The Dolores Street median. Photo by Lola M. Chavez

Can you park next to the median on Dolores Street?

The answer to this seemingly simple question is soon going to be: Sometimes.

The specifics (there are many)  approved Tuesday by the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency’s Board of Directors can be found at the bottom of this post.

The vote essentially gave the go-ahead to test parking along the median, which the agency has turned a blind eye to for years and which church-goers and other visitors to the neighborhood have taken advantage of for as long.

Now, or at least for the next 16 months, the transit agency will allow (and install signs and red curbs to signal this) parking along the median during certain weekend hours on Dolores Street from 14th to 18th streets. Anyone – residents, church attendees and visitors – can use the parking during those hours. The pilot program, in the form of signs and markings, will roll out sometime in February or March.

However, as Chairman of the Board Cheryl Brinkman pointed out before the vote to approve, the design of the program, including safety measures like limiting the allowable parking area at the intersections, will reduce the capacity of median parking to about half of what it effectively offers now.

The board approved the specifics of the pilot without much fanfare – a stark contrast with the years of planning and contention that preceded the vote. For nearly two years, a committee of neighborhood stakeholders has been convening to work out a compromise between two bitterly opposed groups. A city survey indicated that a most residents oppose parking on the median, while a supermajority of members of faith groups in the area find that parking vital to be able to attend religious services.

The survey results were somewhat murky when it came to finding a consensus on what should be done – 51 percent of the survey respondents in the neighborhood supported formalizing the median parking. In the end, the decision to generally approve a pilot program in some form was not without opposition.

Transit planner John Knox White, who has led efforts to figure how parking on the median should be done, called the the pilot project a compromise.

The lone area resident who attended the Board meeting agreed that the pilot program was a middle ground.

“I would prefer no median parking, but I realize that given all the factors involved, a compromise here is necessary,” said Stefan Lazar, a Dorland Street resident.

Among those out and about on Dolores Street Tuesday afternoon, a different consensus became clear: Parking in general is a nightmare, and Dolores Street specifically is confusing.

“It’s already there, make it official,” said nearby resident Amanda Nelson. “There is no parking anywhere…Those churches wouldn’t be attended if there weren’t parking. We’d just have an insane amount of double parking to drop people off.”

Wendy Cai of Maxwell’s House of Caffeine acknowledged that some neighbors aren’t pleased with the practice, but it can be good for business.

“With all the cars parking, the neighbors can’t have their spaces,” she said. On the other hand, “it’s good, it allows people to come in this area, it’s good for business.”

But even some of those who need parking aren’t convinced by the pilot program.

“I would say no to more cars on the road,” said Angus Haller of Box Dog Bikes on 14th Street. But he also finds the median parking rules confusing – “I don’t feel comfortable so I end up not parking there,” he said.

“It’s very difficult to get down here with cars parked along the road sometimes,” said Lissa Lehmann, a resident of Rosemont Street. Asked if she would ever park on the median on weekends, the response was a distinct negative – ”You’d have to get up at dawn to get a spot,” Lehmann said.

On her way to get back in her car parked in a street off Dolores, Megan Kinter, who works nearby, said that while finding parking is a challenge, she has never parked on the median because she hasn’t been sure of the rules. But even once it’s made clearly available for all drivers, she said, she would abstain – in protest of the 50 percent reduction in spaces overall in an already parking-starved neighborhood.

“I still wouldn’t do it, if it’s taking away from parking we need. I don’t want to contribute to that,” she said.

Guerrero Street, where median parking is also common but informal, will be addressed with another community stakeholder group, though it’s not clear whether that street will also get a test run or will go straight to new, permanent rules after a community panel makes recommendations.

For those readers interested, here are the details of what was approved Tuesday:

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