Despite vocal opposition from Mission District residents, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will vote today on whether or not to approve a pilot program that permits double-parking on Dolores Street between 14th and 18th streets.
If approved, the pilot program, which has been in development since August of 2015, will allow churchgoers—and anyone else who feels like it—to double-park on Friday evenings, Saturday mornings, and all day Sunday for a period of 16 months, according to Bay City News. (Update, 1/18: the pilot program has been approved.)
The practice of churchgoers and others double-parking on Dolores Street on Sunday mornings is technically illegal, but it has long gone unchecked by the SFMTA and the SFPD, even as the so-called "parking for God" has drawn the ire of those who live close by.
A 2015 SFMTA survey determined that 74 percent of nearby residents supported banning median parking on Sundays altogether, but that hasn't seemed to slow down the SFMTA in its efforts to legitimize the practice.
SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose told Hoodline that today's vote is not about choosing sides in the battle between worshipers who drive to service and those who actually live in the Mission. Instead, he said, it's about bringing a measure of safety to what's currently a cobbled-together system of private church security and enforcement.
"The pilot seeks to clarify and eliminate the existing uncertainty currently surrounding median parking, by installing signage that specifies when and where the parking may occur," explained Rose. "The pilot likewise seeks to increase safety along the Dolores corridor, by reducing or eliminating median parking outside of permitted hours (particularly overnight), enhancing visibility for all road users, and improving access for emergency response vehicles."
If the pilot is approved, the stretches of road where double-parking is allowed will be reduced from the present state of affairs: drivers will not be allowed to park between the median, and the ends of the blocks will also be off-limits. The proposed changes would reduce the approximate number of double-parking spots from 220 to 100.
It'll also come with some teeth. "The pilot will include a period of enhanced enforcement along the corridor, to ensure that the public understands and complies with the parking regulations," said Rose.
If approved, the new rules will go into effect "in early 2017" according to SFMTA documents, and if they're deemed a success, will be made permanent. But will they be approved? John Knox White, the project manager for the Dolores Street Median Parking project, seems to think so.
"While it would be folly for me to predict what actions the Board will take today, this is the culmination of a two-year project that involved a community stakeholder committee and resulted in the SFMTA Board approving the concept of a pilot and requesting that staff return with a project that formalizes parking last summer," he told Hoodline. "Today’s staff request is simply the legislation of the specific implementation of that pilot."
Interestingly, SFMTA has taken great pains to emphasize that the double-parking concessions are not just for churchgoers, but rather "all members of the public." That may gain the pilot program some approval among the Dolores Park partying set—even if it sours the city's pedestrians, cyclists, and Muni riders in the process.