Here at the SF Appeal, we’re always brainstorming up new ways to serve the community by providing helpful information on everything from Muni payment to cheap happy hours. We spend hours wondering what our readers want us to figure out for them, so we finally thought: why not just ask?

That’s why we’ve decided to start the “Ask the Appeal” column. Think of this as your own personal genie: no Bay-related question is too big or too small. Whether you’re concerned with a municipal question, a consumer advocacy issue or simply with consuming alcohol, email us your questions at We’ll either do the dirty work and talk to the folks in charge, contact an expert in the field, or – if your question is particularly intriguing or juicy – develop it into a full-blown investigative article.

I’ve been wondering why, in San Francisco of all places, people attending churches are allowed to park in what would otherwise be an illegal fashion on city streets (often in the left lane with those little red street cones) while the church is in session. You’ll see this particularly in the Mission… along Dolores near the actual mission and also on Valencia. My question is, doesn’t this constitute an illegal violation of the separation of church and state? Doesn’t this policy make the city in effect a subsidizer of the churches since if people couldn’t park in the streets the churches would be required to build or lease parking lots/garages/or run shuttle services?

This is a great question; I’ve never thought about church parking that way before (I’ve never really thought about church parking at all, except in a frustrated way when I can’t find parking and consider masquerading as a churchgoer in order to snag a spot).

Apparently, neither has the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency; the person I spoke to there seemed rather bewildered by the question. He told me the matter wasn’t under their jurisdiction, since the police enforced the measure years ago as a “common courtesy.”

SFPD spokesperson Sergeant Lyn Tomioka confirmed that for me, and stressed that the service is for community activities, not strictly religious ones. According to Tomioka, standard parking regulations are also lifted for Boys and Girls club meetings and elementary school open house nights. “I can understand the person that might consider it [an illegal violation of the separation of church and state],” Tomioka said, “but it’s solely a public service, and we always make sure there is always at least one lane of traffic still available.”

Seriously, ask us anything:

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