Church Parking on Dolores Gets SFMTA Blessing

City approves a pilot program allowing for legal parking by Dolores Street medians during weekend church hours.

It has long been an unofficial San Francisco tradition that Mission Dolores churchgoers and Dolores Park partiers alike could illegally park by Dolores Street medians on Sundays, with no tickets or fines. This practice will now be perfectly legal after the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) board voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve the so-called “Parking for God” pilot program — and it’s not just for Sundays anymore.

Under the 16-month pilot program approved on Wednesday, parking by Dolores Street medians between 14th Street and 18th Street will now be allowed on Friday evenings (7-10 p.m.), Saturday mornings (8 a.m. – Noon), and all day Sunday (8 a.m. – 6 p.m.). The median parking hours were expanded to accommodate nearby synagogues and mosques with services during those hours.

“This is the location and the times at which this practice has historically occurred in the area,” SFMTA Transportation Planner John Knox White said at the board meeting. “It would provide significant pedestrian and transportation safety impacts at our intersections, but also provide much better public safety and specifically fire access to the neighborhood.”

This is not a permanent approval of church parking by Dolores Street medians, but instead a 16-month pilot program that the SFMTA has been considering for six months. This weekend double-parking becomes officially legal in February or March, and will be re-evaluated at the end of the pilot program.

While this may seem like a gift to the double-parking community, the measure actually represents a 50 percent decrease in median parking spots that have traditionally not been ticketed during church hours. But there is no enforcement mechanism to ensure that the parking spots are used by people who are genuinely attending a church service.

“It’s my bet that this parking is going to fill up as quickly as it becomes available by workers or customers or residents who want to park extra vehicles they might own,” SFMTA Board Member Joel Ramos said before the vote. “I suspect, like every other available parking space in this city, it’s going to be snatched up the moment it becomes permissible for vehicles to park there.”

Ramos recommended hourly limitations, additional meters, or even an “ecumenical parking pass” to ensure the spots are used for churchgoers as intended.

Sunday double-parking on Dolores Street has continued for decades just because the city has unofficially allowed it. “It’s obvious that historically we have deprioritized enforcement around these medians,” Knox White said, vowing that this would change under the pilot program. “For the for first two to three months, we will be very proactively on-site enforcing the hours. Our intention is to give everybody some heads up that enforcement is about to begin.”

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