Median parking. Photo via the SFMTA.

San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency has released results of its survey about median parking in the Mission – the hotly debated practice of allowing worshippers at local institutions to park at the center or median of  streets like Guerrero and Valencia for services. The survey’s project area covers all cross streets between Market and 24th Streets and Valencia and Church Streets.

The results are more or less predictable – citing fairness and safety concerns, the majority of residents (74 percent) support removing median parking, while a supermajority of congregants (95 percent) oppose removing median parking. Most “frequent park visitors” also came out against median parking, at 79 percent, even more strongly than residents in the affected area. Respondents were able to self-identify as residents, congregants, business owners, park user/ frequent visitor, or interested party.

Survey results tabulated by SFMTA
Survey results tabulated by SFMTA

“If we lost the ability to park on Guerrero median, it would SEVERELY affect my ability to attend my place of worship,” reads one open-ended survey question response recorded by the SFMTA. “…We tried to purchase a lot on 16th to turn into a parking structure, but the city did not allow us to do that, saying that there was enough parking available. Clearly there isn’t, or else we wouldn’t have this problem on Guerrero.”

“I know at least one church on Guerrero, near my house, serves a minority population. It would be a shame, as they get increasingly pushed out of the city due to gentrification, if the lack of parking made coming to the church prohibitive,” another respondent wrote.

“Those cars are hella dangerous… It creates this gauntlet where you have to continually slam on the brakes to avoid old people (who probably shouldn’t be driving) backing up, getting out of their cars, yelling at clouds, etc.,” another wrote.

“Median parking creates the perception that certain groups have special privileges to violate parking regulations,” wrote a fourth respondent. “If half the road capacity can just be taken away and given to free car storage, that says the roadway capacity is underutilized, and it’s not being used any better as car storage. Rather than free storage for steel cages, a better use of that space would be wider sidewalks, protected bike lanes, or parklets.”

“It is rather an important and complementary addition to the larger efforts of the Median Parking Advisory Committee and provides significant insight into the breadth of community perspectives on median parking issues,” the report’s authors wrote.

That nine-member committee was formed in May to come up with approaches to current median parking practice.

“It’s one input, and a very important input,” said Jon Knox White, a senior transportation planner. “We wanted them to have this information as they were making the recommendation. It’s also an input that (the transportation agency) will use in our considerations.”

The committee will make a recommendation for how the transportation agency should move forward, most likely toward the end of next week. After that, agency leaders have a window of 90 days to announce what action they intend to take. But Knox White emphasized that the agency would likely plan another opportunity for public input before taking concrete action.

“This isn’t just going to be nine people giving a recommendation and the MTA is going to run out and pound some signs into the ground,” he said. “It’s possible that even if we had the authority to just go out and do it there is likely to be a meeting somewhere that would happen before we just started making changes.” 

Please note: There are slight discrepancies in percentages between different charts and reports depending on whether the percentage of all respondents or those considered “in the project area” (identified by their cross street) are included. 

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  1. Most of the Mission is being turned into parklets, so it’s getting increasingly hard to find a spot. It’s not just the churchies parking in the median, it’s a lot of other people who don’t have time to circle for an hour trying to find a spot.

    1. The city no longer cares at all about cars, it’s created a great increase in the “us vs them” mentality which doesn’t help anyone. The just don’t seem to care

  2. I have lived on Dolores near 15th for over 28 years and I support median parking. Did you only ask residents who bike and don’t hav cars? Any one who has a car and uses it on a Sunday, always appreciates it when we return from going out and that there are spaces in which to park. Any one who says otherwise doesn’t have a car, or has a dedicated parking spot.

    1. 43% of households in the mission don’t own a car, so it’s not hard to understand that a large number of residents don’t support median parking.

  3. I think it is not accurate to say that those parking on the medians are doing so to attend worship services. I park in a garage on Dolores between 15th and 16th and I can attest that there are cars parked in the median all weekend from Friday night until Sunday night. I am aware that the synagogue on 16th and Dolores has Friday evening services, and both churches on the same corner have Sunday morning and afternoon services. However, no one has services at midnight on Saturday when the median parking is full. Nor do any of the houses of worship have services late Friday night, late Sunday night, and it is unlikely they have services on most Saturday afternoons. I am not at all opposed to median parking for people to attend synagogue or church on Friday evenings, Sunday mornings-afternoons, and holidays. It is other people taking advantage of the median parking to go shopping or clubbing that are creating the bulk of the problem and I think if the city acknowledged this they could avoid scapegoating those attending religious services and figure out a way to give them the parking they need while avoiding blocking the roads the rest of us.

  4. Do the frequent park users understand that parking will be MUCH WORSE if they got rid of this policy as that many more cars would have to find parking making it even harder for folks trying to go to the park? I don’t go to church, but support the median parking. This city is full of giving certain folks special rights. Why stop at church goers?

    A good study would be the economic impact on the area from folks that come in to the city for Sunday services. Would a new parking policy effect this in one way or another?