Greater Greater Washington

At summit, people ask for free parking for themselves

Comments at a DDOT "parking summit" last night gave a glimpse into the diverse range of attitudes about parking in the District: almost everyone wants more readily available, free parking for people like them.


Photo by Mr. T in DC on Flickr.

Some who spoke were residents who wanted more available and free parking on their local streets. Some people with disabilities wanted to have more available spaces but not have to pay for parking at meters, as they don't today. (Right around the same time, the DC Council narrowly defeated the new red top meter program, which means people with disabled placards will continue to park for free.)

A large fraction of the attendees worship at DC churches, and argued that especially because of their service to the community, they deserve more privileges to park for free on DC streets. Many represented churches in the Logan Circle area, which recently reserved one side of the street for residential permit holders 7 days a week.

While demanding unlimited free parking isn't really fair, the Logan Circle churches have some reasonable gripes. A few months ago, Councilmember Jack Evans suggested to the Logan Circle ANC that they try this parking change; the ANC approved the plan and DDOT put it into place. The churches, evidently, weren't part of that discussion.

This is a simple matter of allocating a scarce resource. Before, the policy on Sundays was to allocate the spaces to whomever showed up first or circled around long enough to find a space. Now, it privileges residents at the expense of churchgoers or shoppers or others. Maybe that's a better policy, maybe not, but we all need to acknowledge that it's a tradeoff; when one group gets more privileges, another loses them.

Pricing has to be part of the equation

One participant, Emily from Adams Morgan, pointed out that the current political system favors residents, though not for any sound policy reason. She was one of the handful of people who pushed for a market-based pricing approach. There's still a way to go to sell this to the church folks, however; many were grumbling and shaking her heads when Emily, or anyone else, suggested that a solution to church parking is to stop having it all be free.

But that's ultimately what we have to do. Richard Layman pointed the finger for parking problems at the way most District parking policies assume parking should be free. Thus, the argument always revolves around whether to give one group free parking or another, rather than to use tools like pricing to manage demand.

He took aim at the sentiment that because people pay for RPP stickers, they have already paid their share. "You think you're paying for parking, but you're not paying squat," he said. Angelo Rao, DDOT's parking manager, also suggested RPP rates are too low, noting that the current sticker costs only 9.6¢ per day.

Several people, including outgoing southern Woodley Park ANC commissioner Anne-Marie Bairstow, new northern Woodley Park ANC commissioner Gwendolyn Bole, and Friendship Heights ANC commissioner Tom Quinn, all asked for smaller RPP zones.

Bairstow said the current visitor pass program, which automatically mailed out passes to every household, is flawed; she has neighbors who have driveways and garages and still got the passes, so they just gave them to friends from outside Ward 3 or even outside the District, who then use Woodley Park as a park-and-ride.

What's the answer for churches?

Smaller zones and higher RPP prices are policies that should clearly be part of any solution; the only obstacle is politics. The church issue is trickier. I've been pushing for a system where residents buy annual passes, as they do today but at a higher rate, for their immediate areas, and anyone else can buy daily passes, maybe at varying rates based on public policy.

Instead of the current visitor placards, give each resident a "booklet" of free day passes to use for contractors, nannies, dinner parties, or whatever else, and let them purchase more booklets if needed. For a church that really contributes meaningfully to its community (many do, some don't), we could give the church even more booklets, enough to provide for a large proportion of their parking need, but perhaps not all.

There needs to be some incentive for the churches and neighborhoods to work together in a partnership. Churchgoers can reduce their parking load to some extent, such as by organizing carpools. In some neighborhoods, there are empty office garages; if enough people were willing to pay to park in them, they could open on Sundays. But the church community has to be willing to figure out how to accommodate some of their demand in other ways.

The booklets could form an incentive to do this, if DDOT could manage the total numbers of booklets and passes it gives out so that the total demand doesn't vastly exceed supply. Or, economists might say, just give the church money and let them buy however many booklets they need, though that could be legally tricky.

The summit did bring this fundamental tension into clear relief. Lots of people want the spaces. There aren't enough. Someone has to divvy them up in some way. A program of letting anyone park for free doesn't work, and the complex patchwork of restrictions and limits that DDOT has been moving toward doesn't really work either.

David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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Why don't churchgoers simply take mass transit to services, or attend chhurches closer to where they currently live?

by MrTinDC on Dec 5, 2012 12:07 pm • linkreport

Thanks for your coverage of this event.

Among the various points I didn't understand was why people with garages and driveways should not be eligible for visitor passes. First, having a guest park in a driveway may block the resident in, and in a garage may require access to that garage that one doesn't want to provide. And driveways may be in public space, and not have more room.

Second, people with driveways are in many cases already alleviating the parking shortage (yes, the curb cut is a space)--why should they not get a pass when someone who may use two or more street spaces does?

by ah on Dec 5, 2012 12:09 pm • linkreport

Re: people with garages - David's suggestions address this. If you have a garage, you don't need a RPP (which absolutely should be more expensive than it is now), but if you want one, you shoul dpay the same as everyone else. And you're "entitled" to purchase visitor street passes at the same rate as everyone else. Access to parking should be driven by pricing, not some subjective determination of who is more entitled to it. Residents will already receive preference because the RPP, even at 10 times the rate it is now, will still be less expensive than visitor passes. High-demand areas around a metro shodld still have some RPP-only slots available, as well, or the commuter-problem will continue.

by dcd on Dec 5, 2012 12:26 pm • linkreport

RPP-only parking (well, any parking, actually) only works if there is consistent enforcement. My neighborhood has a fair amount of RPP-only parking, but it's so rarely enforced that the people who park there know the odds of getting a ticket are almost zero. And if you do get a ticket, you probably parked 10 times without getting one, so it's worth the risk.

And Sunday, there's no such things are enforcement. Double parking and parking in front of hydrants and in "NO PARKING" zones for everyone!

I agree that the current slapdah dirt-cheap parking system isn't working and a viable alternative needs to be developed. But alongside that, we need to figure out how to enforce those parking restrictions.

by Birdie on Dec 5, 2012 12:37 pm • linkreport

"A large fraction of the attendees worship at DC churches, and argued that especially because of their service to the community, they deserve more privileges to park for free on DC streets."

Yes, driving in from Maryland and parking illegally, but not getting penalized for it because of religious privilege, is a great service to the community. Thank you.

by MM on Dec 5, 2012 12:37 pm • linkreport

Mr T, that's a bit of a naive suggestion: folks are often deeply connected to their churches and have been for a long time. To suggest they should just change churches is to completely blow off the deep connections and relationships that keep them there. Of course, some may very well choose to make a change for parking/access reasons. And tons of churches in the district either aren't near transit stops here, or folks are coming from places not near reasonable transit service — not to mention the ridiculous metro waits on many weekends. Why wait 30 minutes for a train when you can be there in 30? I get that.

We chose a church in our neighborhood deliberately because we want to be part of a church that serves the neighborhood we live in so we can be more involved and hopefully get to know and serve and love our neighbors, but plenty of folks will make different decisions. And we started the church in a place near lots of transit in a dense, walkable neighborhood to help facilitate that.

I'm certainly sympathetic to their needs, though I certainly don't think they deserve free unlimited parking or primacy in neighborhoods on Sundays — far from it.

But let's be more realistic about solutions than just "hey, this guy here thinks you should just switch churches."

by Steve D (@whiteknuckled) on Dec 5, 2012 12:38 pm • linkreport

Transit is a problem for many folks on Sunday, because of the infrequent service.

by SJE on Dec 5, 2012 12:43 pm • linkreport

Steve, Just about everywhere in DC has transit access. It's called taking a bus. Thousands of us take them every day, why should Sunday be any different? If someone can walk a 1/4 mile or so from a bus stop then I'm sure someone from the church could be called on to support fellow members.

by Alan B on Dec 5, 2012 12:46 pm • linkreport

Uh, folks. Just because you are churchy doesn't get you special privileges. To my secular mind your "special connection" is no better than someone who's book club w/friends is somewhere they don't live, and deserves no more indulgence than that.

by John on Dec 5, 2012 12:46 pm • linkreport

Mr T, that's a bit of a naive suggestion: folks are often deeply connected to their churches and have been for a long time. To suggest they should just change churches is to completely blow off the deep connections and relationships that keep them there. Of course, some may very well choose to make a change for parking/access reasons. And tons of churches in the district either aren't near transit stops here, or folks are coming from places not near reasonable transit service — not to mention the ridiculous metro waits on many weekends. Why wait 30 minutes for a train when you can be there in 30? I get that.

While I agree that people form deep connections and relationships in church, if those connections are so meaningful you'd think the parishioners would accept the minimal effort it takes to find legal parking.

I'm fortunate that although I live on the same block as a church, the streets are such that double-parking and blocking other cars in doesn't occur. It's impossible to find a spot from 10-3 on a Sunday, but that'd be the case whether there is a church nearby or not. I have no beef with that. There's a big difference between taking up all available parking and blatant disregard of basic parking rules, as well as parking that doesn't allow other memebrs of the community access to their vehicles.

by dcd on Dec 5, 2012 12:48 pm • linkreport

"Transit is a problem for many folks on Sunday, because of the infrequent service. "

God forbid we should ask people to carpool then?

by Alan B on Dec 5, 2012 12:48 pm • linkreport

Unless they start giving out free parking for synagogues on Saturdays and for mosques on Fridays (etc.), I think it would be really great if we could stop pretending that the Sunday free-parking is anything other simply the giving away of a valuable public good solely to the members of one religion, which I strongly encourage someone to sue about as a violation of equal protection.

That we have a tradition of such discrimination is not a justification.

by Bill on Dec 5, 2012 12:49 pm • linkreport

@Steve D

It's not about switching to a different church, but moving the church entirely. Using an example I'm most familiar with, many downtown D.C. synagogues relocated closer to the suburbs to match the changing needs of their community. It seems silly if to suggest that the location of a physical building is more important than retaining close ties to the community that you both live in and serve.

by Adam L on Dec 5, 2012 12:54 pm • linkreport

Originally the Logan pilot ERPP program was to be 6 days excluding Sundays. But many of us feel the often double-parking by suburban church goers in DC is a nuisance. The Logan pilot is only west to 15th Street.

The Ward 1 ERPP was originally 5 days and the Ward 5 ERPP was always 7 days. But even though each block can have it's own desired hours, it's better if there's one standard policy everyone knows.

Innovative pricing for RPP stickers would be fine. It's not the cost, it's the preference for residents over non-residents that's the issue.

by Tom Coumaris on Dec 5, 2012 12:56 pm • linkreport

Solutions consisting of people simply suggesting "hey, you should take transit or switch churches" really aren't productive or helpful in fostering a dialogue that's going to find something that works — fully recognizing as David does that the status quo also isn't the answer. As a result of changes in some neighborhoods to parking demand and availability and changes in policy, some churchgoers will certainly have to find other options including carpooling, transit, etc. And they'll make their own decisions about trade-offs as they choose, just like all of us do with where we live and go and how we get there. (Many churches near us actually operate shuttles, mostly to get older folks to church each Sunday. That's a great idea and there are lots of ways churches can work to lower the demand without pushing people away! Let's start there.)

But putting a wedge between these churchfolk and newer residents of neighborhoods is unnecessary and unproductive. The spirit of David's post is far more conducive to solutions than others just lobbing in naive truth bombs like "Hey you un-special churchgoers, why don't you just take transit or switch churches so we can solve this problem without actually having to talk about it anymore."

I don't like neighborhood streets jammed with Maryland plates anymore than the next guy on Sundays. But let's listen and involve people in understanding what's going on and try to find solutions that don't artificially separate people into camps warring against one another before we even begin. David's post is a good start.

by Steve D (@whiteknuckled) on Dec 5, 2012 1:02 pm • linkreport

My suggestions on RPP and visitor passes:

1. Have a progressive fee structure for RPP to create some disincentive for households to have multiple vehicles (and park them on the street). Initial RPP passes should be reasonably affordable.

2. The concept of purchased parking pass books is worth exploring. However, at a minimum, the current free visitor pass program should be changed. First, it should not be free -- why should't it cost as much as RPP? If there is at least some ordering and cost involved, it will reduce misuse. Further, have the holders address printed on the pass. While I'm not sure about instituting a radius parking requirement, by printing the holders address on the pass it should cut down on scamming (those who give it to a co-worker to part by Metro or a private school student to park by a school).

3. Relate waivers on offstreet parking minimums to no RPP. This is Arlington's approach and should be DC's. If a development is going to get relief from off-street parking requirements because it is "transit oriented," then let's make sure it truly is transit oriented and make it ineligible for RPP. Otherwise, private costs are just shoved onto the public space, as more and more vehicles compete for for already oversubscribed street parking.

by Bob on Dec 5, 2012 1:19 pm • linkreport

How do other cities handling church parking? Free or not?

by HogWash on Dec 5, 2012 1:21 pm • linkreport

The spirit of David's post is far more conducive to solutions than others just lobbing in naive truth bombs like "Hey you un-special churchgoers, why don't you just take transit or switch churches so we can solve this problem without actually having to talk about it anymore."

Oh, and welcome to GGW.

by HogWash on Dec 5, 2012 1:22 pm • linkreport

@Steve D

The issue is that if this was any other group of people, this wouldn't even be a conversation. The line would be "obey the parking ordinances or face the consequences." But for some insane reason, churchgoers get treated as a privileged group and there has to be dialog set up with them before enforcing the law. Not only is this ridiculous, as most of these people are neither voters nor taxpayers, it's pretty much unconstitutional. When the DC government lets churchgoers slide, that's essentially the government favoring the religious over other groups who don't get the same favorable treatment...and as someone mentioned earlier, I think there may be grounds for a lawsuit in there somewhere.

by MM on Dec 5, 2012 1:27 pm • linkreport

As a churchgoer in the Thomas Circle/Logan Circle area, I say to many of these churches: Grow up, act like a decent neighbor, and be realistic about what you contribute to the community. The level of entitlement is frightening.

I have no patience with the illegal Sunday morning parking entitlement, partly because it drives me crazy in my own neighborhood when I can't get my car out because some church goer from Maryland has parked me in. Or when fire hydrants are block and visibility cut off by illegal parking.

My church has an arrangement with a local hotel for parking. If there isn't something like that right nearby, find a place and run a shuttle if the concern is elderly people or small children. DC has lots of empty parking lots on Sunday mornings.

I also think that churches need to acknowledge that the simple act of having worship services does not in and of itself mean you are contributing the community any more than a private club would. Churches that help address community needs of nonmembers without any intention of trying to make them members are making meaningful contributions to their neighborhoods. Otherwise they are just private clubs.

I think churchgoers that live and worship in DC need to call fellow churchgoers who are bad actors with unreasonable expectations. It's harder to claim that it is anti-religious bias when your fellow churchgoers call you out on your behavior.

by Kate W. on Dec 5, 2012 1:38 pm • linkreport

It would be legally justifiable and fair to allot houses of worship and other nonprofit organizations (and maybe for-profit organizations) a number of RPP's in proportion to the land that they occupy, or their front footage along the curb. That's less than many might want, but it might take care of those who need the spaces the most.

Another possibility would be to allow back-in angle parking on the non-residential side of the street at certain times, on certain streets. Perhaps by permit only to organizations who will provide an attendent to usher people into the spaces efficiently. That might also have a traffic calming effect. Maintaining high volumes of throughout on some streets is less essential on weekends.

by JimT on Dec 5, 2012 1:39 pm • linkreport

@ah the point was not that people with driveways shouldn't get VPP, it was that DC shouldn't just mail them to everyone, including people who don't need them (i.e. their driveway can accommodate their guests or they don't have guests or whatever). I agree that there should be a charge for VPP, at the very least, people should have to request a pass and agree to the rules for the pass.

by Urbanette on Dec 5, 2012 1:41 pm • linkreport

As Bob mentioned above, the most immediate need right now is for action to insure that (at least new) residential buildings in commercial zones be kept out of RPP.

Otherwise garage-free new buildings will be blocked by residents.

by Tom Coumaris on Dec 5, 2012 1:41 pm • linkreport

@Hogwash -- no other major city I've been in has the kind of church parking craziness DC has. Churches either have parking lots or people find legal street parking or face the consequences. I think we have more churches mixed in with purely residential neighborhoods where off street parking is at such a premium.

by Kate W. on Dec 5, 2012 1:44 pm • linkreport

I can't see a way in which special exceptions for church parking are even remotely constitutional. The DC government is giving a class of people the privilege of flouting parking regulations solely because those people attend well-established churches.

Talking about equality, by the way, why does GGW use a CAPTCHA that is entirely inaccessible for blind or low-vision users?

by David R. on Dec 5, 2012 1:57 pm • linkreport

@David R. currently I would say it's not so much a special exception, but a general lack of parking enforcement on Sunday mornings, which happens to primarily benefit churches. You could probably park illegally almost anywhere on Sunday morning in DC with a low chance of getting a ticker.

by Kate W. on Dec 5, 2012 2:05 pm • linkreport

OK I'll say it, the church parking issue isn't about doing good works, or religion, its about race. And in a city where race still rules local politics (see the absurd notion that felons should be able bring cases against employers who don't hire them, or Courtland Milloy's ridiculous column on the rock throwing in SE), every measure to make a small number of churchgoers actually abide by the parking rules that everyone else must follow will always be considered "racist."

Welcome to DC. Race city.

by dcdriver on Dec 5, 2012 2:07 pm • linkreport

@Kate W.: ...people find legal street parking...

...which is completely unregulated on Sundays.

by goldfish on Dec 5, 2012 2:12 pm • linkreport

Is parking a problem in DC? Funny, I've lived here 18 years and I've never really noticed a parking problem....

by rg on Dec 5, 2012 2:15 pm • linkreport

I stand by my initial statement. There are many bus lines along the main church routes such as 16th Street NW, 14th Street in Logan Circle, and just about anywhere you need to go. That's in addition to the Metro stations all over the District. Carpooling and church buses are another option. Ideally, you could walk to your church. I'm an atheist, but if I wasn't, I'd simply pick the most liberal congregation within walking distance of me, probably All Souls, and start going there. What would Jesus do? Drive a private automobile, contributing to global warming etc and park illegally, blocking the crosswalk/bike lane/emergency vehicles/local residents? I don't think so. Jesus would be on the bus.

by MrTinDC on Dec 5, 2012 2:18 pm • linkreport

OK I'll say it, the church parking issue isn't about doing good works, or religion, its about race.

Hunh? I know there's a punchline a 'coming real soon.

partly because it drives me crazy in my own neighborhood when I can't get my car out because some church goer from Maryland

This seems to get at the crux of the concerns I've seen expressed here and other places....people from Maryland.

by HogWash on Dec 5, 2012 2:21 pm • linkreport

It's not about switching to a different church, but moving the church entirely.

The church I currently attend intentionally sold its downtown building to move to another location in DC where they were able to purchase land that included a parking lot so ease the situation for their many out-of-state members. They changed with the times and the needs of their congregations. No reason the churches in downtown DC can't do that, too.

by JustMe on Dec 5, 2012 2:21 pm • linkreport

. I'm an atheist, but if I wasn't, I'd simply pick the most liberal congregation within walking distance of me, probably All Souls, and start going there.

Likely explains why you're an atheist. Pick churches like picking a pair of shoes.

by HogWash on Dec 5, 2012 2:23 pm • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris:
As Bob mentioned above, the most immediate need right now is for action to insure that (at least new) residential buildings in commercial zones be kept out of RPP.
Otherwise garage-free new buildings will be blocked by residents.
It doesn't seem like this is the only possible solution here. Wouldn't an alternative strategy be not allowing residents to block garage-free new buildings for such selfish reasons?

by Gray's The Classics on Dec 5, 2012 2:24 pm • linkreport

What would Jesus do?

He had an entourage of twelve, plus others, and they had animals. Nowadays he would travel by motorcade or in one of those enormous coaches.

by goldfish on Dec 5, 2012 2:31 pm • linkreport

He had an entourage of twelve, plus others, and they had animals. Nowadays he would travel by motorcade or in one of those enormous coaches.

See? Carpooling

by MLD on Dec 5, 2012 2:34 pm • linkreport

The hilarious thing here is that "God" isn't even real!

by Nick on Dec 5, 2012 2:40 pm • linkreport

Both extremes are wrong. These people can't be expected to simply take mass transit, but they also can't block the roads. In a couple of cases, the issues presented by double parking go far beyond inconvenience are raise safety concerns (i.e. on 14th st). Wherever possible, the church should be responsible for securing parking in a garage or surface lot. My church in the heart of downtown provides valet service at the door and parks the cars in a nearby garage.

Also, I'm surprised--but not surprised--at the less than subtle acrimony many of you have for the churchgoing folks. Lay off. You are only proving the detractors of this blog right by thumbing your nose at the problems of people whose priorities aren't your priorities. Get over it and find an answer.

by MJ on Dec 5, 2012 2:45 pm • linkreport

And for what it's worth, Jesus and the disciples did in fact carpool. In a honda, no less. The Bible says "they left in one accord..."

by MJ on Dec 5, 2012 2:48 pm • linkreport

HogWash -- fwiw, when I was in PGH maybe in 2009, I recall seeing a city bus church shuttle on a Sunday in the Hill District.

The big thing is to require transportation demand management plans + this http://hamptonroads.com.nyud.net/2008/06/parking-lot-ministries-tend-flock-shepherd

I'd rather accommodate churches somewhat than encourage them to buy nearby properties and tear down houses to create minimally used parking lots.

But yes, the basic problem derives from the fact that the churches were created at a time when people lived close to where they went to school, church, and work and didn't drive there, they walked. So churches don't have parking lots.

fwiw/2, I lost on a historic preservation issue in 2003?/2004 in the H St. neighborhood, where a nearby church which let two frame buildings moulder for years--because they wanted to create a parking lot--was able to demolish buildings and create the parking lot they intended. Now, fortunately, housing values are too high for churches to be able to afford to buy properties nearby and do this.

fwiw/3, as I mention from time to time, DC's historic preservation law was created as a response to the demolition of houses for parking on the part of the Capitol Hill Baptist Church.

by Richard Layman on Dec 5, 2012 2:53 pm • linkreport

"Also, I'm surprised--but not surprised--at the less than subtle acrimony many of you have for the churchgoing folks. Lay off. You are only proving the detractors of this blog right by thumbing your nose at the problems of people whose priorities aren't your priorities. Get over it and find an answer."

lets be clear - there are people in DC who are secular and do not attend religious services. There are folks who belong to religions other than christianity and make do. There are christians who make a point of belonging to a near church where they live.

This is largely an issue, AFAICT of people who used to live in the District, who moved to the suburbs (or to other parts of the city), who still belong to a church in the city, who have a sense of entitlement about the city and their old neighborhood, and perhaps some resentment toward those who have moved in.

While paying for parking, etc may be a more realistic solution in some cases, suggesting alternatives to driving in to church does not seem that unreasonable to me.

by ReligionNerd on Dec 5, 2012 2:53 pm • linkreport

A couple of additional factors to consider:

As there is less traffic on Sundays, reallocating road space to parking imposes less total costs (creates less congestion).

Many DC Churches are in older buildings that were probably (most likely) built before parking requirements and so, these land uses don't have the capacity to easily adapt to new circumstances.

Even if churches could add their own private parking supply, it seems unlikely the planning office would support that, given the opportunity cost of using land for parking.

If adding church-owned parking is unaffordable and contradicts the city's own planning goals, is it fair for the city now demand churchgoers give up access to free city parking but not make any demands on other consumers of that free parking supply?

Are the churchgoers really the ones eating up free on-street parking? No. Residents use the city's streets as car storage, and churchgoers use a much smaller proportion of on street parking.

What is special about Churches? Churches have very particular parking needs: they require large amounts of parking that peaks for a very short period of time that happens to coincide with periods of very low traffic volume and congestion. These unique parking needs differentiate churches' needs from the needs of other entities. Churches therefore are different at least somewhat from other organizations (including other religious organizations) who's parking needs occur at times of high parking demand or periods of high traffic congestion. This does not entitle churches to better treatment than others, but it does differentiate them from Mosques that worship Fridays and might differentiate them from Synagogues. So, making special Sunday parking rules makes sense for as long as prevailing congestion patterns create special circumstances on Sundays and so long as the city has some reasonable basis for differentiating which organizations should benefit from these special rules.

Thirdly, churches can argue that their existence in part depends on accessibility and parking, but some other organizations may not be able to make such claims or some other similar appeals to existential threats may not be amenable to remedy given the timing of prevailing traffic patterns and trends. If Churches cannot maintain parish membership, this may pose an existential problem. Some other organizations are less affected by this issue. Employers face far less risk of losing employees, who depend on salaries for livelihoods and may not be able to find an alternative source of employment. Employers are often in retrofitted or new buildings that were constructed with parking included on site. Stores and restaurants don't often get the benefit of parking reform that provides free parking for their customers, and some of these kinds of establishments may have folded as a result of the lack of free parking (at least in theory). However, prevailing parking theory says businesses benefit from charging for parking which increases parking turnover (as people stay less time when parking is not free) while imposing costs businesses in the form of lost sales. Therefore, parking planners have argued (and many business districts agreed) that pricing parking helps small businesses. It is not clear that stores have "a special kind of parking need" that is similar to churches in which a huge and relatively inflexible peak parking demand overlaps with a period of time when road space for traffic is in lower demand. That is, Churches are different from other land uses in more than one way, most churches could not be expected to be able to finance acquisition of private parking and most churches pre-date parking regulations.

So, churches definitely need to collaborate with the city in increasing parking supply and paying for that increase, but it seems unfair to give all of the free parking to residents and make the churches pay the full price for scarcity.

I think this debate should be examined in detail.

1) One approach: Change the alignment of on street parking spaces to increase the number of available spaces by taking space away from travel lanes Sunday mornings. For example, allow parking in the center lanes of a two way street with a median, in addition to allowing parking at the curb. This adds two lanes or parallel parking. Given the unique timing of peak church parking demand, the city can justifiably open up more street space to parking in ways that would not disrupt traffic. The trouble comes in the fact that realigning parking during a short period each weak introduces frictions as some people may need to re-park their cars according to the designated Sunday morning parking pattern in order to allow for this increase in total available parking spaces. This scenario is best illustrated by imagining a situation in which on street parking is re-orienting from parallel parking at the curb (typical on-street parking in DC) to back-in parking spaces. Converting to back-in spaces may double the stock of spaces, but it requires residents move their cars in advance of this special parking period, or else risk being blocked in, ticketed, or towed, or whatever the remedy might be for violating "special Sunday parking rules". Thus, increasing space creates "friction".

In this scenario, it is not that there is no reason to treat churches differently in regards to parking. The issue is that some other organizations with similar parking needs might also be able to make a reasoned argument for accommodations, not just churches. The second, and equally critical issue, is that allowing churches special parking alignment/privileges for free imposes hardship on residents by requiring residents move their cars to accommodate added parking spaces.

2) Option two: Change permitting requirements to require all cars parked in non-metered on-street parking spaces have a resident parking permit or visitor parking permit on Sundays. (The current RPP restriction is Monday-Friday). This takes away the free parking on Sunday and, if done city-wide, imposes limits on all kinds of visitors who might currently be parking on Sundays for more than two hours in RPP areas but who don't have a permit. This would affect District residents and non-residents alike. This option would not really resolve resident-churchgoer parking conflicts since non-permitted vehicles are allowed to park for up to 2 hours in RPP areas in the District during periods when the restrictions are in effect. This two hour exemption is plenty of time for churchgoers. Most churchgoers without permits would still be able to attend church, and the Sunday parking problems would not be changed.

3) Get rid of the two-hour exemption to RPP requirements on Sundays or Sunday mornings and apply RPP restrictions during that same period. This seems be discriminatory to churchgoers as it it is intended to take away the two exemption for them but not for others who use the exemption during other periods. It would have the harshest effect on Churchgoers but impose no hardship on residents who currently park for free or on visitors outside this window. Further, this restriction would limit parking access for non-churchgoers during church periods, potentially harming businesses during this time. This favors neighborhood residents and imposes a stricter parking regime on Churchgoers than any other category of visitors. For example, hypothetically speaking, if bar patrons were clogging up parking supply Friday and Saturday nights would not be subject to such harsh restrictions... Therefore this appears to unfairly target churchgoers and not others, but it is not clear that the conflict with churchgoers is the only such conflict among residents and visitors. It is merely the most publicized and largest such conflict. However, this third approach the only approach that could directly tackle the problem of competition between residents and churchgoers and it resolves the conflict by eliminating free parking for one party without imposing any limits on the other party. I think the question is, setting aside the friction associated with implementation of option one, above, are residents ready to argue that this third option is really fair to churchgoers?

I don't see how residents can argue for option three. Why is it fair for the city to give residents free parking but insist that churchgoers should not get any free parking? Given that parking revenues could support city services or reduce other categories of city taxes (income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, etc) someone is paying the price for giving free parking to residents in the higher taxes or lower city services. So, residents can't simply claim parking is their right, free and clear, and churches shouldn't have access to it... Frankly, every city has real needs and I don't see any good excuse for giving parking away to one group for free. If parking is valuable and scarce, demanding the city give you access to it for free and demanding the city withhold any of that resource from others seems self-serving rather than well reasoned. For example, why not charge for all on-street parking and use the funds for a combination of neighborhood improvements and anti-poverty programs, or lowering income tax rates, or creating more affordable housing? Why do we choose to throw the lavish gift of free parking at residents who want to park for free? What about downtown residents who live in areas where there is no free parking?

When people are being double-parked by cars with MD/VA plates on Sunday mornings, then it's clear that there is some friction that should be resolved. But that has to do with failing to master the mechanics of re-allocation of existing street space to accommodate more cars on Sunday mornings. That frustration certainly cannot be a good reason why residents deserve something for free.

by CrazyHorse on Dec 5, 2012 2:59 pm • linkreport

"One participant, Emily from Adams Morgan, pointed out that the current political system favors residents, though not for any sound policy reason."

D.C. residents pay income and property taxes to the city. Why isn't this a sound policy reason?

by Amack on Dec 5, 2012 3:05 pm • linkreport

"Why is it fair for the city to give residents free parking but insist that churchgoers should not get any free parking?"

One, parking isn't free. In renewing my registration, I paid the RPP fee.

I was not at this meeting and can't directly attest to what was said, but it seems the insistence is that churchgoers either park legally or find another means of transportation.

by Amack on Dec 5, 2012 3:12 pm • linkreport

No mention of the funerals?

I love the big funerals in which the funeral director hires a bunch of guys in ill-fitting suits to take up nearly every parking spot within several blocks of the church (extra points when they bring their own supply of cones). Then there is the hearse and the limo, and the flower car and a bunch of other cars all double parked on top of that. Then once the funeral ends, according to today's Post, we are supposed to stop driving so the "procession" can roll on by without interruption. You see, mourners are simply not capable of using a GPS or map to find where the cemetery is.

For the funeral homes, its all just money in the bank. They are selling the experience (which includes free parking and Presidential-motorcade-style travel), preying on those with more emotions than money at their weakest hour. So why shouldn't the city subsidize this? Its your last chance to get something for nothing from "the man" before you spend eternity buried in the ground.

According to DDOT, you are supposed to pay $55 for a funeral parking permit, but come on, we all know the city would never go after the churches or funeral homes on this.

by dcdriver on Dec 5, 2012 3:14 pm • linkreport

@CrazyHorse - You seem to be ignoring that in general many residents cars are already parked on Sunday morning. I think it's pretty unreasonable to expect their cars to suddenly vanish on Sunday mornings for a couple of hours.

The governing bodies of responsible churches arrange for adequate parking, which is not limited to building it. I say this as someone who has done this. There are a number of churches that have essentially refused any and all options that do not all them to park wherever they want.

I will also say that if churches can't attract any members in the area and can't manage their parking, then they should consider moving to where they can meet the needs of their members. I see no reason for the District to prop them up.

by Kate W. on Dec 5, 2012 3:14 pm • linkreport

Urbanette:the point was not that people with driveways shouldn't get VPP, it was that DC shouldn't just mail them to everyone, including people who don't need them.

I still don't see why one should assume that a person with a driveway/garage is less likely to need a VPP or is less deserving of one. I have no quarrel with modifying the program to limit it or to charge for it, at least beyond a certain point.

by ah on Dec 5, 2012 3:20 pm • linkreport

"Why is it fair for the city to give residents free parking but insist that churchgoers should not get any free parking?"

Residents pay the taxes used to provide roads, repairs, police to monitors law breaking on roads, etc... They also pay RPP fees for same (though they are too low). Churches are tax exempt, and out of town churchgoers don't pay. What they may pay in for sales taxes, etc... are no more nor any different than suburban bar-goers on weekends.

I think that covers the fairness concern you raise fully. Thanks.

by John on Dec 5, 2012 3:25 pm • linkreport

who have a sense of entitlement about the city and their old neighborhood,

This seems like a heavy-handed analysis of the issue. Suggesting that people feel "entitled" to continue to attend the church of their choice? And then to suggest that these people feel somehow resentment based on nothing but s feeling?
Come on people.

by HogWash on Dec 5, 2012 3:28 pm • linkreport

Then once the funeral ends, according to today's Post, we are supposed to stop driving so the "procession" can roll on by without interruption.

Don't see the issue here. As a southerner, I've long-marveled at how people up this way don't stop for funerals and barely emergency vehicles.

by HogWash on Dec 5, 2012 3:30 pm • linkreport

Hogwash: Try the following sentence regarding someone moving away from their favorite watering hole:

"This seems like a heavy-handed analysis of the issue. Suggesting that people feel "entitled" to continue to attend the bar of their choice?"

That's how the secular see it...no different. It's kind of like David's "windshield view"...call it "believer view". The religious see their religion as transcendent of mundane earthly things. The non-religious just see another social group, no better nor worse, nor more deserving of special privileges.

by John on Dec 5, 2012 3:33 pm • linkreport

My girlfriend lives about a block from Eastern Market and has an RPP. If she runs an errand on a Saturday or Sunday, she generally can't find a place to park by her house. She doesn't then decide to double-park, or park in front of a fire hydrant, or do any of the selfish, entitled things that many churchgoers do every week. She circles to find a spot, parks a few blocks away, and walks home. It's really not hard. Why should churchgoers get to park anywhere they want without consequences?

I'm all for figuring out some way to resolve the issue, whether with visitor permits or priced parking or anything else people come up with. But we need enforcement, and to demonstrate that parking laws aren't just mild suggestions to be disregarded by people who feel godly enough. In the meantime, I suggest churchgoers (outside of walking distance from their church) try some of the following: Carpooling, taking the bus, taking the metro, riding a bike, parking further away and walking, encouraging their church to set up a shuttle from a parking lot, etc. etc. etc. But stop breaking the law, please.

by CapHill on Dec 5, 2012 3:35 pm • linkreport

It's not that chruchgoers should be banned from free parking, it's that we want to see them follow the rules. No double parking. No blocking driveways and fire hydrants. No parking in "NO PARKING" zones and creating unsafe driving conditions. I have zero probalems with churchgoers parking in the 2 hour limit street parking spots.

It's not just limited to churchgoers. I'd give almost anything to have the hordes of suburban cars that flout the parking rules for baseball games tickets and towed on a nightly basis. Heaven forbid they pay to park in one of the many lots around the stadium.

by Birdie on Dec 5, 2012 3:40 pm • linkreport

Hogwash

People are free to attend the church of their choice 2000 miles away from home if they so choose. If they ask to land their plane next to the church, that would seem to me to be feeling entitled.

You can choose to worship in your old neighborhood in the city. But that necessarily creates transportation issues that worshipping near where you live (or even at a more distant place in the less crowded suburbs) would not. Expecting the city to accommodate that choice seems entitled, yes.

by ReligionNerd on Dec 5, 2012 3:44 pm • linkreport

@Hogwash -- I would say its not so much entitlement to attend the church of their choice. They are entitled to do that. They aren't entitled to treat other people badly to do it.

It's not just what we "think" people feel. I've heard people say it in meetings. I've seen it said in neighborhood listservs. I've had it said to me when I ask them to move their car so I can get mine out.

I don't know how to describe an argument that comes down to "this church has been here forever, and we'll park where ever we want" besides entitled.

by Kate W. on Dec 5, 2012 3:56 pm • linkreport

Hogwash, Just say what you mean. You think churchgoers should have priority over residents when it comes to park, correct?

by Alan B on Dec 5, 2012 3:59 pm • linkreport

I'd be happy if we could just get some enforcement of the most egregious violations commited by churchgoers, to wit, blocking fire hydrants and double-parking. When I was growing up on the Hill, the church in the 1100 block of South Carolina would double park on both sides of the street, leaving one fairly narrow lane to get through. I doubt a fire engine or an ambulance could have gotten through. It's that kind of behavior that's truly unforgivable and that the city needs to crack down on, to the point of towing or perhaps Vilnius-style car crushings.

by Distantantennas on Dec 5, 2012 4:05 pm • linkreport

The non-religious just see another social group, no better nor worse, nor more deserving of special privileges.

Since I am religious and live in a country where religion is important in many of our lives, I really could care less about whether non-religious folk compare my worship to your local "watering hole" because I think the comparison is ridiculous on so many levels.

Expecting the city to accommodate that choice seems entitled, yes.

"Entitled" is a purposeful and inflammatory description. The city accomodates visitors to our city all the time. I wouldn't describe them as feeling entitled. But that's just me.

by HogWash on Dec 5, 2012 4:08 pm • linkreport

""Entitled" is a purposeful and inflammatory description. The city accomodates visitors to our city all the time. I wouldn't describe them as feeling entitled. But that's just me.'

The city sometimes accommodates them, and sometimes does not, and when they do not its not as much of a hot button as this, AFAICT.

by ReligionNerd on Dec 5, 2012 4:11 pm • linkreport

I am religious and live in a country where as far as I can tell the vast majority worship in houses of worship that are in the same county that they live in. So to me the idea of insisting churchgoers get no special treatment in PARKING does not seem an infringement of religious liberty.

by ReligionNerd on Dec 5, 2012 4:13 pm • linkreport

HogWash, no other group besides police officers gets special parking treatment the same way Marylanders coming to DC for church do.

Give me ONE good reason why this should be so.

by MJB on Dec 5, 2012 4:14 pm • linkreport

@Hogwash -- Are you saying that churchgoers should have access to parking the same as other visitors or are you saying that the double parking, blocking fire hydrants, etc is ok because they are churchgoers?

I don't think anyone disagrees with the first point. And I don't know what other word accurately describes the second other than "entitled."

by Kate W. on Dec 5, 2012 4:15 pm • linkreport

@Hogwash:

It's really not unreasonable to expect churchgoers to obey parking laws, any more than it is unreasonable to expect shoppers, diners and tourists to do the same. I have nothing against your chosen Sunday morning activities, but you can't really expect special privileges.

by Potowmack on Dec 5, 2012 4:20 pm • linkreport

To those who think that churchgoers should have special parking rights, I'm sure you would have no problem with a mosque opening up in your neighborhood and people double parking 5 times a day to attend prayer. Right?

by Phil on Dec 5, 2012 4:32 pm • linkreport

Providing special parking privileges to churches or churchgoers seems pretty blatantly unconstitutional. I'm not a lawyer but I'd think the only way this could pass the Lemon test is if the same privileges were offered to all non-profit community organizations (religious or secular) and, even then, any attempt to determine which such organizations "contribute meaningfully to its community" would likely result in years of costly litigation.

by Jacob on Dec 5, 2012 4:45 pm • linkreport

So to me the idea of insisting churchgoers get no special treatment in PARKING does not seem an infringement of religious liberty.

Me neither. And where exactly did you get that people were making a religious liberty argument?

No other group besides police officers gets special parking treatment the same way Marylanders coming to DC for church do. Give me ONE good reason why this should be so

Don't have one. But since you took the time to mention (again I might add) "Marylanders," I assume you wouldn't have an issue if those tags read "DC."?

by HogWash on Dec 5, 2012 4:48 pm • linkreport

Residents deserve some consideration. After all, they live there, they shouldn't have to drive around for hours just to find a place to park near their homes after work.

Churchgoers - guess what? You're not special. Suck it up and obey the same laws everyone else is expected to observe.

Disabled people - handicapped spots should exist and should be inviolate. I routinely call to tattle on work trucks, etc. I see parked in handicapped spots. But I see no reason why your disability should exempt you from paying for parking like anyone else.

by Drew on Dec 5, 2012 4:49 pm • linkreport

Hogwash

So what argument are you making?

by ReligionNerd on Dec 5, 2012 4:51 pm • linkreport

That's a lot of words there, Crazy Horse, but it all boils down to the same thing: churchgoers prioritize themselves over other users of the city's transportation resources (more on how it impacts ALL of them in a minute). I happen to live in a neighborhood with some large churches with mostly suburban congregations. Yes, the dreaded Marylanders.

Some of them aren't too bad. One has a decent-sized parking lot and runs some shuttles, and, therefore, the problems are minimal. But, they still exist. One, in particular, is awful. They take up a lane on each side of the street for parking and another lane on one side for pick ups/drop offs, reducing traffic to only one available lane on a major thoroughfare in one direction. Not okay. Not only does that jam up traffic, but that jammed traffic causes effects on people who aren't out "Sunday driving." Emergency vehicles cannot get through the area expediently under these conditions. Buses get caught up in traffic and are late, or, worse, cannot access the bus stop because church patrons have parked in it. See? Still a big deal, and hurting everyone who is not a member of that church who must use the area. While some church folk like to talk a big game about businesses being closed on Sundays, they really don't want that. I know, my dad was one of those people. He would have KILLED someone if he couldn't get brunch after church, but spent the whole brunch bashing people who worked on Sundays as heathens and whining about how things were closed on Sundays when he was a kid. You want food, gas, groceries, or anything else on Sunday? People have to get to work, and it's unfair for you to both take all of the parking they might need AND make MOST forms of transit slow, dangerous, and unreliable so you can go tell the big sky daddy how good you've been.

Did you see one word I used up there? Dangerous? Yeah, that's a big problem, too. Even the "good" church in our neighborhood has enough parishioners who can't be bothered to walk a block or two that the bus stops and crosswalks are parked full of cars. So, if you're traveling by bus, you need to step on/off the bus AWAY from the curb, not the safest thing to do (honestly, I find this less safe because of the size of the step than the traffic risks...that's a BIG drop if the driver doesn't kneel the bus, which he's not going to do if he's already behind schedule because of illegal parking and the resulting congestion). If you need to cross the street, you actually have to step part way out into parallel traffic to get around the parked car before using the crosswalk, and to get back on the sidewalk on the other side. Or go around the back, which puts you in an area where cars moving perpendicular to you are still going to be moving in their approach to the intersection/crosswalk. And if the car one back from the intersection is an SUV (as so common with our dear Marylanders), there's a decent chance on-coming traffic cannot see you. Now, imagine approaching that crosswalk in a wheel chair. Bikers, obviously, are at risk from illegally narrowed, congested streets, with lots of cars pulling in and out of street parking. Finally, these churchgoers have decided that they are immune to both the laws of man AND the laws of physics should they need to cross the street to reach their church (they don't even look, and cross wherever they park), but that anyone needing to cross the street while they are need to drive on their approach or departure would make lovely road kill. I actually had an old lady INTENTIONALLY gun it for me in a crosswalk a few weeks ago on a Sunday morning (you do not make eye contact with someone who is 3 steps into the street in brightly colored clothing and broad daylight, and then gun your engine and swerve towards them, finally looking them in the eye and giving them a sneer as you pass where they've just jumped back onto the sidewalk, if you don't mean it), but more of them are just rushed, inattentive, and careless. They run red lights and stop signs, don't look before pulling in/out, and don't care about things that inconvenience them, like crosswalks where they're legally required to stop but, well, have the advantage over anyone using the walk.

And it might be one thing to take up the parking, or make the streets narrower, but what about the person you just parked in? Is that supposed to be okay? How do you think the same churchgoer would react if THEY were parked in by a neighborhood resident or someone doing anything but attending their own church (or, possibly a parishioner at the same church, depends on the people involved for that one)? I'd be willing to bet there'd be some mighty fast and expensive parking enforcement if the tables were turned.

If I want to go to brunch on Sunday, and park illegally to do so, I will be ticketed and/or towed. If you do so to go to church, it's ignored. It's clear that this is the case, and you're intentionally trying to present this VERY REAL double-standard as "no biggie." It's unsafe, inconveniences others for nothing more than pure selfishness (which somehow seems against the whole point of their Sunday morning activity), and it needs to be stopped. Tighter street parking in an area near a church for a few hours on Sunday is, indeed, "no biggie." Blatant law-breaking and putting others at a serious disadvantage, if not outright physical danger, is INDEED a big deal.

By the way, those two churches I spoke specifically about? Each about a 5 minute walk to the Metro, with shuttles from the Metro, and a bus stop right in front of each of their front doors and additional bus stops for other routes within mere blocks. These people have choices, they don't care, and I'm sick of the one bearing the burden of their "choice." If that much of their congregation lives in the suburbs to the point that their only viable option to get to a church in the city is driving, they need to move the church to the suburbs. I have never ONCE seen any of these churches picking up litter, or hosting a charity event, or doing ANYTHING for my community. All take and no give...WWJD indeed.

by Ms. D on Dec 5, 2012 4:51 pm • linkreport

Also, I'm surprised--but not surprised--at the less than subtle acrimony many of you have for the churchgoing folks. Lay off. You are only proving the detractors of this blog right by thumbing your nose at the problems of people whose priorities aren't your priorities. Get over it and find an answer.

Access to parking close to your destination is an issue for every single person in the city who has a car. The acrimony isn't over the problem, it's over the self-help solutions that when disregard parking regulatiosn that everyone else seems capable of understanding and abiding by. Though really, the parishioners aren't (fully) to blame here. It's the city's complicity that really burns people (OK, me) up.

by dcd on Dec 5, 2012 4:52 pm • linkreport

@Hogwash

We would have the same issue. The issue is one group of people (churchgoers) who feel entitled to double park, park in fire lanes etc. The city has decided (for political purposes, as they don't want congregations mad at them) to not ticket these people. This is simply one group of people being allowed to do something (illegally park) that no other group is allowed to do. If you are from DC, MD, WV, or Mars, you are not allowed to illegally park. All should be ticketed, this mess would be cleaned up in a month if the city just decided to ticket as harshly on Sunday morning as they do on Monday morning.

by Kyle-W on Dec 5, 2012 4:56 pm • linkreport

""Entitled" is a purposeful and inflammatory description. The city accomodates visitors to our city all the time. I wouldn't describe them as feeling entitled. But that's just me.'

It is. But it also is perfectly appropriate here. Question: I'm driving to church, and there's no legal parking within a distance that I feel like walking. So I go ahead and park illegally. Blocking an alley, blocking a hydrant, blocking a bus loading zone, or, worst of all, blocking others in and preventing them from using their cars.

How is that not entitled? I realize the word has bad connotations, but they're well-deserved here.

by dcd on Dec 5, 2012 4:56 pm • linkreport

I have zero probalems with churchgoers parking in the 2 hour limit street parking spots.

And that's not even a limit (at least in my neighborhood). The 2 hour limit isn't in effect on Sundays - anyone can park for as long as they like.

This discussion has gotten far afield - with a few head-scratchign exceptions, people agree that churchgoers should park legally. (I won't hold my breath waiting for enforcement.) The more interesting discussion is what changes to parking rules would be appropriate? I fully support making RPP stickers much more expensive - $365/year? (Every 4 years, you get a day for free.) In addition, selling visitor stickets for $2/day. And (cause I just can't leave the church thing alone) not suspending the rules on Sundays.

by dcd on Dec 5, 2012 5:02 pm • linkreport

All should be ticketed, this mess would be cleaned up in a month if the city just decided to ticket as harshly on Sunday morning as they do on Monday morning.

I'm pretty sure about that...certain actually. But this "mess" wasn't something the churches created and apparently has been an issue since even before I moved here.

I realize the word has bad connotations, but they're well-deserved here.

Well ok. Guess it makes sense to characterize people you disagree w/as entitled scofflaws.

by HogWash on Dec 5, 2012 5:15 pm • linkreport

I actually have no problem if we have a "gentlemen's agreement" not to enforce a lot of parking laws on Sunday morning, as long as no one's car is blocked in. In parts of Georgetown and Cathedral Heights, near churches, this arrangement is actually official, legalizing parking on Sunday morning where it is illegal otherwise.

by JustMe on Dec 5, 2012 5:22 pm • linkreport

@HogWash

THEY'RE LITERALLY SCOFFLAWS, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?

by MJB on Dec 5, 2012 5:23 pm • linkreport

"Also, I'm surprised--but not surprised--at the less than subtle acrimony many of you have for the churchgoing folks. Lay off. ... Get over it and find an answer."

I agree with this, except I am not surprised. I think a lot of posters are missing the point, especially when they talk about church-goers from Maryland and their 'sense of entitlement' - a politely rude phrase. Please understand that it isn't necessarily the individuals who feel the entitlement, it is their church, the nighborhood institution. The church members feel, with some justification, that the church itself is a stalwart member of the DC community, which stood fast when the city was at its lowest ebb, and which helped create the renaissance we are enjoying today. It is that history, that contribution - in the years when no one else cared about Logan or Mid-City or Shaw or other neighborhoods - that 'entitles' these institutions to expect a certain respect and a little leeway on the one day of the week they are most busy. It is not a matter of worshipping just anyplace; it is very much a matter of worshipping in this specific place, no matter where you live.
I have some sympathy for this attitude, though clearly adjustments have to be made, and accommodations on both sides. However, there is no chance of amicable resolution to these issues without understanding that it is not just a matter of some Marylanders visiting the city on Sunday. Problems can be eased and solutions can be reached but only if both sides accord the other the standing and the respect of a legitimate voice. For a very start, leaving the churches out of the discussion of the expanded parking restrictions was just senseless - didn't it occur to any of the ANC members that the churches might need to be involved? Even non-churchgoers have to see that they are a major institution in the neighborhoods, and of course parking has been a sensitive subject for years now. For politicians, even ANC politicians, that seems like a very careless approach. Back to the drawing board!
(FWIW, I am a resident of the area, but not a member of any of the churches in this part of the city - I go to someone else's neighborhood to worship.)

by Anon202 on Dec 5, 2012 5:24 pm • linkreport

"It is that history, that contribution - in the years when no one else cared about Logan or Mid-City or Shaw or other neighborhoods - that 'entitles' these institutions to expect a certain respect and a little leeway on the one day of the week they are most busy."

If those institutions had not existed would those neighborhoods not have revived when demand and metro stations appeared?

Is DC not Detroit because it had active stalwart churches? Did Detroit not have such churches? Or is it because DC has a superior employment engine?

by ReligionNerd on Dec 5, 2012 5:34 pm • linkreport

What kind of service do churchgoers give to the community? Is the church open for at least 40 hours a week serving as a soup kitchen, shelter, tutoring facility, or job training site? If not, then I see no service.

by CMZ on Dec 5, 2012 5:43 pm • linkreport

I realize the word has bad connotations, but they're well-deserved here.

Well ok. Guess it makes sense to characterize people you disagree w/as entitled scofflaws.

Hogwash - OK, I'll try one last time. If not "entitled" or "scofflaw" - how would YOU describe this behavior, and the people who engage in it?

by dcd on Dec 5, 2012 6:02 pm • linkreport

@CMZ: What kind of service do churchgoers give to the community?

Tons. By providing the building, churchgoers provide a tremendous resource and support for all sorts of charitable activities. Churches rent out really cheap space for community events such as school information night, AA meetings, birthday parties, precinct voting, daycare, and probably lots more that I am ignorant of. "The old meeting house" is still very apt.

by goldfish on Dec 5, 2012 6:16 pm • linkreport

When you look at the comments overall, the dominant issue is enforcement of rules. I guess I took it for granted that enforcement was needed, but the question remains, what comes after getting enforcement up to par? What next?

Kate W. replied my earlier post: "I will also say that if churches can't attract any members in the area and can't manage their parking, then they should consider moving to where they can meet the needs of their members. I see no reason for the District to prop them up."

@Kate W. Who knows if the churches are attracting members in "the area" or not? What is "the area", anyway? Who get's to define that? Residents who park near churches? I think, based on my experience, no church relies on people within "the area" if that means walking distance. My mother used to drive me to the church where she went as a child, passing two or three on the way. I think it's not hard for churchgoers or former churchgoers to understand why that is. I do think you make an unrealistic assumption about the nature of church when you ask the church to limit itself to people nearby. Cars and highways have enabled individual church communities to span the region, and if these churches moved, no matter where they move to, almost none of these churches could survive by appealing only to people in "their neighborhood". I honestly believe you are actually asking a number of them to permanently shut their doors or permanently change their community when you ask them to move. I just don't think it's fair to ask churches to pay that price just so residents can have easier access to free parking. I wholeheartedly endorse enforcement.

You make a good point that churches should find ways to take care of their parking needs. I agree. But I do think the argument that this is a problem that the churches have to fix on their own falsely rests on a presumption that city residents automatically get free use of city parking spaces, and I do take issue with that too. There has to be a balance between these users, both of which are using something without paying for it.

As to giving churches special treatment, I was just trying to say that there are some ways that the particular pattern of parking generation created by churches does differentiate them from the broad category of parking generators. This doesn't mean that churches are more deserving of help than other entities, as you pointed out. Rather, I am saying that these differences may simply mean that making accommodations for churches isn't necessarily unconstitutional on the grounds of favoring a religious activity or favoring a particular category of religious entity, depending on how those accommodations are done. I say so because the parking generation from churches is different than parking generation from other land uses.

And, while I am not a churchgoer, I do not like the way that some people have acted as churchgoers should be treated as parking pariahs - nobody is paying for parking on RPP streets on Sundays - not even residents with RPP permits. Let me explain that, since some people have objected to the notion that parking on RPP streets is free. First, there are no RPP regulations of parking on Sundays, so if you are paying for the right to park on RPP blocks you are not paying for the right to park there on Sundays. Secondly, even if RPP applied to Sunday, the two hour exemption would be in effect, making RPP moot for most churchgoers. So, I think this issue can be mostly resolved by actual enforcement of parking rules, but I disagree with the idea that the city should rewrite RPP rules to single out church goers and exclude them from an otherwise liberal approach to giving away parking.
Thirdly, the DC website used to make it clear that RPP permits do not constitute paying for parking. Perhaps it still does. I have not checked recently. I recall reading the DC website on RPP rules many years ago when I first moved to the District. The website said that RPP does not apply to all blocks. Only residents in RPP blocks pay the annual RPP fee.
The website explained that if enough residents on a block joined a petition asking for RPP on their block, than the RPP program might be implemented on their block by posting signs. In order to pay for the cost of implementing the RPP program in a particular block, the city charged each resident on that block a mandatory $15.00 RPP fee which was bundled into their car registration fees automatically. That resident's registration decal made reference to their RPP status and zone. The actual parking is free. You paid for participation in the RPP program of your block, but you still park for free.

There is a huge difference between paying for the implementation of the program in your area and paying for the right to park. Further, even if your miserly $15.00 annual payment (I assume they never increased the cost of this, but I don't pay attention anymore) was "paying for parking" on city streets, that permit doesn't apply to Sundays. So, I don't agree with the idea that RPP permit holders have paid for the right to park on their block. Not at all. That's free parking!!

Paying for the right to park is different. For one thing, paying for the right to park (buying parking time) should be paying for a right that is exclusive in consumption (e.g. a first-come, first-served meter space is exclusive in consumption as only one car consumes it at a time). The city can issue more RPP permits than can be supported by the existing stock of available on-street parking spaces but you can't ask for your money back if there is no place to park in your zone. Therefore, you didn't pay for the right to park there and you aren't guaranteed to be able to find a space. You're on your own to find parking, but non-residents are excluded from long-term parking in your area, and you pay for the right to exclude them.

If that's not enough proof, recall that residents of blocks that don't have the RPP protection get a different registration decal indicating they are not RPP participants in their zone. They still have a zone number. Cars with non-RPP decals cannot park in RPP areas within their own zone. So, they aren't paying to support the program and can't receive it's benefits. But they are still able to park in non-RPP areas for free.

On the flip side, residents living downtown, where all parking is metered, don't get any free parking. The city has decided to charge for parking in business districts and regulate (but not charge for) parking in residential neighborhoods where non-residents have an incentive to park long-term. RPP fees means paying for regulation, not paying for parking.

I don't know why the city couldn't pay for implementing the RPP program with parking fines (nor do I think the city ever tried to explain that part on the website). I just go by what I recall was on the city's website.

However, regardless, some neighborhoods have extremely valuable parking and letting people use that parking for free (or for $15.00 for those who have their own interpretation) is still a big give-away. I am not asking the city to make the jump to market rates for all city owned parking because that would be hard for many lower income residents to afford. (Too bad, though, since you could partially offset the regressive impact of market pricing by reducing the rates on lower marginal brackets, boosting the individual exemption, or creating a parking tax credit, and use the remaining revenue gains for socially constructive purposes. That's where we should be.)

So, when non-paying users disagree on use of the resource, I think that we still have to treat free parking as that - something people are getting for free and which they are not necessarily entitled to.

Secondly, I do think residents could be asked to pay a little more for their RPP permits. All residents are required by law to pay into the city's tax base according to the terms of the tax code. Even a portion of tenants' rents goes to property taxes. Yet the parking spaces are allocated principally to those with cars. This seems to make the tax code less progressive in my view. It is frustrating to me that the benefit of on street parking is so valuable and the RPP costs are so cheap in areas where private parking costs are so high. The downside of charging more is that it is hard to change the rules without imposing harm on middle and low income households. If someone is paying upwards of 20k for a private space near their condo in a trendy neighborhood, the on-street spaces in that area are certainly worth a hefty sum. So, I see a social equity problem in the current system, but resolving that social equity problem over the short term imposes costs for many who aren't rich, which makes me reluctant... Further, free on-street parking may add to high housing prices. If residents had to pay market prices for parking, perhaps that would depress demand, with rents following. Secondly, perhaps paying out of pocket for parking would reduce income available for bidding on pricy rental units, and landlords might be forced to accept lower rents as incoming tentants adjust their budgets to reflect the reality of paying a market price to park their car on the street. Frankly, tenants should be chomping at the bit for the advantage market pricing gives them in the rental market ... but who am I to tell people how to make public policy?

Re. adjusting parking alignment Sunday mornings: I recall the friction caused by street cleaning requirements in Astoria, Queens. You couldn't find a space Wednesday nights because Thursday mornings were street sweeping for on-street spaces on one side of all of the streets in the neighborhood. Half the parking disappeared for several hours on two different mornings. Starting Thursday afternoon you tried parking in the Thursday morning street cleaning spaces just so that you didn't have to move your car again while they cleaned the other side of the street. (I don't recall what day the other side of the street was cleaned). You would move your car several days in advance of street cleaning to avoid having to drive around for as much as 30-40 minutes waiting for someone to vacate a parking space in the left side on Wednesday night before street sweeping was to occur. Even if you were on your way someplace else (and catching a train), if you saw a good parking space open, you'd often try to move your car to that space while the opportunity was there. So, changing the parking pattern can itself create new temporary parking shortages that are a huge problem - hence I use the term "friction" to describe these problems. But I just use this notion of changing parking configuration as an example of three alternative approaches to David's and to illustrate the type of accommodation that I think is possible. None of those alternatives are very attractive, in my opinion (except for changes in parking configuration that would be relatively frictionless and would lead to increases in public parking supply in areas where low Sunday morning traffic volumes could accommodate such changes).

I still think the important points are: 1) some adjustment does not seem automatically unconstitutional to me on religion-state grounds. Not remotely. Would it be special interest politics? That depends.
2) It seems unfair for residents to insist they get something for free but ask churches to give up access to any free parking at all. There needs to be a compromise.
3) I honestly believe the existential issue for churches is quite real, given the type of connection churchgoers have to their church.

While I like the fact that David's "voucher" concept limits free church parking and gives churchgoers an incentive to find alternatives by forcing someone (the churchgoer or the church, but either way the churchgoers) to pay if exceeding their "allocation" (kind of like a parking "cap and tax" proposal), I think this may reinforce the false perception that residents are "paying for" or are "entitled to" on street parking.

If you believe in parking reform and market pricing, this issue is about avoiding policy that seems to reinforce the false belief that parking should be free to residents and that residents pay for parking through RPP. A voucher program recommended by David, one that continues to exempt residents from paying for parking, reinforces the false perception of a parking entitlement, which is a step in the wrong direction. Just slowly ramp up enforcement to full enforcement and simultaneously try to help churches find alternative areas for churchgoers to park.

by CrazyHorse on Dec 5, 2012 6:29 pm • linkreport

Emily made many brilliant points. The basic one is that the RPP system is broken and not very nuanced. And that the system focuses on immediate residents of a particular area, at the exclusion of all other stakeholders, including residents of other parts of the city, but also other organizations located in a city.

2. She wasn't talking about houses of worships, but again, my point about churches is to require transportation management plans. I do think that "special" treatment of churches for parking would probably meet a constitutional test, looking at the institution in terms of an approved zoning use that happens to be religious. RLUIPA would probably apply. (I also argued in a long piece on a variety of parking issues not covered in the planning think tank process, that group home staff could probably make an ADA claim that they should be eligible for permits.)

And the process is problematic because ANCs are not set up to be fair, only represent residents, may make decisions without adequate notice requirements and outreach (like what at the meeting was described as what happened in Logan Circle).

3. My point isn't that the system just privileges residents. It privileges car owners. At the exclusion of all other classes, including resident _car users_, like me, a member of Car2Go and Zipcar. As a member of those services, I pay far more for access to space on the street than does an RPP permit holder. I resent it.

4. And no, at $35/year, the price of an RPP is so low as to be nonexistant, as Angelo Rao said 9.6 cents/day. Or as I said, squat.

5. I have looked at the pricing scheme for such permits across the country. ($365 would be one of the highest in North America.)

Toronto has three prices: $14/$34/$48 per month plus taxes, depending on various criteria.

SF charges $102/year.

Savannah charges nothing for the first permit, and $175 for each additional permit.

Vancouver has three different prices, depending on the demand in the particular neighborhood, but they are still low, $38, $56, $76 + tax.

Shoup argues that the typical space is worth $1800/year.

SF also allows businesses located within an RPP zone to purchase a permit, and 3 additional permits to be used by delivery and other visitors.

by Richard Layman on Dec 5, 2012 6:45 pm • linkreport

@MrTinDC

"Why don't churchgoers simply take mass transit to services,"
---
Because some of them might be elderly or disabled or live in areas where "mass transit" is either unavailable or inconvenient. "Mass transit" doesn't reach all of the "masses".

Also, the weekend Metro track work is certainly a factor that affects the availability and reliability of "mass transit". And last I checked, Sunday services are held on weekends.
---

@MrTinDC

"or attend chhurches closer to where they currently live?"

Maybe, just perhaps, because they want to keep attending the church they've attended all their lives. Where they went to Sunday school, got confirmed, got married, christened their kids, had their parenrts' or spouses funeral, etc.

It's not all about you.

Hope that clears it up.

by ceefer66 on Dec 5, 2012 7:29 pm • linkreport

@Gray's The Classics- I realize consensus is out of favor with young people but understand what happens when you piss off residents so extremely as by dumping hundreds of new cars on their blocks: everything freezes almost forever as residents file a notice of appeal with the DC Court of Appeals to appeal DC granting the building permit. Nothing happens because the financing falls through. In the very rare instances where the builder is self-financing, they can risk a loss if they want. Giant does but that new project on Wisconsin has taken, what, since the millenium to get started? How many deposits on condos on the Babe's site have been plunked down?

As regulatory boards forfeit their impartial mediating function and become mere rubberstamps we're seeing many more court appeals as people only have that as leverage. And few DC boards are capable of rendering a final decision that passes Court of Appeals muster. But even getting to a trial much less a decision takes years. As more neighborhoods become more affluent and educated the cost of engaging a lawyer (or self-filing) becomes minimal.

@ CrazyHorse and David- The churches have the same remedy everyone else does under DDOT rules. Any block can get a petition up and by getting 70% of the households on the block to sign can alter the days/hours anyway they want. That's how we got 7-day until midnight ERPP on my block. If a church wants to get Sundays exempted from ERPP they can circulate and get 70% of the households on the block to sign just like anyone else.

by Tom Coumaris on Dec 5, 2012 7:39 pm • linkreport

It sounds like alot of cars just need to be towed, which is a separate issue from availablity.

Reading the angst that some people have about all the illegal parking reminded me of the posts that we have had about scofflaw cycling, scofflaw driving, and the "social contracts" of various groups. I would conjecture that the double parking has been going on for so long that the people who do so do not feel as if they are doing anything wrong, like motorists who fail to yield to pedestrians in unmarked crosswalks or cyclists running a stop sign.

Aside from the possibility of just allowing more parking on weekends, the idea by Crazy hourse of subjecting all out-of-zone parking to the 2-hour limit on Sunday mornings has merit, at least in places where parking is at a premium. The 2-hour limit applies weekdays because that is when parking is most scarce; but if it is so scarce that people are double parking Sunday morning, then the rule should be extended to those times as well. That's simply a neutral application of the existing policy.

I suspect that a 2-hour limit would be very popular with many churchgoers who would be more than happy to leave the church 1h 45min after arriving if only they could persuade the rest of the family.

by Jim Titus on Dec 5, 2012 8:28 pm • linkreport

Jim Titus is a wise man.

by charlie on Dec 5, 2012 8:42 pm • linkreport

I see no other way than to characterize the behavior I see other than "entitlement." I already explained how they endanger and inconvenience everyone else, but the point I didn't make clearly enough is that the behavior is often undertaken for their own convenience. People are not parking in the bus zones and crosswalks and double-parking in my neighborhood and in SW, where I spend many Sunday mornings, because that's the only parking available. In my neighborhood and the parts of SW I often spend Sunday mornings in, there is ample street parking, but, unlike the crosswalk, or the second TRAVEL lane, it's not RIGHT in front of the door of the church. In my neighborhood specifically, the churchgoers parked in the crosswalk or bus stop could EASILY find a safe, legal parking spot...it would just be between half a block and a block away from the church. Apparently, that's too far of a walk to ask for. The people double-parked at one particular SW church I'm all-too-familiar with could easily find a spot 2-4 blocks away.

Obviously, this doesn't work in every neighborhood, but the fact that the illegal, dangerous parking habits persist in neighborhoods where the price of a legal parking spot is VERY MILD inconvenience to the patron demonstrates an unhealthy sense of entitlement. If the churches in question are concerned about their elderly or disabled patrons, they should send someone out to make sure that the prime spots are taken only by the elderly and disabled parishioners, and ask healthy, able-bodied parishioners to park in nearby areas with ample parking. While I am no longer religious, I grew up in a religious household. Being suburban, our church had ample parking, but there were signs in the lot asking parishioners to "park according to their ability." That meant that we parked in the school lot a block away and walked, since we could; unless it was a special holiday on which my devout, but VERY disabled grandfather was accompanying us. Then, we dropped him at the door and parked, and reversed to pick him up, until he got too frail to enter unaccompanied (and my brother and I were still to young to help), at which point we parked in the smallest, closest lot. It's no different than asking the congregation to reserve the front rows for disabled parishioners and their families, which our church also did (and I hated, since I preferred to be in the back where no one could see me not paying attention).

by Ms. D on Dec 5, 2012 8:45 pm • linkreport

"To those who think that churchgoers should have special parking rights, I'm sure you would have no problem with a mosque opening up in your neighborhood and people double parking 5 times a day to attend prayer. Right?"

Darn right! I wouldn't be wasting my time calling MPD, I'd be calling Homeland Security!

by Angier on Dec 5, 2012 9:00 pm • linkreport

Over the lst 20 years, the parking rules have gotten exquisitely more complicated and difficult to remember because of all the local variation. Instead of adding more new rules, I'd have fewer. Establish criteria for RPP required time periods and not have all this neighborhood by neighborhood variation. Places of worship don't pay property taxes and their nn-profit status effectively provides them with tax subsidizes. I see no reason to grant them parking privileges on top of this. If it drives a few churches into the suburbs, that's their probably. The racial subtext (code word: Maryland) ignores the plethora of places of worship that draw from the whole region and gave plenty of white members who are just as annoying as anyone else.

by Rich on Dec 5, 2012 9:24 pm • linkreport

Per CMZ: "What kind of service do churchgoers give to the community? Is the church open for at least 40 hours a week serving as a soup kitchen, shelter, tutoring facility, or job training site? If not, then I see no service." Well, sometimes it's not easy to see everything. Two lovely churches here in Georgetown have a mostly elderly African American congregation. These churches are in what used to be called Herring Hill, and these folks long ago got pushed out. But they return every Sunday, and I'm so happy they do, not sure what would happen to those lovely buildings when they can't make the trip any more.

by LouDC on Dec 5, 2012 9:57 pm • linkreport

Consistent theme through many of these comments, same as at the meeting. MeMeMe, I need to park, I don't want anybody taking MY spot. Sheesh, people! To paraphrase Bill Clinton, "it's the demand, stupid!" If we tackled demand, there would be room for those that really need it to park. If we had to pay an on-street parking fee for each car, and a much heftier fee for the second car, and heftier yet if the home has off-street parking, maybe people would start to give some thought to whether they really need that second car, or even the first one. Add to that more frequent and reliable bus service, and some van pool subsidies and then maybe things wouldn't be so dog-eat-dog.

by LouDC on Dec 5, 2012 10:12 pm • linkreport

@LouDC: This.

Where are the Georgetown churches you mention? Where is or was Herring Hill?

by A Streeter on Dec 5, 2012 11:48 pm • linkreport

LouDC -- in a market economy, pricing is one of the best ways to signal the value of a product/commodity. When you have limited supply of a good, in this case parking, and you don't price it correctly, demand increases beyond the capability of the limited supply to meet the demand.

Almost everything about the RPP and "performance parking" "programs" and "policies" in residential neighborhoods is designed to throw everything but the kitchen sink at "the problem" without charging for the resource, and in that process privileging neighborhood resident car owner use above all other uses.

So of course it doesn't work.

by Richard Layman on Dec 6, 2012 7:17 am • linkreport

@RichardLayman; small correction.

market is useful for price discovery; trying to set prices outside a market environment can be difficult.

Setting a price on a scarce item is a useful way to allocate that item. There are other ways to do so besides pricing (let every car that has as odd number at the last registration park free that day).

And yes, the problem we are trying to stuff too many new people into old neighborhoods without paying for more underground parking and utilities. Thanks Shouppy!

by charlie on Dec 6, 2012 9:02 am • linkreport

Minor point: the cost RPP is to "administer the program," i.e., pay for the clerks that answer the mail and the cost of the making the stickers. It was never intended to set the price and allocate street parking; use of street parking is understood to be a privilege paid for with taxpaying residency.

by goldfish on Dec 6, 2012 9:28 am • linkreport

Are the majority of churchgoers infirm? It seems like people in the congregation should take charge of making sure that those people can get to the services and every able bodied person that has access to transit should use it. People at my families church at home carpool, it doesn't seem like such an outlandish concept to me.

by Alan B on Dec 6, 2012 9:34 am • linkreport

"Are the majority of churchgoers infirm? It seems like people in the congregation should take charge of making sure that those people can get to the services and every able bodied person that has access to transit should use it."
Yes, exactly, thank you Alan B, makes sense to me.

@ceefer66 it would be nice if everyone who wants could attend the same church they got married in etc but we live in a HIGHLY mobile society now, and such expectations are unrealistic. Take the next best option, find a nearby congregation you like, and deal with it. I grew up on Long Island and went to church there, have fond memories of it despite being an atheist now. I was married in Massachusetts. Living in DC, it's unrealistic to expect that I should be able to attend wither of these churches if I wanted to.

by MrTinDC on Dec 6, 2012 9:51 am • linkreport

"I think, based on my experience, no church relies on people within "the area" if that means walking distance. "

Almost all Orthodox Synagogues do. Many Conservative Synagogues in dense urban locations do - and most Conservative Synagogues in autocentric suburbs have blocks of walkers. AFAICT at least some urban churches mostly get walkers. Are all those car free people in DC and in NYC really unchurched? I would expect suburban and rural churches to have almost no walkers - but for an urban church, I would think thats heavily a function of large numbers of congregants having moved away.

by ReligionNerd on Dec 6, 2012 10:06 am • linkreport

The secularists should probably tone down the "Christians aren't special" polemic a notch. [Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Shane on Dec 6, 2012 10:27 am • linkreport

I'd just like to point out that it's total BS to say that Marylanders is a dogwhistle for race.

Anybody - be they black, white, asian, hispanic, whatever - can just stand on the side of any of our major arteries, on either side of town, and see that the vast majority of traffic in and out of the city on all days of the week is Marylanders.

Black Marylanders, white Marylanders, Asian Marylanders, Hispanic Marylanders of any race, IT DOESN'T MATTER, THEY'RE ALL MARYLANDERS TAKING ADVANTAGE OF TAXPAYING COLUMBIANS.

You all moved out to Maryland, then want to use the services I pay for, and now want to complain, just like every other commuting issue, that Columbians are being unfair by wishing to regulate our own territory according to our wants, needs, and desires.

I have a solution for you: move back! Like somebody else said, the religious institutions you patronize apparently are the reason for DC's revival, so why not take advantage of the wonderful seeds you've sown?

TL;DR Don't you ever try to say that Columbians complaining about Maryland drivers is a dogwhistle.

by MJB on Dec 6, 2012 10:28 am • linkreport

@Shane

Like what? I always hear how much religious institutions do for the community, but I never hear the specifics - don't think you can get away with this smoke-and-mirrors stuff in the capital of smoke-and-mirrors.

If you can answer the question above, then my followups would be, do these services outweigh the tax-exempt status of religious institutions, and the subsidies they thereby enjoy? Does the opportunity cost of having a non-taxpaying religious institution outweigh the other options for land use?

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by MJB on Dec 6, 2012 10:33 am • linkreport

Watching the comments here reminds me of a certain friend that once drank a lot. He would grouse about how church members sucked up all the parking around his house on Sunday. Then he quit drinking and started to go to AA, and he immediately stopped complaining about church parking, because nearly every AA meeting is in a church basement.

Churches really do provide for the community.

by goldfish on Dec 6, 2012 11:56 am • linkreport

@MJD

If you haven't actively researched or don't know someone who is an active member of a church then it's not surprising you don't hear about church community outreach. Churches (with a few notable exceptions) tend not to be attention-seeking and sometimes church members are oblivious to their own church's community activities. A periodic photo-op for a politician is par-for-the-course for a church. Of course this all comes along with "proselytization"

Since you asked, I'll direct you to the website of the church in Alexandria I used to attend: http://www.ctkalexandria.org/ministry1.php. If you go to the second section you'll see that the church is working with immigrants, the homeless, and victims of domestic abuse. Of course this comes along with proselytization, which leads many people to "throw out the baby with the bathwater" when assessing value.

I am not myself devoutly religious and no longer live in the DC area, but I can tell you that here in Richmond many homeless people rely on the food given by churches in Monroe Park. In fact, the churches have been the primary voice in advocating for homeless inclusion in Monroe Park, against the wishes of local residents who want to cops to kick them out.

"If you can answer the question above, then my followups would be, do these services outweigh the tax-exempt status of religious institutions, and the subsidies they thereby enjoy?"

I cannot speak to that, as I do not share the assumption that a group of people can be a "burden" on society simply by the act of free association on privately owned property.

"Does the opportunity cost of having a non-taxpaying religious institution outweigh the other options for land use?"

I believe that a land-value tax should be instituted and all property owners should pay it. This would likely have the effect of pushes churches out of areas where the land is much more valuable. The problem isn't with churches, but with land policy in general.

by Shane on Dec 6, 2012 12:00 pm • linkreport

Of course this comes along with proselytization, which leads many people to "throw out the baby with the bathwater" when assessing value.

Over the years I have been to hundreds of community meetings, at many different churches and synagogs, in different cities. Never once been proselytized. Not a single time.

by goldfish on Dec 6, 2012 12:06 pm • linkreport

@MJB--"I always hear how much religious institutions do for the community, but I never hear the specifics - don't think you can get away with this smoke-and-mirrors stuff in the capital of smoke-and-mirrors."

Just because you don't hear about it doesn't mean it isn't happening, so let's dispense that that assumption. I can only give you examples based on what my parish does:

-provides shelter for the homeless a few times each year during the winter
-delivers thousands of meals to Martha's Table (which serves the homeless) each year
-promotes clothing and food drives supporting places like the Capital Area Food Bank
-hosts AA and other community meetings nearly every day
-runs a tutoring program in a Ward 8 elementary school

(And for what it's worth, my church is not what would be considered evangelical...we undertake these ministries as a way of helping others, not to make converts.)

Anyway, those are just a few examples that come to mind. I'm sure no one here objects to efforts like Martha's Table or Capital Area Food Bank, both of which are also tax-exempt just like a church. But be realistic about from where these organizations draw support. It's no exaggeration to say that thousands of people in this city are fed every single day thanks to churches.

So, yes, churches do things. I mean, they should cut out the double parking, but yeah...they do important things.

by MJ on Dec 6, 2012 12:11 pm • linkreport

Okay, so some churches do some charitable work - but there are many secular organizations that do the same thing, with a smaller financial footprint for the city.

It's all about allocating resources most effectively, and I'm still not convinced by your examples that churches are a net gain for Columbia.

by MJB on Dec 6, 2012 12:42 pm • linkreport

It's all about allocating resources most effectively, and I'm still not convinced by your examples that churches are a net gain for Columbia.

But isn't that the rub? It's like attempting to convince believers that attending church isn't a net gain for the lives. Whether churches aid the community in ways you approve or not, they are a net gain not just for DC but for the entire country.

by HogWash on Dec 6, 2012 12:52 pm • linkreport

"We don't like that churchgoers park illegally all over crosswalks and bus stops, and double-park people in!"

"But churches do good work!"

And here I thought the Protestant Reformation was about getting rid of selling indulgences.

The issue isn't the fact that churches exist or what good works they do or the fact that their attendees come and park in neighborhoods. The issue is when churchgoers park in illegal and dangerous ways (in bus stops, in crosswalks, double-parking others in for hours, etc.) there is zero enforcement because of influence on gov't. The responsibility for cleaning this problem up rests firstly on the people parking like jerks, and secondly on the enforcement people to do their jobs when they do.

by MLD on Dec 6, 2012 1:18 pm • linkreport

I don't think that church-goers should be allowed to park in crosswalks and bus stops or double park. My response was to the line of thinking that churches aren't special and/or are a burden. Churches ARE special and they ARE especially valuable?

@MJD
It's not fair to compare a church to a secular institution whose very purpose is to serve the community. While the work of churches in the community is indespensible, it is not their primary purpose, and churches can't fund-raise and market themselves like charity organizations. If churches just stopped their community service, it would leave a huge gap that would take an unspeakably long time for secular institutions to cover.

by Shane on Dec 6, 2012 1:37 pm • linkreport

"It's all about allocating resources most effectively, and I'm still not convinced by your examples that churches are a net gain for Columbia."

Why does anybody have to convince you of that? Churches are private organizations not accountable to the general public.

by Shane on Dec 6, 2012 1:39 pm • linkreport

These churches are in what used to be called Herring Hill, and these folks long ago got pushed out. But they return every Sunday, and I'm so happy they do, not sure what would happen to those lovely buildings when they can't make the trip any more.

The churches would be sold and the redeveloped into businesses that pay taxes and thus contribute to the city's ability to serve all of its residents.

by dcdriver on Dec 6, 2012 1:39 pm • linkreport

"The churches would be sold and the redeveloped into businesses that pay taxes and thus contribute to the city's ability to serve all of its residents."

I don't like double-parking any more than most people, and think that churchgoer traffic should be subject to the same moving and parking regs as anyone else. But I do detect a certain hostility on this website to houses of worship, which for many of our fellow citizens are the defining community link to this city. Moreover, many of those churches provide social and other outreach services to Washington, DC residents. I'd hate to think that the smart growth community places the highest value on wine bars, restaurants and condo developments while denigrating churches.

by Alf on Dec 6, 2012 1:50 pm • linkreport

"It's all about allocating resources most effectively, and I'm still not convinced by your examples that churches are a net gain for Columbia."

Why does anybody have to convince you of that? Churches are private organizations not accountable to the general public.

Well, because District residents are the ones who grant churches all sorts of special (and at times extra-legal) privileges. We're also the ones who can revoke them. So, yes, as far as things like illegal parking go, they certainly are accountable to the general public. And they're not doing themselves any favors by alienating the public at large.

by Oboe on Dec 6, 2012 2:12 pm • linkreport

But I do detect a certain hostility on this website to houses of worship, which for many of our fellow citizens are the defining community link to this city. I'd hate to think that the smart growth community places the highest value on wine bars, restaurants and condo developments while denigrating churches.

Doesn't matter how many times and in how many ways many of us make a serious effort to caution our cyberpeers here on the dangers of appearing out of the mainstream, it routinely falls on deaf ears. So the anti-church'ness of some of comments shouldn't come as a surprise. You know, we do appreciate diversity. ...hehee

by HogWash on Dec 6, 2012 2:18 pm • linkreport

The churches would be sold and the redeveloped into businesses that pay taxes and thus contribute to the city's ability to serve all of its residents.

http://mrislistings.mris.com/Matrix/Public/Portal.aspx?k=2176515XK0PL&p=DE-180110370-665

by Oboe on Dec 6, 2012 2:18 pm • linkreport

Well, because District residents are the ones who grant churches all sorts of special (and at times extra-legal) privileges. We're also the ones who can revoke them.

Uhm, what does the privs DC gov't provides churches have to do w/whether they are a net gain for DC. The poster is correct. The church does not have to convince you that they are a net gain for the city. It has not, does not, and will not. Talking about parking is rather irrelevant to that fact.

by HogWash on Dec 6, 2012 2:22 pm • linkreport

@MLD "Okay, so some churches do some charitable work - but there are many secular organizations that do the same thing, with a smaller financial footprint for the city."

This conversation has largely jumped the shark as far as the parking issue goes, but it's exposing some interesting assumptions people make. Charitable work is 99% of the time a partnership between religious and non-religious organizations. I don't know how to make that any clearer.

Church (religious) collects food -----> goes to capital area food bank (non-religious) -----> goes to hungry people who are in need

That's a partnership, plain and simple.

Does anyone know where we could get some hard data on these topics? That would be really intersting to see. For example, I'd like to know what percent of donations to a place like CAFB comes from religious organizations. I guess I just simply reject the notion that churches "don't do much" for the community. That's just a talking point.

by MJ on Dec 6, 2012 2:53 pm • linkreport

This post was about parking.

Not about tax exemptions. I assume most of us accept that most houses of worship do enough for the community to justify their tax exempt status.

The issue here is parking - both A. illegal parking and B. The status of churches with respect to resident parking This is mostly an issue for churches which A. are located in dense areas where they have no parking lots and where on street parking is scarce and B which have very large portions of their congregations living in the suburbs. Its not a debate about all houses of worship, all christian churches, or religion in general. Its about whether that subset of churches in dense locations, with suburban members, does so much for the community to justify not only a tax exemption, but also A. a right to consultation on changes in resident parking rules AND B. a light touch in enforcement of existing parking rules.

These seem to me legitimate issues to discuss - someone can well feel that churches claiming these last two feel entitled, without thinking that about churches in general, or religion in general.

I also wonder if something like the role of church buildings as meeting halls (for AA for example) seems as important in neighborhoods with multiple large churches in close proximity to each other. How many AA meeting locations are actually needed in one neighborhood?

by ReligionNerd on Dec 6, 2012 2:58 pm • linkreport

I'm confused. Does *anyone* think it should be okay for church attendees to park illegally, including double parking, parking in bus stops, parking on bike lines, and parking in front of fire hydrants? Like, Hogwash, Shane, goldfish--you're not arguing that, right?

I think either everyone's talking past each other, or I'm not seeing the advocacy for illegal behavior. And if you guys are advocating that, I think it's indefensible.

by worthing on Dec 6, 2012 4:20 pm • linkreport

I think either everyone's talking past each other, or I'm not seeing the advocacy for illegal behavior

We usually do wrt to topic like this. But that is why you likely haven't seen one poster advocating that they should be able to park illegally. The pushback came when people begin to characterize them and their institutions as irrelevant and entitled scofflaws. That's what kicked off a lotta talking past each other.

by HogWash on Dec 6, 2012 4:35 pm • linkreport

@worthing

there are some people who are less interested in discussing policy than in forum drama.

by ReligionNerd on Dec 6, 2012 4:38 pm • linkreport

"The pushback came when people begin to characterize them and their institutions as ... entitled scofflaws."

Im curious, do the pastors at the churches in question remind their congregants, from the pulpit, to obey the parking law? If so than its only the folks who park illegally who are scofflaws. Entitled or not. because scofflaw is someone who scoffs at the law.

If the pastors are NOT doing so - if they are, as some have accused, using political pressure to limit enforcement, that does sound like entitled scofflaws.

by ReligionNerd on Dec 6, 2012 4:41 pm • linkreport

@worthing -- I think the issue is not illegal parking (which I never advocated), but the fact that certain neighborhoods are changing the rules to make parking more difficult for churchgoers, and make longstanding legal parking practices illegal.

@ReligionNerd: according the AA meetting list, there are about 1200 AA meetings per week in the DC area. There are also lots of meetings for Al-Anon, NA and other 12-step programs.

by goldfish on Dec 6, 2012 4:48 pm • linkreport

"there are some people who are less interested in discussing policy than in forum drama."

It might just be forum drama, or it may be a way of thinking that is detrimental to the urbanist cause.

If livable communities are what we want, then it's silly not to recognize the role churches play. The fact that many people seem ignorant as to how big of role churches play in the community shows that many people perhaps do not have as full of a "big picture" of community and society as they think.

by Shane on Dec 6, 2012 4:55 pm • linkreport

FWIW, it seems as if this issue is more prominent WOTR than it is on my side of town.

If the pastors are NOT doing so - if they are, as some have accused, using political pressure to limit enforcement, that does sound like entitled scofflaws.

Someone up top made a good point. It's not like people feel "entitled" but that they are doing what people before them have always done. For instance, considering the group here, I think an overwhelming majority would push back against referring to cyclists as "entitled scofflaws" because they ride through red lights or don't have a bell or something else able to alert pedestrians. Is it apt? Sure it is. But would people "really" be receptive to such characterizations? Likely not.

by HogWash on Dec 6, 2012 4:58 pm • linkreport

@Shane

Greater Greater Washington, not Greater Greater Richmond.

by MJB on Dec 6, 2012 5:01 pm • linkreport

Hogwash: Actually, no. Almost everyone here would agree that cyclists should follow the law and rules of the road.

by John on Dec 6, 2012 5:05 pm • linkreport

@HogWash

You willingly break the law, yer a scofflaw. I mean-mug every biker that I see rolling down the 14th St hill every morning, same as when I mean-mug people getting into their illegally-parked cars coming out of church.

by MJB on Dec 6, 2012 5:07 pm • linkreport

I am not religious myself, but am pretty sure that one of the central tenants of all of the world's major religions is to treat one's fellow man like they themselves would like to be treated. "Do unto others" as they say.

So it amazes me that some religious people would, en route to church of all places, deliberately park in such as way as to obstruct another person's car, or the community's fire hydrant or crosswalk.

Is this behavior not considered a "sin" by every religion in the world? Is it not the very definition of hypocrisy to blatantly commit a sin on your way to church?

by dcdriver on Dec 6, 2012 5:19 pm • linkreport

@MJD

I brought up one example from Richmond and otherwise have been speaking in general. I don't live in the DC area but I grew up there, have family there and visit periodically. Sadly, there's not a lot of new stuff in Richmond for urbanists to get excited about (though that's slowly changing), so I enjoy following the change in my hometown.

by Shane on Dec 6, 2012 5:22 pm • linkreport

" there are about 1200 AA meetings per week in the DC area. There are also lots of meetings for Al-Anon, NA and other 12-step programs."

I guess thats not all the same night of the week, and I guess that the entire metro region.

So I guess the more heavily churched neighborhoods in central DC probably would have adequate public meeting spaces with say, 30% fewer churches.

I mean are all those parts of Maryland suffering from inadequate public meeting spaces because too many people from there pray in the District?

by Religion on Dec 6, 2012 5:26 pm • linkreport

MrTinDC,

I know a few atheists myself. not one of them is as smug and insensitive as you are.

Yes, the reality is that DC is a rapidly-changing place. But saying lifelong church members (many of whom are former residents pushed out by gentrification) to "deal with it and find another church" just because you don't want to be inconvenienced public street shows not only an incredible lack of empathy empathy but an unbelievable sense of entitlement and arrogance as well.

The crux of this is newcomers like yourself who have no knowledge and/or no respect for those who were in the city before. You thinking the price you paid for your house entitles you. You think that now that you've "saved" DC you shouldn't have to bothered with the people you've replaced.

Welcome to reality. As you mentioned, you live in a city. The idea that you're "entitled" to a parking space on a public city street just because you live on it is absurd. If you wanted your own private parking space, you should have bought yourself one.

Like I said, it's not all about you.

by ceefer66 on Dec 6, 2012 8:45 pm • linkreport

My comment on transit for churchgoers was merely a statement of fact, and in response to suggestions that they use transit. I agree that carpooling is the best option.

I also agree that churches should not be automatically entitled to privileges that are not granted to, say, your book club or jam session. OTOH, churches can be great assets to a community, just as any public service organization. Any public service organization should be able to go to the local community and make its case: if they have been good neighbors, the neighborhood can decide whether to grant some parking waivers.

by SJE on Dec 7, 2012 11:50 am • linkreport

The people who are defending illegal church parkers are the ones who brought up churches being an asset to the community in the first place. None of us said that churches should be removed forcible, just that they needed to follow the same parking regime as everyone else. The country was founded upon separation of church and state, I don't have any right or desire to tell people how to worship, but being a member of a church in no way bestows upon you a special status. Members can be good people or bad people, just like amongst any other group in society. I refuse to accept that just belonging to a church means you are doing some kind of public service.

by Alan B on Dec 7, 2012 12:49 pm • linkreport

Sooo glad I don't live in a Churchy neighborhood. You can't park in my neighborhood on a sunny Sunday on account of all the brunch-goers, but at least they don't seem to feel like their right to park there (where there is by the way no RPP restriction on Sundays) is God-given.

Most of the parishioners at the meeting the other night were elderly. It's probably really hard for most of them to use public transportation--even if trains and buses ran with greater frequency. Many are probably mobility-impaired, and I'm just guessing that many are low-income, at least relative to many residents of Logan Circle.

So they bristle at the idea that someone might try to resolve the parking wars by auctioning street parking rights. Elderly, disabled, poor, godly, and historically connected to their place of worship--they NEED to park, if anyone does. Right? No, wait, what about the residents: don't they NEED to be able to find parking near their homes? Or how about non-churchgoing disabled. Certainly their NEED to park cars wherever they need to go is beyond question. After all, how else could they possibly get around?

As long as people see parking as something people NEED, like food or shelter, and not as a privilege and a luxury, this is going to be very hard to resolve. The churchgoers who come in from MD are not voting here. It's residents who are the obstacle to a functional allocation system. Tell your councilpeople if you think people should have to pay to park when demand is high. The allocation process we have now is what creates this drama. The residents went over the parishioners' heads to exclude them from parking on Sundays. The parishioners are fighting back, and fighting dirty from the sound of it.

I'd add, if you want to change the perception that parking is something people NEED, there have to be truly viable alternatives that work for everyone. Alternatives to cars, or alternatives to parking them. I think we're living in a time and place where a lot of innovation and imagination is going into creating transportation alternatives, and I'm an optimist about the potential for a great solution in DC.

by Emily on Dec 7, 2012 8:41 pm • linkreport

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