although Ed Reiskin has received this information as well. Ed Reiskin’s official email address is

  34. i live on a side street off 19th and Valencia and I never understood the rules and regulations for church parking. As a resident of the neighborhood it would be great if SFMTA and SFPD could clarify how this works – this article makes it clear that there is little communication and clarity around this issue. I feel that parking in the driving lanes of Guerrero St for a block or 2 on Sundays is hazardous and bad for traffic – why can’t the churches come to an agreement with one of the nearby parking lots/structures so that their members can park safely and not detract from the Sunday traffic flow?

  35. The ONLY places where churchgoers should be given a pass is in the Western Addition and Fillmore because governmental action disrupted and displaced those communities. The black churches there represent the only thread holding that diaspora together.

    The rest of the churches, especially in the Mission District, need to follow the law and render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. Anything less is an illegal comingling of church and state. Imagine if a pagan or satanist congregation demanded similar special parking rights for our brooms or bikes?

    1. The Church on Valencia is a “black church.” Should they get a free pass, but not the asian/caucasian (Cornerstone) church on 17th St?

    1. I have to wonder about Scott Weinner comment that few neighbors see parking as a problem. Every time this comes up in a blog, the comment stream nearly blows up.

      I think its great that people can go to churches, but it seems sooooo untrue that people don’t care about the equity of this issue.

    2. Not as bad as Jane Kim, things have gone steadily downhill as far as I can see in her district.

    1. nathaniel ford has not been at SFMTA for some time.

      The new head honcho is Ed Reiskin.

      1. Mister Big, thanks for the correction. Nathaniel Ford was still at SFMTA when we started corresponding about this, although Ed Reiskin has received this information as well.
        Ed Reiskin’s official email address is

  36. Scott Wiener ,
    Adam Taylor ,
    Bond Yee ,
    Debra Johnson ,
    Janet Martinsen ,
    Joy Houlihan ,
    Mariam Morley ,
    SFMTA Customer Service ,
    Nathaniel Ford ,
    Mission Station ,
    Jay Primuss

  37. On May 18, 2011, as part of our extensive correspondance and meeting about this issue, Supervisor Wiener wrote this to me:

    “Hi Elizabeth. I did met with Joy [Houlihan] and others from MTA and SFPD last week. MTA has a plan on which it’s moving forward. I suggest you contact Joy, and she can tell you about MTA’s plan. ”

    I would like to know what MTA’s plan is, and what representatives from SFPD are involved.

  38. I am very happy to see this issue addressed by Mission Local. However, the article misrepresents some of my concerns, and that of my neighbors. Our complaints, which I documented to Mission Local in some detail, are mostly about cars parked in traffic lanes on both sides of the Guerrero Street median. They are a concern to many in the neighborhood and a serious hazard to drivers and bike riders. They damage the delicate plantings in the median and are responsible for the lack of plantings in parts of the median — they are not planted because the Sunday special parkers would destroy them by stepping on them constantly.
    Mr. Rose of SFMTA should know that blocking two of four traffic lanes for many blocks of Guerrero DOES interfere significantly with traffic.
    If Mission Local spoke with any person at SFPD who authorizes this parking, you should identify that person. My calls and emails, and those of my neighbors, to SFPD have resulted in nothing.
    And the way SFMTA handles the situation is to refuse to respond or refuse to write tickets.
    It is also untrue that church parkers do not take extra space. Your reporter has seen the cars parked in traffic lanes, and has received many photographs of the practice.
    The “volunteers” from the churches are aggressive and rude and do not permit people they don’t know as church members to park on the median. They yell at people that it’s for their church only.
    It seems that Supervisor Wiener needs more neighbors to complain to him. That can probably be arranged.

    1. Shame on you Elizabeth for your NIMBY mentality! Once a week for several hours on Sunday – Remember the Golden Rule!

      1. The Golden Rule implies that everyone should be allowed to park on the median, sir.
        Alternatively, it implies that churchgoers should follow the same rules as everyone else.

        I think what you really mean is, “my pious behavior here gives me a free pass for my antisocial behavior over there”.

    2. I think you speak for a small but vocal minority. Parking will always be a challenge but as a biker, pedistrian and occasion driver (and parker) I haven’t found Sunday morning to any more dangerous or inconvenient than any other time during the week. I’ve lived in the neighborhood for over 20 years and it’s never been a problem. In the spirit of full disclosure, I do attend a church in the neighborhood and some folks from my church do park on Dolores street for a couple of hours as do parishioners from Mission Dolores, the synagogue and other nearby churches. By 1pm the traffic lanes are open again. SFMTA will start towing if it’s obvious that people have left their cars for longer than attending a service. If you have a problem with the “volunteers” then you should speak to the church staff. I agree with though they shouldn’t be allowed to prohibit people from parking in the median but those non-church goers should be aware of the risk of being towed if left too long.

    3. Elizabeth,

      As a long-time neighbor and a property owner I support your cause wholeheartedly.

      It’s a serious safety issue — one only need walk down the street during these times to sense that drivers are distracted and unable to see well, due to the church parking.

      It is not anti-religion to ask the religious to follow the same laws as everyone else.

      And it certainly is NOT ANTI-COMMUNITY to ask people driving from their homes to OUR COMMUNITY to respect our public right of way.

      Keep up the good work!