Monday, January 16, 2006

Press Coverage on Parking

Thanks to the many readers who sent us this link to The Washington Times follow up story. We especially thank Sgt. Emerman for being so helpful!

Another reader sent us the following:

Thanks for providing this blog - it's nice to hear what's on people's minds.

I happened to stumble on this article about church parking in a Capitol Hill electronic neighborhood newsletter from this July 2005 and got a kick out of it - thought I'd share.
Hyperlink is here.

Article starts on page 12 and the dialog between residents vs. churchgoers is remarkably similar to what's going on here in Logan Circle.

FINALLY, we have one "comment" to make: do NOT use our comment feature to spam us with your website. If you have an article of interest, send us an email.

26 comments:

Eric said...

I definately noticed a "police presence" this past Sunday, but still no issuing of tickets to the many illegally double parked cars. This greatly troubles me because it sends the wrong message. When police drive around our neighborhood or sit in their patrol cars surrounded by double parked vehicles but not issuing tickets, it sends the message that the illegal activity is acceptable and will not result in repercussions. In fact, I even saw a police officer take back a ticket from a complaining church parishoner that was parked in front of a fire hydrant which is absurd. The bottom line is that double parking is illegal and the police need to enforce the law uniformly without exception. We, the residents, should not be treated as second class citizens. I like having the churches here, but I think that the congregations need to learn to respect the community residents and abide by the laws just like everyone else.

Steph said...

I agree with Eric. Last week, I missed an important school class because my car was blocked in by a person attending funeral services at Vermont Baptist. I feel sympathy for their loss, but I don't understand why they had to block in my car -- especially when the lot owned by the church across the street sat empty and chained. That same day, our street did not receive trash collection because the garbage truck could not make its way through the row of double parked cars. I myself go to church and I love doing so, but I would never disrespect a community or its residents like that.

Anonymous said...

I think a critical notion that is not being addressed enough is that the bulk of these illegally-parked vehicles seem to be coming from out-of-"state."

If the DC Government is going to subsidize their illegal parking by not ticketing, then I assume reciprocity will be granted in our neighboring jurisdictions.

Right?

Dave said...

Good point Anonymous. As a DC resident that pays taxes, it irks me to no end that most of the cars illegally parking around the churches have tags from Maryland. I pay taxes for DC roads but they don't, yet they have superior parking privileges to me. How ridiculous is that?

And why can't the churches provide for parking lots for their parishoners. In the referenced article that is the subject of this posting, a church on the Hill rented space from a commercial lot. Since these churches have chosen not to buy land to provide parking for their members, they should at the very least rent spaces in the neighborhood to ease the burden on us tax-paying residents.

jch said...

Speaking of the press, and their love for sound bites that slant the story the way that they want it slanted - I urge any resident talking to the press to keep the following points in mind:

1) The main concern is that of the SAFETY of the residents and the congregates. Parking in front of hydrants, parking in cross walks, double parking/parking in medians are all safety hazards that the 'courtesy' is exposing to everyone.

2) This is not just a 'Sunday' issue. The law is not being enforced throughout the week as well by law enforcement/parking enforcement.

3) 'Double parking is not that a big of a deal'. Well guess what - when you don't enforce one law, then individuals get braver and think that they can ignore other laws. The lack of enforcement has caused visitors to the area not only to double park - but creep through red lights, park in front of hydrants, and park in the middle of the road.

4)'But the churches have been doing it for decades'/'We were here first'. Decades ago, the area did not see the same number of residents and did not have as much traffic. Because of the illegal, arbitrarily enforced law - the churches in the area have had no incentive to find legal parking for its congregations even when metro and buses are easily accessible. With the influx of people in the area now, the chances of a tragic accident occuring are greater - it's not a question of if but when.

5) Ultimately, the failure of enforcement for these laws reside with the elected officials. Council members and mayoral candidates - be warned - people with Maryland and Virginia tags do not vote in DC elections and failure to represent your own taxpayers' interests says a lot when you tow the 'taxation without representation' line. Furthermore, it will be our tax money going to liability lawyers when someone eventually gets hit and the family sues the city because officers arbitrarily enforced the law.

6) Please use the convenience/blocked in part as minimal as possible unless it is in a emergency context. You can state all the safety concerns in the world, but I have seen one too many stories where this is the only thing that is taken out of a quote by a resident.

Tomorrow night is a great night to express to Chief Ramsey the safety issues that this 'courtesy' is exposing us to.

JCH

Sgt. Emerman said...

With the personal emails and the several blogs that I keep up with, I am unsure if I have posted what actions we are currently doing here, so I will post it again. First and foremost, we are trying to work WITH the community in solving this issue, which is not as easy as some on the outside seem to think. The churches, just like the residents are members of the community, and without any type of alternatvie plan in place, who knows what the parking situation would look like with a total enforcement policy. As such, I agreed with the ANC to establish a parking ad hoc committee to develop alternatives to the parking issue. It is my understanding that they will report their findings at the ANC February meeting. Until that time, we are not ticketing the double parked vehicles on Sundays, unless we receive a call from a specific resident who is on the scene with a vehicle that is blocked in. We are however, issuing tickets to vehicles parked on Sunday in crosswalks, fire hydrants, intersections, etc. In fact, my officers wrote numerous tickets this Sunday, as they were assigned to the area. As for the rest of the week, when there are less vehicles in the area, and the demand for parking is reduced, I have advised my officers to ticket ALL illegally parked vehicles, including those double parked, which they have been doing. Unfortunately, I do not have the resources to post an officer in the block 24 hours a day, so the officers rely on your calls to 311, and to free time patrolling between answering citizen calls for service to be in the area to issue the tickets. Although some feel that by having an officer in the block on Sundays and not writing tickets appears to give the citizens the notion that they can park illegally, what I am trying to do is provide a presence to the illegal parkers so that they see officers writing the limited tickets now, in hopes that they understand what is coming next, that being double parking tickets on Sundays. If we start ticketing everything on Sundays, where are all of the cars going to park? We need to see what alternatives have been developed by the committee, at which time enforcement will step up. We understand and appreciate that double parking is illegal for everyone, but it is a practice in this area that has gone on for a long time, and unfortunately accepted as the norm, and it will take some time to rectify. I ask again that you please be patient, and I thank you for your continued input and support.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your thoughts, Sgt. Emerman, as always.

Point well taken that MPD does not have the resources to provide parking ticket patrol in this area 24/7. However, if the DC Government were serious about fixing this issue, it would realize that it could employ dedicated parking enforcement staff on Sundays based solely on the revenue generated from the tickets they will write!!

Please understand (and I think I am speaking for all) that our beef is not with MPD - you are simply working within the confines the District gives you - rather it is with the District Government. Why are my (SIGNIFICANT) tax dollars going to subsidize the illegal, sometimes dangerous and unfair parking practices of out-of-state residents? It just doesn't make sense.

Aaron said...

I agree with JCH that the press is ignoring the safety issues for the more "sexy" and controversial convenience argument; but, if you can't get to work, school or other appointments that is still a valid concern and complaint. (However, JCH makes great other points and I agree we should try to get the press to focus on them, too.)

I understand that the police are trying to "walk the line" and I think that the weekday problem has gotten somewhat better. I am still frustrated by the "where will all the cars go" and "this has been going on for a long time" arguments, though. The cars will go to the same places that non-parishoners go during the week for work -- i.e., to legal spaces that may require (heaven forbid) walking a few blocks. And, who cares if this has been going on for a long time, it is illegal, rude, and just plain wrong.

I hope all you bloggers go to the Wednesday night meeting and demand that Chief Ramsey start addressing this issue. I plan to be there and to make my views heard.

Sgt. Emerman said...

I can understand your concern with the "where will all the cars go" argument, but you have to see it from my perspective. You want the cars out of the area, and parking legally, and it does not matter to you where they go. I, however, have to concern myself with that. I am not complaining at all, just advising you of the things that I have to think about. When I said that it is not an easy solution, I should have speficied that it is not an easy solution for ME. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Ironically, there is an article in the Washington Post today about the Mayor's plan to increase the fees for residential parking permits to reduce congestion in neighborhoods. (Go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/16/AR2006011601057.html?referrer=emailarticle.) The idea is that by increasing fees and limiting the time that non-residents can park in neighborhoods, parking will be less congested. This is a perfect example of Eric's comment regarding treating residents as second class citizens. As long as double-parking violations are not punished, the mayor's plan will do nothing but tax DC residents even more for services we are not getting. Now, residents will have to pay more for these useless permits while church parishoners, most of whom neither pay DC taxes or permit fees, can continue using our streets as their own personal parking lot. How convoluted is that?

Anonymous said...

This has become less of a Sgt. Emerman issue and more of a voting day issue. The DC City Council should remember that, as another commenter stated, those with "TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION" tags are the ones who put them in office.

Eric said...

I agree with Aaron. We should all go to the Public Safety Forum at the Washington Plaza Hotel at 7 p.m. on January 18 and express our concerns by demanding that our city leaders enforce the law without exception. This is the best way to make our voices heard, especially if there is press there.

Anonymous said...

A point should be made that the MPD is not burdened by enforcing parking rules 24/7.

Also, I agree that the city does treat us like second class citizens. The churches act not like good neighbors but instead like bullies. I am feed up with this and will vote to out any politican that isn't taking this seriously (not that my vote matters much).

Its a joke to say the churches are a part of the community. Most of the church goers don't live here so where is the community voice? Its coming from us and it says to get a handle on the parking issue.

Sgt. Emerman I don't understand your agrument. How can you say you have to consider the parking problem and the displacement issue of enforcing double parking laws? There are parking problems 24/7, not just on Sundays. If that was really the issue then the city would never enforce double parking laws.

The whole issue is a city wide double standard and ripe for a lawsuit. I can think of two legal grounds to take a case to court. I only hope this matter gets taken care of before it comes to that but I doubt it.

Sgt. Emerman said...

The churches are in fact a part of the community. Regardless of how many parishioners reside in the District, the churches themselves do valuable services for the community, including outreach to the homeless, youth based activities, etc. Just because you have not attended one of these functions, does not preclude them from being part of the community. As for my comments regarding double parking, the issue that I have on Monday through Saturday is that there are ample open spaces available for citizens to park their vehicles legally on the street. That is not the case on Sundays when the number of visitors and residents is at its greatest. My officers are ticketing vehicles for double parking on Monday through Saturday, among other violations. Think of it in a law enforcement way....if the people illegally parking think that they have a right to do it on Vermont Ave, and they think that there is nothing wrong with it, what happens when I send out officers to ticket, and no alternative is in place? The drivers will go and double park their cars on 14th street or 9th street, or somewhere else. It may not be your problem on Vermont Avenue anymore, but it is still my problem because i will have a new group of citizens that are concerned, and rightfully so. We need to come up with an alternative, and make sure that the illegal parkers know where it is so that we don't just move the problem around. I hope that clears it up a bit.

Lewis said...

The parishoners, if they cannot find legal parking, should avail themselves of public transportation options. Or at the VERY least, carpools. This is not Los Angeles or Miami or even New York where the urban sprawl requires a private auto to get from one end of town to another.

The churches and their congregants ARE part of our community, as much as the condo owners and businesses are. They serve a vital and important role in the neighbhorhood.

Where I think many of us are getting frustrated is that the majority of these cars seem to befrom outside the district, and double-parking on our streets, that our tax dollars pay to keep in good repair, is simply unfair. The Mayor's proposal regarding residential parking permits underscores the lack of consideration the District has for its taxpayers and voters in this particular regard.

It gets back to an issue of fairness - why should I get ticketed heftily when my "one hour maximum" meter runs out while I'm at the DMV? There's "no place else to park" there either - yet I doubt that argument would have much weight in this case. So I'll say to the congregants what the DMV folks told me: take the Metro next time.

Mitch said...

I agree with Lewis and Eric.

Mitch said...

Questions for Sgt. Emerman. Just to clear up your double parking policy. Are you waiting until after the Feb. ANC meeting to start ordering your officers to issue tickets on Sundays or will it start sooner?

Also, what is the procedure you want us to follow for double parking? Do we call the non-emerg. number and wait by our car for an officer to show up? What if an officer doesn't show up? Who tows the car or does the officer go with you into the church to get the car moved? If the officer does go into the church will he still issue a ticket?

Alan said...

I respectfully disagree with the statement that "on Monday through Saturday ... there are ample open spaces available for citizens to park their vehicles legally on the street. That is not the case on Sundays when the number of visitors and residents is at its greatest." In the first place, though there may be more residents in town on Sunday, there are substantially less workers and therefore actually many more spaces available in the city on the weekend. (Hence, the lack of zoning restrictions and parking meters.) I drove around on Sunday and I can tell you for sure that there were plenty of legal parking spaces available on 14th, on U Street, on Rhode Island, and so forth. This argument that there are not ample spaces is absurd. The issue is laziness and convenience ... parishoners don't want to walk 3 or 4 blocks to find the legal spaces. But, that is what you have to do in all other aspects of life and church attendance should be no different. So, please, let's at least be truthful and acknowledge that Sunday is a much lighter traffic day with many fewer persons in the city and therefore more parking available. The bottom line is that the issue is not one of space availability but rather of an erroneous sense of entitlement on the part of the parishoners and the residents are justifiably outraged.

Anonymous said...

I am certain that the congregations have enough buying power to negotiate significant discounts with WMATA for Metro cards. Illegal parking in front of the houses of worship should therefore be limited to those who are physically unable to avail themselves of public transportation and/or walk from a legal spot a few blocks away.

I should mention that this issue does not inconvenience my family as it does others in the sense that we are not blocked in by the illegal double-parkers (we are stuck paying $180 a month for a garage because there is "no place else to park" - 'cept we do it legally). However, it's pretty scary coming up on a row of cars in the traffic lane that you do not expect to be stopped, and it is more scary to fear that it is only a matter of time before tragedy strikes when a fire hydrant is blocked (ticketing is not going to to unblock the hydrant, only towing will....)

Sgt. Emerman said...

In response to Alan, my personal observations of the area are that there are many more cars in the areas that we are discussing on Sundays, due to the fact that residents are home and the visitors are in town. You say that there are substantially less workers in town, and while that may be true, the area which we are discussing is primarily residential, so the absence of workers has little importance. Sunday may be lighter for traffic, as you say, but in my impartial opinion, it is certainly a heavier day for parking. And for the record, I do resent the comment, "Let's be truthful". We are simply stating opinions here. As a police officer, I can also say that your statement "The issue is laziness and convenience ... parishoners don't want to walk 3 or 4 blocks to find the legal spaces. But, that is what you have to do in all other aspects of life and church attendance should be no different" is also flawed. I encourage you to look at 1400 P Street, or 1000-1500 U Street any night during and after rush hour. People park wherever they want so that they can go to the dry cleaner or into Whole Foods. This is not a purely church issue. Regular citizens are doing the same thing.

Sgt. Emerman said...

In reference to Mitch, Yes we are waiting for the ANC meeting to address the Sunday double parking aspect. Unless something changes between now and then, that is the plan. Until then, if you find yourself blocked in at anytime, call 311 and have an officer respond. They will issue a ticket, and if possible, attempt to locate the owner of the vehicle. Keep in mind that DPW does not tow on Sunday so we will attempt to get a police department tow truck to assist. However, on Sundays, we usually have 1 tow truck working and it is primarily responsible for evidence and impounding of vehicles, not relocations, which is what this situation warrants. If the officer does not arrive, call 311 again and check on the status of the assignment. Get the calltaker ID number. If the officer arrives and there are problems, get the officer name and email me at Stuart.Emerman@DC.GOV and I will try to get to the bottom of it. The officers have been instructed to issue the tickets, and I am confident that they will.

Anonymous said...

Sgt. Emerman said...
"This is not a purely church issue. Regular citizens are doing the same thing."

ABSOLUTELY TRUE! And enforcement should happen in those instances as well. Owning property in an area does not give one any more entitlement to park illegally than it does our visitors.

Sgt. Emerman said...

Enforcement does happen in those circumstances, however that is on a much smaller and scattered scale. This issue is huge, and in a specific area, that is why it is taking time to solve.

Alan said...

Sgt. Emerman. I am sorry if you were offended by my comments, and I appreciate the work done by the police, but I stand by my opinions.

While more people may be home and therefore less parking available on Sundays on Vermont Avenue, a residential district, it is equally true that many businesses are closed at 9 am on Sunday morning on 14th and U Streets (business districts only 2 blocks away) and therefore more parking is available in those areas that could be used by these parishoners.

And, yes, illegal parking is a huge problem in front of Whole Foods and the cleaners at the 1400 block of P Street and is wrong and illegal. The difference is that traffic enforcement is on that block virtually every hour of the day and enforcement is strong and without exception such that "regular citizens" are penalized, unlike churchgoers. My point is that we are entitled to the same protection here in our community as the businesses are given on 14th and P.

Sgt. Emerman said...

I understand your points. While we are referring to U street, although in the area, I am specifically concerned with the immediately around vermont ave. as for the parking enforcement on P street, I only wish that DPW parking enforcement would be on duty on Sundays. That would free up my officers from parking enforcement.

Anonymous said...

For the record, I think that the police are trying to do their best on a very difficult issue. I just get frustrated by the implication that the way I choose to spend my Sundays is somehow less important because I am not going to church, which is the effective result of allowing church members to block in my car week after week after week. It is not the fault of the police that the congregations are doing this, but unfortunately for them they are caught in the middle.