Is Parking in the Middle of the Road for Church on Sundays Legit?


Dear Parking Guru,
First off, thank you for your wisdom! I am an avid sign reader and hunter of the "secret spots" that you write about. But, I am also paranoid about getting a ticket and mentally filing away your info helps to lessen the paranoia. I read a recent post of yours in 7x7 about churches and strip clubs and the passenger loading zones they have in common and it triggered a question...what's the deal with traffic lanes turning into parking on Sundays in the Tenderloin? I've not seen any signs indicating the phenomenon is legitimate (though that may be because I'm too busy looking for legal parking). More importantly, how does SFMTA know (or do they) that the vehicles parked there are associated with churchgoers? And most importantly, can I park there within "church hours" when I'm going to brunch in the area without the fear of a ticket?
Ms. Striving to Stay Ticket-free

Dear Ms. Striving,
If you're striving to stay ticket-free, that means you haven't gotten a ticket.  Well done madame! You are one of the few. So, my question for you is, why would you want to mess with such stellar parking karma by drinking mimosas under the guise of worshipping at a church? I don't know if Jesus and the Parking Buddha hang out much, but if they do, and your name happens to come up in the conversation...I'm just saying.
Actually it is an excellent question. This phenomenon is a strange one indeed and I have not witnessed it in any other city. The first time I saw it was 25 years ago, and my response was similar to yours in that I started looking for the official SFMTA sign that says parking in the middle of the street is okay on certain days. I didn't find it either.  The official response of SFMTA when asked about this was that the City has no policy on middle of the road parking for churches, synogogues, or other houses of worship: "They have working arrangements with the community and their neighbors, to use various parking methods in the area, as long as it does not prevent access to properties or cause disruption."
Apparently this has been going on each Sunday morning since a decade or so after the first parking meter was planted in SF in 1947. And, it's not just in the Tenderloin that this happens, but all over the City – in the Richmond, on Mission, Guerrero, Valencia, California, etc.
I think it is a wonderfully benevolent policy, and is another example of how SF shines..."Lots of people arrive at places of spirit for a few hours on Sunday mornings to connect to the celestial designers, celebrate joy, look for comfort in suffering, find deeper meaning, and in order to accommodate all of the cars, and as long as there is no mayhem created, or blocked driveways, we're going to let the rules slide for a few hours."
But, remember that this informal policy, is just that. So, you are not guaranteed a ticket-free spot just because God is your co-pilot. Like other parking situations, some parking enforcement officers don't read all of their memos. Church officials have even been known to get tickets.
I think your connecting with friends over a mimosa or two on Sunday mornings, talking about life, and celebrating the miraculousness of it can be as divinely human and a spiritual experience as anything else. So, as far as my advice goes, all I have to say to you on the matter, Ms. Striving, is Vaya con Dios.

For further exploration of when parking in the middle of the street is okay, how the hair of the dog can be considered spiritual, and other related topics please click here. To download VoicePark, the world's first hands-free parking navigation app, click here.

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