ONTD Political

Sunday meter proposal draws ire of San Francisco churches

7:38 pm - 03/16/2012

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.

The economics of Sunday parking:

$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

San Francisco Examiner
tigerdreams 17th-Mar-2012 05:48 am (UTC)
Amos Brown, a pastor with Third Baptist Church, said the proposal was a “hostile, negative measure against faith communities in The City.”

Yeah, expecting religious organizations to play by the same rules as everybody else and not receive special, privileged treatment is so "hostile" and "negative"...
kijikun 17th-Mar-2012 06:07 am (UTC)
Expect this doesn't affect the religious organization itself it affects people. People that might not be able to afford those meters. The city doesn't seem to give a shit that a lot of church goers won't be able to afford those meters either.

What a lot of cities do is not enforce the meters during church serves. Which I don't have a problem with that considering a lot of city churches are often attended by low income and minority groups who really don't need more cards stacked against them.
tigerdreams 17th-Mar-2012 06:22 am (UTC)
Low-income people can't readily afford parking meters in general, though. They're not giving low-income people a break on meters when they need to go to the grocery store or visit their doctor -- just church. I think some sort of program to offer people who are struggling financially a free or reduced-price parking pass would be better than having the government give everyone free parking just for church, which is pretty much the net effect of the previous status quo.
kijikun 17th-Mar-2012 06:28 am (UTC)
Uh, the status quo before for SF was the meters weren't enforced all day Sunday which was not giving free parking just for church.

And it would be great if there was some sort of program like that but sadly even in SF that will probably happen half past never.

13chapters 17th-Mar-2012 06:35 am (UTC)
I wonder how many actual churchgoers this would really affect, though. San Francisco (which is incidentally the least churchy place in the entire country) is a really small city that's easy to walk around, it doesn't have harsh weather in either summer or winter, and there is decent public transportation. My initial reaction is that this would affect suburbanites going into town for shopping, etc. more than it would actually affect churchgoers. My primary concern would be for elderly and/or disabled people who have trouble navigating the hills. I realize this will sound heartless, but from a policymaker's perspective, that number might not be big enough people to not move forward with this change, if the city really needs that money.

Anyway, while googling for that churchy stat, I found this blog entry which says that charging for parking on Sundays will actually make it EASIER for church goers in cars, because they'll actually be able to find spots - right now people just leave their cars in the same spots all day on Sunday because they can, and then it's impossible to find a spot. Metered parking will create needed turnover. I'm not totally sold on that logic, but it does seem possible - it is often hard to find a parking spot in the city, but it's not usually too tough on a Sunday. At least, I've never had too much trouble.
squeeful 17th-Mar-2012 06:38 am (UTC)
Then they should have Fridays and Saturdays free parking as well.
mirhanda 17th-Mar-2012 06:30 pm (UTC)
What about not enforcing parking meters on days and times when medical clinics are open? I'd argue people need medical care more than they need to go to church. You can pray and study your bible at home all day long if you want, but you can't give yourself outpatient surgery.

layweed 17th-Mar-2012 05:54 am (UTC)
Tbh, I always imagine people dozing off in church. Maybe the fear of having to feed the meter will keep them awake. Idk.
roseofjuly 17th-Mar-2012 10:33 pm (UTC)
Whenever I am forced to go I always spend the time daydreaming.
spyral_path 17th-Mar-2012 06:57 am (UTC)
My admittedly unscientific, superficial research (I googled San Francisco, church, and food pantry) revealed that most of the food pantries operating out of churches were open on Fridays and Saturdays, not Sunday, so saying this measure would affect people coming to church for social services strikes me as disingenuous.

Edited at 2012-03-17 07:01 am (UTC)
tigerdreams 17th-Mar-2012 07:42 am (UTC)
This is an exceptionally good point.
sesmo 17th-Mar-2012 10:18 pm (UTC)
Yes, this. Social services tend not to be open on Sundays at all.
roseofjuly 17th-Mar-2012 10:35 pm (UTC)
That was my first thought - I'm from the South and usually the church pulls out all the stops on Sunday explicitly for the services. But then after that, it's closed. All of the social services are on other days of the week.
lafinjack 18th-Mar-2012 04:32 am (UTC)
If they fed people on Sunday that would take away from god's special time.
anjak_j 17th-Mar-2012 07:18 am (UTC)
This comes off as the church being more concerned that the coins will go into the meters rather than the collection plate.

And sorry to say, but low-income folk from other faiths don't get a break, so why should being Christian confer such a privilege?
tigerdreams 17th-Mar-2012 07:42 am (UTC)
Yeah, I had these same thoughts.
little_rachael 17th-Mar-2012 08:59 am (UTC)
Eh...I'm not convinced, Mr. Churchy.

Call me a cynic, but when I hear church leaders talking about churchgoers and people of faith being punished, all I hear is "Waaaahhh, I'm not getting the special treatment I deserve!"
lafinjack 17th-Mar-2012 04:20 pm (UTC)
sesmo 17th-Mar-2012 10:19 pm (UTC)
Accurate cynicism.
redstar826 17th-Mar-2012 01:23 pm (UTC)
I doubt this had anything to do with churches at all. I would think that this free parking on Sundays thing originated back when more businesses were closed on Sundays and therefore there wasn't as much traffic downtown and it wasn't worth having the parking enforcement people checking the meters. Now that more places are open, it makes sense to have people pay.

Edited at 2012-03-17 01:23 pm (UTC)
babysinclair 17th-Mar-2012 04:02 pm (UTC)
Oh wow. Most meters are free on Sunday here in Philly so more people can go shopping. I thought that was the norm in all major cities.
beuk 17th-Mar-2012 06:57 pm (UTC)
Boise has free parking on the weekends and I thought the decision was to help out downtown businesses because downtown is kind of boring on the weekends during daylight hours. So I'm baffled about the whole city shouldn't give special privileges to churches standpoint; my first thought was that business owners are the ones who should be against this.
sesmo 17th-Mar-2012 10:19 pm (UTC)
SF is a tourist town, though, so metering on the weekends makes sense.
bestdaywelived 17th-Mar-2012 04:55 pm (UTC)
Churchgoers absolutely should not get special privileges, more than they already do. Pay for parking like the rest of us.
kittymink 18th-Mar-2012 12:31 am (UTC)
I'm for it or else make parking free Friday through Sunday

Although the SFMTA could raise money other ways but they're pretty hopeless.
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