Church parking on Guerrero Street between 18th and 19th in September 2014. Photo by Elizabeth Zitrin

Parking in San Francisco is always tricky, but for Guerrero and Dolores streets in particular, parking on medians has drawn especially spirited debate. Now, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority is ready to officially hear that debate, starting by forming a committee of residents, church-goers, businesses, and other neighborhood groups. It also released an online survey about potential regulation of median parking along Dolores and Guerrero streets between 14th and 21st streets.

The survey comes after years of controversy over the informal agreement between the city and several churches in the neighborhood that allows churchgoers to park by medians and in street centers while they attend services. Some areas get volunteer staff to streamline the parking process and get quasi-permits to post around the parking area.

Kristen Holland, an MTA spokesperson, told Mission Local in 2012 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.”

Some residents have taken issue with that practice, calling it unsafe and saying it creates traffic hazards along with favoring religious groups over other neighborhood stakeholders. Others defend it, saying finding parking would be nigh impossible otherwise for those who wish to attend services and who must arrive by car because their communities have been getting pushed out of the city.

The SFMTA has recognized problems with the arrangement too.

“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,” the transit authority writes in its survey introduction.

You can read previous coverage of the issue here and here and take the survey here.

Join the Conversation


  1. RE: “favoring religious groups”
    in a city where the leaders themselves ignore and/or circumvent the laws what is one more little parking law? they openly give legal leeway and preference to many groups in the city. bicyclists get a police escort to aid and abet them in ignoring traffic laws during critical mass. s.f. is a sanctuary city that openly and proudly ignores all immigration laws. s.f created laws to circumvent federal cannabis laws. they are now considering a law to allow bicyclists to pass through stop signs contrary to state law. -this is the short list- all of these items favor particular “interest groups” over other “stakeholders” and cause “problems”. in a city where the leaders don’t feel laws should be followed unless they agree with them why should anyone else?

    1. Parking on Dolores and Guerrero st has been a long tradition. Church is a sacred thing for many peoples in this city. New comers to San Francisco in this area don’t respect traditions of our institutions, or for that matter our long term residents. These traditions are make San Francisco the city it is. Why don’t these folks except our long standing traditions and become part of our community. Rather than trying to change everything that was here before ! It’s seems like these new comers feel entitled to change everything to around them. It’s called respect, when you give respect you get respect . That’s how the world works , I guess that memos been lost on these individuals. They probably need that church more than they realize.
      “God grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference ” I leave this for my newcomers to our great city!

  2. Hi Michael Johnson:

    I read your posting to be asking for the explanation on how enforcement of laws favoring bicyclist is different then laws favoring the establishment of religious practice preferences.

    According to long established interpretations of the Constitution of the United States of America, discrimination for or against certain “groups” is illegal. The canonical examples is race. If it is properly framed as a race issue, the question of if the actual practice is illegal is tested using “strict scrutiny” and requiring that any discrimination be “narrowly tailored” to the circumstances to a legitimate purpose. Other types of discrimination between groups, to use your example, cars vs bicyclists, is given a deferential, any rational basis,- scrutiny.

    Over the years, the Supreme Court has expanded and adjusted the group that are in the more protected classifications of “strict scrutiny.”

    Religion groups have an additional conceptional overlay of the First Amendment giving people the right to free exercise of religion and freedom from governments establishing official religions. BUT, religious discrimination does fall into the group that courts test with strict scrutiny to pass constitutional tests. Thus, using Constitutional analysis the question of discrimination on the basis of religion compared to cars vs bicyclist is handled very differently.

    1. But it is illegal for everybody to park in the traffic lane or median. However, the Churchgoers do not get cited for it — only non-church goers. I am torn on this issue, as it would be practically impossible to park for church-goers and residents on the days when hundreds of cars come into the city at the same time. There’s absolutely no parking available to accommodate this group, unless they were to lease a parking lot somewhere and bus the congregation in.

      1. Patricia, you’ve touched on a central point: there is too little available parking for everyone, including residents of the neighborhood as well as people who come here for other reasons, like visiting friends, eating out, going to galleries and shops, going to performances. The problem is the favoritism and unequal treatment. Why should churchgoers be able to park illegally when residents and their visitors and others coming to the neighborhood are told they can take public transit or ride bikes or walk? Why are there special favorable rules just for people going to a particular religious ceremony and not for other reasons?
        If there is agreement that this illegal parking is in fact safe–that it doesn’t create hazards and dangers or impede the safe flow of traffic–then at least there should be an open, transparent and fair process for having access to it. In America, we have CONTENT NEUTRAL rules for access to public benefits. You cannot give public benefits only to one ethnic group, one religion, or one sex.

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