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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 ask@sfappeal.com. 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: ask@sfappeal.com.

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  • sfboogie

    i’ve always wondered about the poor bastards who get blocked in by the church-going folk in sf. what community service is it providing them?

  • sfboogie

    i’ve always wondered about the poor bastards who get blocked in by the church-going folk in sf. what community service is it providing them?

  • Deano

    We have a huge problem with putting Religion into its proper civic place in the US. Despite the “seperation of church & state” idea, we are constantly giving deference to Churches and to people who claim faith (usually over reason). This parking issue is a simple and clear example of the holier-than-thou attitude church-goers seem to have, as if “I’m parking this way for God” is enough to shut anyone up. Here’s my proposal, as a gay man, I want to see the local gay community form a religion based around sexuality. I really do worship the male form, seriously. If your shaman is so great, I ought to get one of my own officially recognized. That would solve my parking problems in The Castro on the weekends as well as helping me with my tax exemptions.
    In the meantime, ticket across the spiritual spectrum. It’s a massive hassle for the neighborhoods.

  • Deano

    We have a huge problem with putting Religion into its proper civic place in the US. Despite the “seperation of church & state” idea, we are constantly giving deference to Churches and to people who claim faith (usually over reason). This parking issue is a simple and clear example of the holier-than-thou attitude church-goers seem to have, as if “I’m parking this way for God” is enough to shut anyone up. Here’s my proposal, as a gay man, I want to see the local gay community form a religion based around sexuality. I really do worship the male form, seriously. If your shaman is so great, I ought to get one of my own officially recognized. That would solve my parking problems in The Castro on the weekends as well as helping me with my tax exemptions.
    In the meantime, ticket across the spiritual spectrum. It’s a massive hassle for the neighborhoods.

  • Matt Baume

    That really is an unsatisfying response from the SFPD. “Oh, they want to do it, so even though they’re no supposed to, we’re just going to go ahead and let them.” Church parking == Critical Mass?

    Also, just a thought: can anyone park in those extra spaces? Or only church-goers? Like, could I just drive down to a church, do some errands in the neighborhood, and drive home?

  • Matt Baume

    That really is an unsatisfying response from the SFPD. “Oh, they want to do it, so even though they’re no supposed to, we’re just going to go ahead and let them.” Church parking == Critical Mass?

    Also, just a thought: can anyone park in those extra spaces? Or only church-goers? Like, could I just drive down to a church, do some errands in the neighborhood, and drive home?

  • kl2real

    I can’t say how many near misses I’ve experienced or witnessed between vehicle, bicycles and pedestrians trying to navigate through streets inexplicably gridlocked by parked, unattended vehicles. Can’t church-goers ride our glimmering, clean, on-time transit system like the rest of us? It would help with that nasty global warming thing. Oh wait, most of them don’t believe that even exists, so there we go.

    Also, how nice to know we also accommodate the Boy Scouts of America in this way. Weren’t they the ones who fought all the way to the Supreme Court to win the right to discriminate?

  • kl2real

    I can’t say how many near misses I’ve experienced or witnessed between vehicle, bicycles and pedestrians trying to navigate through streets inexplicably gridlocked by parked, unattended vehicles. Can’t church-goers ride our glimmering, clean, on-time transit system like the rest of us? It would help with that nasty global warming thing. Oh wait, most of them don’t believe that even exists, so there we go.

    Also, how nice to know we also accommodate the Boy Scouts of America in this way. Weren’t they the ones who fought all the way to the Supreme Court to win the right to discriminate?

  • wiggles

    i’ve been that person, blocked in, when I first moved in across the street from a church. this was an big, organized church with guys with white coats lingering around. when i asked one of them if the car blocking me could be moved, he pointed inside the church and said the person was in there. needless to say, he was useless. i considered calling dpt but figured that was useless as well.

  • wiggles

    i’ve been that person, blocked in, when I first moved in across the street from a church. this was an big, organized church with guys with white coats lingering around. when i asked one of them if the car blocking me could be moved, he pointed inside the church and said the person was in there. needless to say, he was useless. i considered calling dpt but figured that was useless as well.

  • sortwr9

    This has been annoying me for years. Church-goers also park in bicycle lanes, among other acts showing lack of consideration for others.

    The parking rules are there to ensure our general safety and consideration for others. Opera goers don’t get to park down the middle of Van Ness. Ballpark attendees don’t get to park on King Street or 3rd Street. Music fans going to the Fillmore aren’t allowed to park down the middle of Geary. Why are church-goers treated differently?

    I wrote to my supervisor about this a while ago and received a lame reply about, well we’ve always allowed them some leeway.

    I’d suggest all those who are aggravated by this disregard for others write to your supervisor and let them know. This is yet another case of a vocal minority inflicting themselves on a passive majority.

    btw, apparently this is also why parking meters don’t operate on a Sunday in SF – “You can’t charge people for going to church”. Yes We Can.

    Let ’em take Muni.

  • sortwr9

    This has been annoying me for years. Church-goers also park in bicycle lanes, among other acts showing lack of consideration for others.

    The parking rules are there to ensure our general safety and consideration for others. Opera goers don’t get to park down the middle of Van Ness. Ballpark attendees don’t get to park on King Street or 3rd Street. Music fans going to the Fillmore aren’t allowed to park down the middle of Geary. Why are church-goers treated differently?

    I wrote to my supervisor about this a while ago and received a lame reply about, well we’ve always allowed them some leeway.

    I’d suggest all those who are aggravated by this disregard for others write to your supervisor and let them know. This is yet another case of a vocal minority inflicting themselves on a passive majority.

    btw, apparently this is also why parking meters don’t operate on a Sunday in SF – “You can’t charge people for going to church”. Yes We Can.

    Let ’em take Muni.