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‘Parking for God’ pilot approved by transit board

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Drivers will be allowed to park at Dolores Street medians Fridays through Sundays during specific hours that will be further clarified by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency for a 12-month pilot program. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)
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San Francisco on Tuesday approved a pilot program to legalize a decades-long practice of church-goers parking along Dolores Street medians.

That means all drivers will be allowed to park at Dolores Street medians Fridays through Sundays during specific hours that will be further clarified by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency for the 12-month pilot.

The longtime, quasi-legal practice was nicknamed “parking for God” by recent critics, who decried the mix of “church and state” by allowing churchgoers to disobey parking laws.

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Cornerstone Church, Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, Mission Dolores Church and others use parking along the street during weekend services. During the hour of public comment at Tuesday’s SFMTA Board of Directors meeting, faith leaders argued they needed parking for congregants who were priced out of San Francisco but still want to be part of the community.

William Ortiz-Cartagena, vice president of the board of the Mission Economic Development Agency who was also on a community panel about median parking, told the SFMTA board many of the churches in the area need parking and are “holding on by a thread.”

The plan to legitimize the parking practice was not backed by the community group convened by the SFMTA to discuss the subject among neighbors, which voted 4-3 to abolish the parking practice. However, the SFMTA contends the group agreed they needed a threshold of five votes for staff to present their proposal to the board.

Elizabeth Zitrin, a community member who served in that group, was irate the community group’s vote was not honored.

“It’s an illegitimate process that did not allow the members of the committee to be heard,” yelled Zitrin during public comment, at which point SFMTA Board of Directors Chairman Tom Nolan told her she was out of order.

“And you know it!” she said, continuing her thought, as she pointed a finger straight in the face of SFMTA planner John Knox White, who led the community meeting for a year.

Despite that singular sharp moment of criticism, many speakers praised Knox White and the community-driven process to find compromise between neighbors.

“San Francisco isn’t really good at doing things 100 percent right out the gate. This pilot project is a good first step,” said Cheryl Brinkman, the board’s vice chairperson.

The board directed SFMTA staff to study parking management of the area to better accommodate all groups when the pilot concludes in a year.

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