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Transported: What's the Deal with Parking on the Dolores Park Medians?

Welcome to "Transported", our new weekly series about getting places in San Francisco, whether you take the bus or the BART, bike or drive. Come here to find the skinny on secret parking spots, the new bike lanes and how to get across town on MUNI without losing your mind.

A hot button issue for people in the 7x7 offices with cars is how, why, when and where parking on the Dolores and Valencia Street medians is legal. And besides, doesn't it seem strange for a liberal town like San Francisco to mix church and state?

Well apparently, it's not very legal at all—it's actually an unspoken agreement the myriad houses of worship that dot Dolores, Guerrero and Valencia Streets have with the city to look the other way during their services.

Paul Rose, an official at the SFMTA , maintains that the city has no policy whatsoever on median parking for churches: "Churches 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."

What are these arrangements, and when did they come about?

"For the past 50 years or so, the city has allowed church parking on major boulevards, all along Dolores, Guerrero, Valencia, near Glide Memorial downtown and around some Asian churches in the Richmond," explained Bill Schappert, the properties co-chair at Dolores Park Church. "They say all cars must be gone by dusk. Our members haven't gotten ticketed in a long, long time."

But police officers do often ticket and even tow cars left near medians if they haven't been moved by the time most Sunday services are over, which is around 1 pm.

To squash confusion, Sha'ar Zahav Synagogue on the corner of 16th and Dolores gives their members signs to put on their dashboards while their attending services especially at night, but it doesn't always work.

"I've gotten ticketed myself," laughed Regina Wurst, administrator at Sha'ar Zahav. "They don't care. It doesn't make a difference what you tell the officers. What one guy says is different from what the other guy will say."

I regularly see drivers parking on the Dolores or Valencia Street medians, get out, and walk right past any nearby churches and into a storefront to shop.

"People do take advantage of the parking situation, but they're taking their lives into their own hands," Wurst continued. She says she's fielded calls from angry drivers who aren't even Synagogue members complaining of getting a $65 ticket who admit they merely parked to attend brunch in the area. 

Rose says the parking citations, usually $65, are mainly "response driven"—meaning they give out tickets when neighbors complain.

Schappert, a longtime Mission resident who has worked at Dolores Park Church even longer, says, "I think the police should just let sleeping doves lie. It shouldn't be just for the churches. It's a small amount of inconvenience to the community at large. If they ever eliminate it, I would start a campaign to reinstate it."

Lesson learned? If you have to park on the median, be sly and get out of there quick. Rose advises drivers to use common sense and not block driveways, serviceways, and to pay attention to signs. Have you gotten a ticket on one of these medians? Tell us about it in the comments section below!