A proposal to expand parking meter enforcement to Sundays has drawn the ire of local churches and other places of worship.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is exploring options to make up its two-year projected budget deficit of $53.2 million. Enforcing parking meters on Sundays, an initiative that would generate $2.8 million annually, has received support from several members of the agency’s board of directors.
Speaking before the board on Tuesday, Rev. James Delange, a board member with the San Francisco Interfaith Council, said the proposal would force churchgoers and others to constantly trek out to the street to feed their meters.
Faced with this concern, the SFMTA board said that meter times near churches could be extended to accommodate longer periods of stay.
“They could pay long enough to go to Mass, perform their rosary and still have time for the pancake breakfast,” said Joel Ramos, an SFMTA board member who has voiced support for the plan.
Ramos said the proposal would actually make it easier for churchgoers to park, since many local residents leave their cars at metered spots all day on Sunday.
However, Michael Pappas, executive director of the Interfaith Council, said the meters would be a financial hardship for churchgoers. Many of The City’s churches also act as social service sites and food pantries, meaning they’re catering to members who are low-income or strapped for money.
“Quite honestly, it would be too much to ask these members to pay for parking every week,” said Pappas. “I think it would have a tremendous impact on attendance at services.”
Amos Brown, a pastor with Third Baptist Church, said the proposal was a “hostile, negative measure against faith communities in The City.”
“San Francisco prides itself on being an inclusive, diverse city,” said Brown. “But this measure is suggesting that people of faith are not welcome here.”
Pappas and the Interfaith Council, which represents 800 congregations in The City, wrote a letter to SFMTA board chairman Tom Nolan, asking him to abandon the parking meter plan.
Still, there is momentum for Sunday meter enforcement. Ramos said that averting service cuts and fare increases for Muni passengers are the top priorities for the SFMTA board, and that extending parking meter hours could accomplish that goal. During the agency’s board meeting on Tuesday, five of the agency’s six members said they would support the Sunday meter enforcement proposal, or at least the possibility of looking into it further.
The agency is expected to vote on its finalized budget proposal on April 3. Until then, it will continue to discuss the idea of the Sunday meter initiative. The SFMTA staff has not made a recommendation on the Sunday meter proposal.
$19.6M Projected budget deficit for fiscal year starting July 1
$2.8M Annual revenue that could be gained from Sunday meter enforcement
$816.4M Projected total budget for upcoming fiscal year