The Cornerstone Church at 3459 17th St. in San Francisco's Mission District. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

Decision on parking for ‘God’ delayed until January

Mission District’s devout will have a month to pray before the fate of their free Sunday street parking is decided.

A committee of faithful and secular neighbors formed to make a major recommendation on church parking along Dolores and Guerrero streets was poised to formalize the parking practice Thursday afternoon.

Formed by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the Median Parking Advisory Committee’s decision would not be binding – but the SFMTA promised to factor its recommendation into its planning.

Parking along Dolores street would have been open to all, under a resolution the committee rejected Thursday.

That would formalize The City’s decades-long “look the other way” practice of allowing churchgoers to park in the streets on Sundays, while expanding parking privileges to everyone, during daytime Saturdays and Sundays.

But one committee member, Gus Preston, remained unconvinced of the proposal.

“I was completely ready to vote this through,” Preston said at the meeting. But, he said, “we’re taking a public service and making all these concessions for certain types of organizations.”

He said he was still concerned over a separation of church and state. His vote alone blocked the resolution.

That doesn’t mean it’s over. The resolution will be tweaked and then reheard in January, said John Knox White, an SFMTA planner.

A separate resolution to approve parking-for-all on Guerrero Street, one block over form Dolores, was met with more stern opposition from the committee.

Of particular concern was a center median on Guerrero, where neighbors replaced concrete islands with a planted median in 2005.

Churchgoers parking along the median tend to walk on the plants, killing them, committee members noted.

Kyung Kim, administrative pastor of Cornerstone Church on Guerrero, said “It’s not true if there is median parking, all plants are dead.”

Those plants are precious to neighbors along Guerrero, said one public commenter, Gillian Gillet. She works in the Mayor’s Office, but was speaking on her own behalf as a Guerrero resident.

She showed the committee photos of Guerrero street in the early 1900’s, saying it had quickly been transformed into a high-traffic thoroughfare – shortchanging neighbors of a true community.

The planted median is a traffic calming measure to make the corridor safer, she said. Planting it was also the first time many neighbors had met one another, a project costing upwards of $150,000 in donations to make.

Her voice broke as she told the committee, “it took us all years to do this. It is important in an unfriendly, unlivable city to have it be better.”

Recommendations on Guerrero street parking and the planted median will also be decided in January by the committee.

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