Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Churches, Logan, and Parking

An anonymous resident is distributing fliers about church-goer parking; parts of which we are posting here for community input and discussion:

  • The author of the letter believes that church-goer parking practices (which include double parking and blocking access to streets) is not only illegal, but way "out of hand."
  • The author is asking for residents to join in a letter writing campaign asking city leaders for help. If you are interested, send an email to: LoganPkgEnforce@aol.com
  • The flier requests that neighbors always report violators - and to specifically call George Carr, DC Parking Enforcement Manager at: 202-541-6063
  • You can follow up through the Mayor's call center: 202-727-1000.


Anonymous said...

As someone who has to plan carefully to prevent being blocked in by cars parked for church, I sympathize with the frustration that motivates this campaign. But I have found the churches to be responsive to requests to move cars so that the blocked car can escape. I think the churches are a boon to the neighborhood as they offer so many community programs. And worry that there is an unintentional racial aspect to this conflict. Most of the churchgoers are black, most of the people complaining are white. Is the churchgoer parking issue really "out of hand"? Maybe it is, but I request that we who are complaining tread carefully and with respect. The churches have been here far longer than most of us.

Anonymous said...

The owner of Vegetate has expressed the opinion to me that Shiloh is blocking their liquor license primarily so that they can maintain their illegal parking arrangement (which would be threatened if Vegetate, and particularly their brunch service, became a success). I don't know if this is accurate or not; he was at a loss for another explanation.

If it's true, the churches (Shiloh, at least) deserve to be gone after.

Anonymous said...

I see what you mean where Shiloh is concerned. That does seem like a case where the church is doing something counter to community interest (here I'm asserting that having a restaurant there is in the community interest). Thanks for the explanation.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget that this is illegal! They should have no good excuse for double parking.

gr said...

Has the parking changed much? I haven't noticed. I was warned about it when I moved into the area.

It would seem odd to build lots of parking and to use it only on Sundays.

What other solution could there be? Tickets and towing sound harsh. The recourse to pointing to legality sounds too simplistic and unlikely to be very helpful.

Perhaps the churches could have ushers keep the keys of double parkers?

Anonymous said...

If they can afford to charter buses to ABC Board meetings, they should be able to charter them from some conveniently located parking lot. That, I think, would be the best solution.

Also, in Shiloh's case they're two blocks from a Metro. It wouldn't kill anybody to have to use public transit.

Chris K said...

I am a church goer, and never feel the need to break the law or unneccessarily inconvenience surrounding neighbors so that I may attend a service.

It's a bit selfish if you ask me. There are places to park, and all of us can benefit from walking.

In terms of the churches, I understand that it's not them (the institutions) but the acts of individuals. However, I believe that churches can do their part in asking their congregants to be respectful of city laws and surrounding neighbors.

At this point, I am skeptical that our city leaders will take this issue head-on. I do, however, feel that if the majority of the community demands resolution to this matter, (and it will take a LOT of people, time, and energy) our elected officials will have to do something.

Best of luck to those pursuing this matter.

Anonymous said...

It's my understanding that there is a law on the books allowing Sunday churchgoers to park in ways that usualy would result in a ticket. Has anyone approached City Council about changing that law?

Clif said...

I don't think the objections are racially oriented. Luther Place is a prime offender in the double parking arena and most of their churchgoers are white.

Anonymous said...

I have been told by the MPD that there are no laws on the books that give the churchgoers special parking priviledges just that if they do ticket, the judge would throw it out anyway so why bother. If pressed, MPD will ticket and put in for a tow but it will be at such a low priority level that the individual who parked illegally is usually long gone even before MPD arrives to write the initial ticket.

I used to live on O St near 9th and every Sunday I would be parked in by people going to Shiloh. It's one thing just to be blocked while they're in services but some Sundays it would be three or four o:clock before the cars were gone depending on what was going on in or around the church. I'd stop by and ask - very nicely - if they'd make an announcement or try to find the offenders but I was never given any sympathy, help or cooperation.

More so than the inconvenience factor I feel we should also look at this as a safety issue. Many Sundays I'll be driving down 6th St in the afternoon in particular and see cars still parked in both the north and south driving lanes with no others around them or in the curb lane. This creats a major traffic hazard - in most cities you don't expect to see a parked car in a travel lane - and some day someone (if they haven't done so already) is going to plow right into one.

If DC Gov't wants to continue to allow this illegal Sunday parking maybe it's time for it to be regulated to make it safer and give the residents some input. When a homeowner or developer wants to interrupt the flow of traffic in front of their property or work site they are required to obtain a Public Space Permit (issued by DDOT at DCRA)and have a traffic control plan in place which goes through ANC and DDOT review for neighborhood impact and safety. DC could require churches to apply for a public space permit to occupy the roadway during services on Sunday or else face aggressive ticketing/towing. DDOT in the course of issuing this permit could then impose boundaries, restrictions, regulations and conditions that the churches would have to follow for these parking priveledges.

Parking will always be an issue in Logan. As our median income level grows more residents own cars. Our density is rising and many of the rehabs of existing structures are exempt from off-street parking requirements because of their historic status. It's only going to get worse and we need to look at the entire parking problem - commuter parking,event(theater)parking etc.- and not just church parking if we're going to be sucessful.

Anonymous said...

Both my housemate and I were blocked in on Vermont Avenue about a week ago. When I went into the church on VT Ave. another guy was there also trying to get his car unblocked. Another woman came up the steps shortly thereafter to get her car unblocked. That makes 4 of us in 30 mins. When I first entered the church and told them my car was blocked as was told "We need for you all to remember that we have church here on Sundays and you should move your cars the night before." Then, people in the front foyer area of the church staying mumbling things like "Why do they always come in here and accuse of of blocking them in there are other churches around here." Nevermind the fact that my car was basically across the street from their church. Shortly thereafter an older man came out to tell me that I should go to the other churches to ask them to move the car. I began to raise my voice because of the immediate assumption of all of the churchgoers that I should just leave when a man, who's name I did not get, flashed a police badge at me and told me "we'll work this out." He was obviously a member of the church and had no interest in working anything out other than to get me out of their church.

Finally, after waiting and causing a stink, someone from their church (not a different church as many of their congregation had implied) moved their car. The three other people were left still waiting.

BUT, the final comment that made me feel terrible came from a man who was leaving the church in a van. He yelled out to me, "You're not from here are you?" I said, "I am from here, I live here." He told me that I wasn't from there and to tell him where I went to high school around there. I told him it didn't matter where I was born, but that I lived here now.

Could it be that he very clearly was trying to say that I must take backseat to the people who go to church there. Or worse, that I deserved to be blocked in because I wasn't born there? I was highly offended that someone I had never seen before, and who certainly does not know me, made a series of assumptions about me, especially the assumption about my ability to park in a zone where I am clearly permitted to park and pay taxes to do so because of where I was born.

Oh and one more thing, why does the city make so many parking expections for people with Maryland tags?

Anonymous said...

If anyone has ever lived or worked in NY City I am sure you noticed that there is no special treatment when it comes to parking regulations. You never see double parked cars around St. Patrick’s cathedral. People find ways to get to church without using cars.

For a city that wants to portray a cosmopolitan image, DC behaves like a small town.

Every time the “new” people that have moved in complain about anything we are treated as if we do not have the right to do so (I am surprised the gentrification word has not come up yet in this conversation). Although when it comes time to tax our incomes and our homes no one has a problem with the “new” people.

We the “new” people represent a large voting block but more importantly we represent a huge income stream to the city (money talks). We need to stand up for our rights as residents of this city and tax payers. We need to organize and vocalize!

If I lived near a church I would make it my business to call the police every Sunday morning and demand that they ticket each and every car violating a parking regulation. If any car was being blocked then the cars responsible should be towed immediately. The city could easily do it or allow a private towing company to do it.

What is it this city officials fear? Are the churches and or their members big political donors? Or is it that no one wants to be the one to change the status quo? We as a group need to give the city officials something to fear so that they start representing our interests fairly.

Anonymous said...

I received this letter as well. We've been blocked in many times as have our neighbors. It is inconvenient, but we try to remember on Sat. nights and plan accordingly. I agree with some of the points raised in the letter - although it is a bit over the top. What bothers me about the letter (and will keep me from responding) is that the author did not list his or her name.

Chris K. said...

Agreed. It's hard to take an anonymous signature seriously.

Anonymous said...

I think I am losing the thread of this subject ... What letter are you refering to?

Anonymous said...

What time does church get out? Noon? You should park THEM in. Wait around util they want to leave and make them wait an hour or two. Childish, but they will get the message. See if the police seek to misapply the law. We live here now and pay taxes, many church goers do not.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE THE IDEA!!! If someone organizes a "park-in" -- please post the date, time and place. We can show up and block as many cars as possible.

Anonymous said...

If you guys do a park-in, maybe assemble in Logan Circle Park? Have a picnic, play frisbee, read a book, whatever you want.

This way, they have to come find you and ask you to move your car (similar to what is going on now). Fight fire with fire.

Anonymous said...

Someone sends an anonymous letter and then expects other people to sign their name on it?

Anonymous said...

The letter clearly states that it is not the intention of the signatories to interfere with the churches or their members, but rather that they should respect their neighbors and be treated equally ... as do and are the other residents of the neighborhood. The problem is not one that occurs on Sunday only, but rather 5 - 6 times a week. And, although the churches claim to have a system in place, it often doesn't work or takes an unreasonably long amount of time to move cars. In fact, often church congregants pull up on weeknights and park right in the middle of the street - illegally blocking traffic - despite the fact that there are legal parking spaces within the same block. DC law does prohibit double parking AT ALL TIMES in the city, even around churches ... and other groups such as private schools and synagogues ensure that their members abide by these laws. Finally, as another poster commented, this is not just an issue of convenience - which is a just rationale in an of itself - but rather of safety due to the blocking of fire hydrants, cross-walks, bus stops, and so forth. Several accidents have occurred at cross streets in Logan due to drivers' vision being blocked by cars parked literally right in the middle of the intersection. We have tried to be good neighbors to the churches ... we simply ask that they do the same in return.

Todd said...

My name is Todd and I wrote the so-called "anonymous" letter. It was not originally signed by me because it was intended as a group letter for signature by members of our community and because it was intended to gauge whether enough persons shared in my viewpoint to go forward with the issue. My name does appear on the final letter that was sent to city officials and the press. In addition, I included contact information on the original memo accompanying the letter and responded to every email that I received. The fact that 45 persons signed on to the letter, which was only distributed to a very limited 2 by 2 block area that includes the churches and mainly rowhouses, was a clear indicator to me that many (if not most) residents in this particular neighborhood agree that this is a problem that should be addressed. Indeed, the letter was redrafted several times to include additional points at the request of signatories.

I understand and appreciate the concerns of some of you about being good neighbors to the churches and, in that vein, I would encourage you to read the letter which specifically states that the signatories do not in any way want to interfere with church events and even view the churches as a vital part of our community ... we just want them to be respectful of the residents and abide by the same laws that we do. Contrary to what a few posters here are saying, I have been assured by Jack Evans' office that the legislature has strictly prohibited double parking at all times in all areas of the city ... including churches ... and that neither the mayor's office nor the police have the right to override and disregard these properly-enacted laws. I would also point out that several members of the community approached the church prior to the sending of the letter only to be told, among other things, that they were here first and if we don't like it we should move. In fact, I left my name and number twice with church officials trying to set up a meeting to discuss the problem, but never received a call. And, despite the fact that the churches claim to have a system in place to move cars, I have received complaint after complaint documenting that this is not usually easily or timely done and residents are often unable to make appointments or go out due to being illegally blocked in by church congregants.

I would also point out that while I may be in a position to better observe the problem than most (my home is located directly across from one of the churches), I have a backyard and garage parking and am not directly impacted by the problem in that regard. I simply wrote the letter because I have seen extreme safety issues (such as the blocking of fire hydrants, crosswalks and intersections) arise from the illegal parking that have resulted in accidents near my home and have heard many complaints from neighbors about not being able to use their cars due to being double-parked. Indeed, I can tell you with certainty that church congregants on my block just pull up and park in the middle of the street most nights of the week - illegally blocking traffic and creating safety hazards - despite the fact that there are often legal spaces available on the same block. It appears that they double-park so as not to be blocked in ... the very thing that they are doing to persons who live in this neighborhood ... and that simply is not fair.

Finally, I would close by noting that members of other religious institutions (such as temples and synagogues) and persons attending hospitals and private schools in this city all do so while complying with parking regulations so as not to interfere with local residents. Indeed, every private school my son has attended in this city has a strict policy of no illegal parking and goes out of the way to assure no inconvenience to local residents. And, I recently attended a bar mitzvah in northwest DC with 100's of persons in attendance where everyone arrived early enough to park legally, as is the policy of the temple. Why can't persons attending church do the same? There is plenty of parking available and there is no justification for disregarding the laws of this city simply because some church members don't want to walk a few blocks as do attendees of other functions in this city.

I wholly support the churches and I personally hope that they stay in the neighborhood and continue to do their good work. I simply believe that they should do so while being good neighbors and respecting the residents who live in this community. Afterall, wouldn't you want your neighbors to abide by the laws and be respectful of your rights and ability to enjoy your own property and neighborhood?

Thank you.

js said...

I live in the area and I completely agree that the problem of unlawful parking by some church members has gotten out of hand and I commend the author of the letter and those trying to fix the problem. For those of you concerned about gentrification, take a look! The offenders are driving expensive SUV's and luxury cars and are not poor. Nor are the churches, which own several properties in the neighborhood and regularly charter buses for out of town excursions. We should all respect one another and comply with the laws so as not to block in residents or create safety problems. Period!

Curtis said...

I just moved to Logan Circle about 5 months ago. Frankly, being double parked is complete bullshit. Sure, it's nice to have churches here, it's also nice to not be double parked over half the day on Sunday. No one is above the law, and if those church goers were so righteous, they'd respect the rest of the neighbborhood on Sunday. We all have to get along, they can't unilaterally decide the law doesn't apply on Sunday.

If the judge keeps throwing out tickets, fine. I say fill up the dockets. It doesn't cost me anything to call the parking people, and it costs the judge plenty of time to go through the motions and paperwork. Pretty soon they'll get the message.

As to it being a race issue, please. Who cares if people going to a particular church are white or black? Last time I checked, a person's skin color wasn't blocking my car. Also, how can you claim the people posting are white? I'm certainly not.

Anonymous said...

Judges don't review parking tickets. They are reviewed by the DC MVA. And, my experience has been that they don't throw out tickets lightly.

The point being that the problem isn't with judges upholding the tickets, but rather with the police and parking enforcement doing their job and writing them. We all should be held to the same standard and the same laws and city officials should do their jobs and ticket illegally parked cars, no matter to whom they belong or where the driver is going.

Does separation of church and state ring a bell to anyone?

Anonymous said...

I have lived in this city, and this neighborhood, for 20 years and have NEVER seen police or parking enforcement ticket church-goers despite repeated complaints from residents. As far as gentrification goes, the truth of the matter is that 20 years ago virtually every house on Logan Circle was boarded up and the area was rampant with drug dealers and prostitutes. People came in and spent of lot of money to fix up these houses and to clean up the neighborhood and they should receive the same protection of the laws as does everyone else. They own the properties that they bought and they have the right to access them without hassle as does every other property owner in this city. If the churches have been here as long as they say, they had plenty of opportunity to act as responsible citizens and buy land and build the necessary parking facilities. They chose not to do so and it is not up to the rest of the community to bear the burden of their decision. Clearly, they are interfering with their neighbors rights which is not the Christian way and is just plain wrong. Churches are supposed to set an example for society. In this case, they should do so by abiding by the law!

Gracie B. said...

I attend one of the churches and do have to plan carefully to attend early service or park blocks and blocks and blocks away to find a parking spot. I've also had to park these many blocks away when I am driving my mother - who has MS - because there is no accessible parking.

It is unfair to the churchgoers to make the blanket assumption that we don't plan ahead or are lazy. There definitely needs to be more communication and more understanding of what both the churchgoers and residents are going through. Metropolitan (where I attend) is working to build a facility with parking in Largo. In the meantime, what do you recommend that we do? Metropolitan was built before there were cars, so there was no way to plan for the need of a parking lot.

While you're complaining about us - could you also find a solution? many of us do metro when possible...but if you've ever dealt with the metro on sunday mornings, you know that it's less than reliable. As I stated - there is no accessible parking. Even trying do find something as far as 15th and T can be impossible.

It's easy to b*tch and moan....but harder to find a compromise (yes to double parking but no to parking in front of hydrants). Stop taking the easy way and lets actually talk to find a solution