Where Would Jesus Park? City goes easy on
car-driving Logan Circle congregations.

Pray Area: Politics, race cloud church-parking issue.
Darrow Montgomery

On Feb. 1, the office of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty sent an e-mail to the District’s advisory neighborhood commissioners on what seemed like a ho-hum piece of business. Henceforth, said the memo, the police department’s Third District would be enforcing all parking regulations seven days a week. “We ask for your help in ensuring that residents are informed of this increased attention to parking compliance and safety issues, which will begin immediately,” it read.

The memo looked like real bad news for a particular local demographic—car-bound Christians, that is—especially those who end up parking around Logan Circle. Every Sunday morning, thousands of parishioners flood five churches north of the circle—Vermont Avenue Baptist, Metropolitan Baptist, Eleventh Street Baptist, Way Back to Pentecost Church, and the Church of Christ. They emerge not from the nearby Metro stations but from their automobiles, creating a scramble for parking in an area where spaces are already scarce.

On a Sunday in early February, two D.C. police officers were working the church zone with pens and pads. As an officer put a ticket on the windshield of an Escalade with Maryland tags jutting out from Vermont Avenue onto R Street NW, the owner of the vehicle ran down the street, hollering.

The officer shrugged when asked if he’d be ticketing on Sundays now. “A little bit,” he said.

The officer’s quip, however, sort of sums up the city government’s long-standing approach to Sunday parking enforcement. Not even the Feb. 1 memo, it turns out, portends a break with the past. When asked about the “increased attention,” mayoral Communications Director Carrie Brooks responds that the memo was sent in error. The e-mail, says Brooks, was the work of “an overzealous neighborhood coordinator.” The police department “will continue to enforce parking regulations,” notes Brooks. That means no increase in enforcement, no decrease in enforcement.

For some Logan Circle residents, the status quo isn’t a particularly good quo. Todd Lovinger, head of Logan Residents for Equitable Enforcement of Parking Regulations, has lobbied the city government for years to do something about the church parking crunch, which afflicts locals not only on Sundays but other days as well.

The worst of it came when churchgoers simply double-parked on the streets adjacent to their house of worship. Lovinger blames that practice for keeping parked-in residents from LSATs, flights, and kids’ soccer games. He also says that fire trucks and other emergency vehicles often had to take wide detours around the area.

“Those days were horrible,” recalls Lovinger. “Every Sunday—and some weeknights—you just knew there was at least a 50-50 chance you’d be blocked in.”

Lovinger’s group worked with the District’s Department of Transportation (DDOT) and the police department to maximize the area’s parking real estate. The city changed Vermont Avenue from a standard parallel-parking street to a diagonal, nose-out scheme. The reconfiguration added 153 spaces and largely ended the practice of hemming in residents.

Yet other problems persist. Though they tend not to box in as many residents, churchgoers block sightlines on intersections and block driveways and fire hydrants. Don’t blame the churches for that. “We support full parking enforcement,” says Richard Taylor, chairman of the board of deacons of Vermont Avenue Baptist Church.

Tensions between ticket-pushing Logan Circle residents and the largely suburban congregations of area churches reached a full boil in 2006. In March of that year, DDOT announced a plan to gradually begin enforcing parking regulations on Sundays, while working with churches and community members to come up with alternative parking and transportation arrangements.

Churches in the area roundly denounced the plan and held an anti-enforcement rally in Logan Circle. The rally was attended by a who’s who of local politicians, as well as Lorraine C. Miller, president of the D.C. chapter of the NAACP. Pastors claimed that enforcing double-parking regulations would “turn the city into a one-class, one-race gated community” and “kill…our congregations.”

Though the churches’ playing of the race card provoked much eye-rolling among the opposition, it proved to be politically expedient. Mayor Anthony A. Williams backed off the enforcement plans even before the rally and appointed a Citywide Congregational Task Force to offer solutions.

At the same time, Williams announced a moratorium on Sunday parking enforcement until his task force turned in a final report. It was a novel, if disingenuous, approach to the problem: Remediate illegal parking by legalizing it.

The Williams task force report, issued in September 2006, used a lot of words to say very little. While it included a strange nod to the churches’ interests—“the Task Force does not reject double parking…”—it called for universal enforcement of parking regulations.

Yet as any activist will tell you, supporting parking enforcement and actually doing it are different matters. After surveying the neighborhood on Sunday, March 2, Lovinger said, “I saw a ton of egregious violations today—people parked in front of hydrants, in front of traffic lights. They were parked in crosswalks. If a handicapped person had come by, they wouldn’t have been able to cross the street.”

Perhaps there’d be less blocking if the faithful would use additional spaces set aside by the city just east of Logan Circle along the Rhode Island Avenue median. But on two recent Sundays, those spaces were mostly empty. “[Residents] thought three blocks was a reasonable distance for churchgoers to walk,” says Lovinger. “But apparently they disagreed.”

Though Fenty himself is not big on church, it remains to be seen how hard his administration will push on the ticketing, especially as Easter approaches. When pressed on this subject, Brooks declined to elaborate on the extent of enforcement efforts, preferring to repeat the mantra that the “[police department] will continue to enforce parking regulations.”

Lovinger, for his part, will continue in his role as skeptic: “This issue has been a constant tug of war from the beginning. When this whole thing started, back in October 2006, they started ticketing a little, but then stopped. Then they said they’d ticket again, but only for safety hazards, but that didn’t really happen. Then they were definitely going to start ticketing after Easter in 2007, but that didn’t happen either.”

Our Readers Say

HE WOULD WALK!
Something I would have considered when purchasing in the neighborhood. Especially seeing that Metropolitan and some of those churches have been there for over 140 years.

And there hasn't been double parking since those new restrictions went in over a year ago. What the city should do is tear down that abandoned swimming pool and make more parking.
Jesus would take the METRO! I go to church downtown, am a dc resident, and occasionally drive, and sometimes take the metro. When I drive I always always park legally!!!!!!!!!! Jesus would realize that rules are made so everyone can live together and get along and when they are broken, people get hurt!!!!!! And if you are a churchgoer, you should be especially aware of that. This makes me angry that these people are so self centered and do not seem to care at all about the well being of others.
As someone who lived in the Logan Circle area for many years, is very hard to feel sorry for the same "concerned citizens council" that fought tooth and nail to prevent area churches from paying Garrison Elementary School to park on their field on Sunday mornings (just so they could have a place to illegally walk their dogs), who now complain that parking is a nightmare.

Seriously, some of the same people that claimed that parking on the field "prevents children from playing on Sunday between 6AM and 12" have called the police on the Logan Cirle area churches when they hold programs to keep youth off the streets.

What would Jesus do indeed.
Parking on a field kills the grass and turns it into a mud pit.

Better to rent parking somewhere paved and run a valet or shuttle service.
Oh, please. Parking hundreds of cars each and every week on a playing field is a sure way to turn it into an eroded muddy/dusty pit.
It is always amazing to me how many of us move into communitiies with long beautiful histories (the churches have been there for 140 years!) and we disrespect that history. The "concerned" citizen council placed many barriers on every effort made by the churches to solve the problem. It is clear to me and others that the intent of the council was never to find a solution that would benefit all, but to somehow get rid of the churches. What would Jesus do? He would work cooperatively and in good faith to find a solution that would be in the interest of ALL.
You are ridiculous if you think the reason people complain about the parking situation is simply to get rid of the churches. Those churches are beautiful and really add something special to the neighborhood. In fact, the crazy parking situation makes the neighborhood look cheap and the congregation seems ingnorant.

I say the churches can stay, but the cars have got to go!
Article titles aside, Jesus mostly walked. When Jesus did ride (on the back of a donkey), He was celebrated for His arrival...albeit right before He was sentenced to DEATH for claiming to be the 'Son of God' and 'King of the Jews'.

Once upon a time, DC was a collection of NEIGHBORHOODS with neighborhood churches. Folks walked 4-5 block to church on Sunday morning. People actually got along with each other and were considerate. I guess back then, before the residential development boom, folks applied the good neighbor philosophy of the "Golden Rule". The current Logan Circle issue has been one of recent decades however. I remember back in the 80's when I attended Vermont Avenue Baptist Church, the parking, nor the snottiness of the residents in that area wasn't this bad or contentious. Nowadays, there is multiple blame for the contentious attitude of parishoners and Logan Circle Residents. The Pharisees of Jesus time (now known as the Logan Circle Civic Association and arrogant parishoners) were just as guilty as Pontius Pilate (aka the Williams Administration) in his crucifixion. See in this scenario, it wasn't enough that the people complained, but the administration did virtually nothing and attempted to wash their hands of the matter.

Legalized Double Parking didn't work. Parking on the field didn't work. Angular parking kinda works. Ticket enforcement on Sundays almost violates the Sabbath. While the Bible doesn't say specifically what would Jesus do or say in this situation, one could easily derive that He wants Jews, Gentiles, Baptists, Pentacostals, and Logan Circle Residents to be able to come together on a good terms.

Metropolitan has already said that they were moving to PG County, so their share of congregants will eventually be out of the parking mix. Still, with all the condos going up in the area, it is not like the parking dilemma is going to change anytime soon.

BTW, the Bible does say that upon entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, Jesus immediately went to the Temple and drove out the moneychangers. Some would argue if He "parked" His donkey outside the Temple or walked "three blocks" or not, but needless to say, He went to "clean" up the church.

Jesus would not stand for the level of inconsiderate drivers and parkers on Sundays in the Logan Circle area. He would have given the donkey to handlers (valets?!?) and straightened folks out at each church.
As a life-long member of Metropolitan Baptist Church (MBC) since 1956, I am very disappointed by the behavior of our 'new' neighbors in the area of the church. While neighborhood growth is always welcome, good neighborly relationships have yet to move in.

The majority of the 6 churches from 10th & R to 13th & R (not counting the smaller 'store-front' churches) were established in the late 1800s, more than 100 years ago. Most of these churches have multi-generational family memberships with strong ties to the DC community. Our families went to the neighborhood schools, worked in DC and drove or walked to church from the immediate area. While some members did move to the surrounding suburbs in the mid-1980s, they kept ties to their home-churches. These churches have always tried to be good neighbors and a resource to the greater community and to the neighborhood schools.

The Garrison school lot had been used by MBC and other surrounding churches to alleviate parking issues in the area for many years with very few, if any, neighborhood complaints. The MBC Sentinels would even 'police' the playground for harmful debris (needles, vials, bottles, etc).

When the controversy arose about the parking, the issue, as stated by our new neighbors, was about ‘fairness to the neighborhood children’. By parking cars on the lot (on Sundays and the occasional mid-week evening service), the children were being deprived of a green space/play place in their neighborhood.

Since the lot has been made unavailable for use by the neighborhood churches, it is striking just how under-used the playground has been by the neighborhood children.

Over time, there have been very few, if any, ‘team’ sports played by the children (or anyone else for that matter). There has been the occasional ‘pick-up’ soccer game and some ‘Frisbee’ play. There are children playing, but only on the ‘play areas’ with the monkey bars and swings; none playing on the lot.

Why are there no children playing on the green space? They don’t play on the green space because, in spite of all the signage against it, the new neighbors chose to ignore the warnings and use that space as their personal ‘dog-park/dog-run’. It would appear that dogs running, jumping and playing TRUMPS children running, jumping and playing. To the few remaining old neighbors, the surrounding community of churches and their members (regardless of where they live) the message is clear ~ out with the old (by any means necessary) and in with the new ~ dogs and all.

It is interesting and noted on each Sunday, few if any of the new neighbors have found their way into any of the 6 churches within walking distance of their new homes. But, you can find them, walking their dogs ~ on the neighborhood children’s play lot.
So, those who want to let church goers park willy-nilly all over "their" neighborhoods use as a defense that the churches have been in the area for "over 100 years," and, by logical extension, newer residents have less/no right to complain about illegal behavior in their area?

Isn't it hugely ironic that the "it's always been this way" argument was the same one used against civil rights reformers in the 1960's as a defense of racist laws and behavior? Presumably that issue was one that the historically black churches worked against? But now they can use their former oppressor's logic to justify their own boorish behavior?

Self-righteous double standards are so, so tiresome.
Though not the focus of this article, we have similar problems in Shaw. But parking over here isn't quite as tight as in Logan (yet), so what really gets me is the sheer arrogance and laziness of churchgoers who will park in front of a fire hydrant, crosswalk or bus stop when there are often empty spaces just a block or two away. (The entire 600 block of O Street has angled parking on both sides, yet is usually less than half utilized.) I can't comprehend how so-called Christians can so flagrantly violate the law on their way to church of all places! If you truly loved your handicapped or bus-riding neighbor as much as yourself, how could you justify such behavior?

It doesn't matter how long the church has been there or how long your family has been attending; if you had to drive to get there you're obviously no longer a resident of that neighborhood and you should certainly be expected to play by the same rules as those of us who live there now.
For what it's worth, I'm pretty sure Jesus wouldn't allow his dog to use a child's playground as a toilette.

But throwing rocks at each other's glass houses isn't solving any problems.
Is this really that complicated? Sunday or not, if there are laws, they should be enforced. Am I missing something?

"Has the whole world gone crazy? Am I the only one around here who gives a 'darn' about the rules? Mark it zero!"
No one is denying the importance or tradition of the churches in Logan, they are just asking folks to park legally. There is a tradition in this country of following the law as it's written and that's been around for 140+ years as well so stick with that tradition too please.
Thisi s definitely a racial matter. The churches involved have served the black community, andthe community in general, for over a century. This definitely should have some significance. When whites had abandoned the city, when riots tore it apart and the neighborhoods deteriorated, these churches stayed and supplied needed services. The "suburban middle class parishoners" many commentors have disparaged represent a transfer of resources to the poor who still remain in this community---their attendance raises support and staffing for many programs that help these communities.

No one is considering that many of these parishoners would still LIVe in Shaw if greedy developers had not created a community of homes that cost well beyond the reach of the average working class Washingtonia---black or white.

This issue definitely has racial and cultural biases. Your article reeks of it: it leans toward younger, white, non-religious newcomers, who disrespect the values our American society has always given to worship on Sunday. for example, we relax parking rules and fees in many parts of the city on the weekends and Sunday. We do not allow liquor sales on Sunday. A fair solution would be to ensure that parishoners do not block entry to homeowners, but relax all other parking laws on that day.

Avoid the gentrification of churches that has happened with the gentrification of homes. Will it now be whites in blacks out? This is how America has done for centuries---black needs are abandoned as soon as whites want the land and resources.
Hey "Support,"why the focus on Sundays only? Seems a bit like religion interfering in state. Honestly, if you lived near a synagogue and I wanted to park my big SUV in front of your car, blocking you in, because hey you should just suck it up even though it's Saturday, you'd be A OK with it? Bull. You continue to ignore the GOLDEN rule. If you wouldn't appreciate someone blocking your car in, forcing you to figure out which church vestibule you go into to try and get the attention of an usher, who may or may not (likely not) find the parishoner among hundreds who might be the one blocking your car, and you have someplace to be 30 minutes ago, then you're being self-centered. We have two churches on our corner, and the parishoners--not one with DC plates--block people in, while I get a kick out of counting the empty parking spaces within just two short blocks. You are doing what YOU want out of CONVENIENCE, not some sacred act of history or racial justice. This is about YOUR CONVENIENCE, and when you acknowledge someone else's right to do precisely the same thing to you, on THEIR day of worship, and we then provide the same rule exclusion to the Scientologists for their Wednesday evening event, and the Buddhists for their events, and the mosques for ever Friday at sundown, you will then be acting in a truly just manner...and the city will be grade a screwed.
I'm also a bit tired of some churchgoers complaining about gentrification of surrounding homes, when there wasn't a darned thing stopping you for a good couple of decades from purchasing what were then dilapidated homes, rehabbing them, and putting them to good use. You could have sold them as affordable housing, or used some of them for social programs in the neighborhood. But no. The vast majority of your congregants high-tailed it to the burbs, abandoning the communities you now want to pretend to speak for in some way, you took your own gentrification path right out of DC long ago. The biggest example of this hypocrisy is Shiloh Baptist, which owned a bunch of shell row houses in Shaw for decades, allowing them to decay and become magnets for illegal activity. Most DC church double parkers are basically decent people who are parking out of habit and personal convenience, but please don't get on a high horse and speak down to us as if this is come epic battle over racial justice. You had every chance to purchase, rehab, and do something useful with the properties surrounding your churches. You did not. That left them open to others to purchase and improve. You expected what as a result?
Let's be clear: this is NOT about race, this is not about religion, this is not about gentrification. This is about being respectful of the community in which these churches are located ... PERIOD! As the article correctly points out, in Logan, the city has set aside hundreds of parking spaces simply three blocks away on Rhode Island Avenue that sit empty every Sunday while parishioners illegally park in front of fire hydrants, cross walks, signs and intersections. There is absolutely NO excuse for such behavior other than arrogance and a sense of entitlement over others. It creates safety hazards and unnecessarily inconveniences tax-paying residents and the city should be ashamed for allowing such illegal behavior to continue unchecked. Hopefull, a group of residents will take action ... legal or otherwise ... to protect their property and their rights and force the city to abide by its legal duty to protect its citizenry.

Of course, not all churches and not all parishioners engage in such irresponsible behavior. Many churches have implemented valet parking to assist the elderly ... a proposal that was offered in Logan but categorically rejected by the churches. Others have encouraged members to use public transportation, leased nearby parking lots that are available on Sundays, created ride-sharing and carpooling lists, hired bus services, and so forth. These churches and parishioners should be applauded for their consideration and recognition of the issues that Sunday parking imposes upon the neighborhoods in which they are located.

Those churches and parishioners that are not proactive, however, should reconsider their approach and try to be more respectful of local communities. I find it amusing that parishioners argue that "new" residents are being unfair when it is the parishioners themselves who are seeking special privileges. Everyone should abide by the law ... which means arrive a few minutes early when going to church and find legal parking like the rest of us. Afterall, we all abide by parking laws when doing our everyday endeavors ... be it going to work, shopping, eating out, taking our kids to school or whatever ... why should going to church be any different.

Yes, many of these churches have been here for 100 years or more and have rich culture and traditions ... and they are welcomed into the neighborhoods in which they are located. However, being here "first" does not give them any greater rights than the residents who live here now. As many parishioners have noted, the neighborhood previously was in substantial disrepair, with boarded up homes and businesses abundant. The residents ... not the churches ... put our hard earned dollars in to clean up the neighborhood, get rid of vacant properties and build nice homes. We pay taxes, we keep up our properties and we are entitled to the same rights and courtesies as are other residents.

Finally, it is amusing that parishioers are arguing "gentrification" and complaining about the "new" residents ... when they themselves have created the situation. Let's not forget that it was Metropolitan Church which decided to sell a full block of land across the street on R to a developer for the construction of one hundred plus condominiums. The church could have very easily chosen to petition the city for a zoning change and used that land to build itself a garage to alleviate the problem. Or, it could have built a recreation or counseling center or other facility with garage parking for parishioners. Instead, it went for the big bucks and sold out to a developer. Given this, it is hard to take the argument seriously that these poor churches are being overrun by greedy developers and snooty new residents. The churches, afterall, are the ones who sought out such parties to which to sell their land for the highest dollar.

As a 20-plus year resident of DC, I enjoy the beauty and history these churches have to offer and welcome them to our communities. The only thing I ask is a little courtesy and respect ... meaning, specifically, abide by the same rules as the rest of us and be considerate of the neighborhoods to which you are visiting on Sundays. I don't think that is unfair or unreasonable ... and, I think anyone would be hard pressed to argue otherwise.
"No one is considering that many of these parishoners would still LIVe in Shaw if greedy developers had not created a community of homes that cost well beyond the reach of the average working class Washingtonia---black or white."

Those "greedy developers" have only been building that "community of homes" ithat are "well beyond the reach of the average working class Washingtonia" for the past decade or so.

Question for ya: Who sold them the land they're feeding and clothing their family's off developing? Would it be, perhaps, "The "suburban middle class parishoners" "?

A tougher question for ya: If so, why'd they do it? Think it might have been so that they could feed and cloth their families, too?

You're decrying demonization, but you're doing it as well...
Anacostia was a vastly majority white neighborhood until the late 1950s. If a Polish Falcons Club building sat somewhere in a residential area of Anacostia today, or if a historic Polish church was sitting in a residential neighborhood of Anacostia today, and parishoners decided to block in residents cars, AND arrogantly said "hey we were here first, our church was here first, we have history here, we built this neighborhood" in response to reasonable complaints, what would be the reaction of the residents of Anacostia?

Neighborhoods change. And the positive change seen in most DC neighborhoods today happened despite churches, not because of them.
The developers are not "greedy" ... they took the financial risk to build beautiful housing in an area that had been abandoned long ago ... and they are the ones who have turned these neighborhoods around. And, the churches have every right to sell their land to developers ... but, when they choose to do so ... as did Metropolitan Church just last year ... they should NOT turn around and complain about "new" residents in the community. That is truly the height of hypocrisy.

And, to be clear, the churches are not selling their land to developers because they need the money to feed and clothe their children. Be real ... these are very wealthy churches that still own lots of prime real estate in these neighborhoods and are attended by parishioners driving mercedes, bmw's and lexus.

Bottom line ... the law needs to be applied evenly ... PERIOD! Just because I live here does not give me the right to disregard the traffic laws .... and neither should people who come to this neighborhood to worship. Afterall, the laws are there for a reason ... to promote safety and provide structure ... these are worthwhile purposes which need to be accorded respect no matter what your reason for visiting this community.
C. Baptiste Williams writes "Something I would have considered when purchasing in the neighborhood. Especially seeing that Metropolitan and some of those churches have been there for over 140 years. "

I would respond by pointing out:

(1) that the churches, many of whom (such as Metropolitan) have sold land to condo developers, should have considered that selling nearby land to condo developers would mean that such residential owners would want to and be entitled to access their properties; and,

(2) the churches own the land on which they are located, not the entire neighborhood, and they need to learn to be good community partners.
I've always thought it would be interesting to apply the same "look the other way" logic to parking issues for other communities as we do for the Sunday morning church community. Why not let the gay community double park all over 17th Street on a Saturday night? I mean, really, have you ever tried to find a space to park when heading to JRs? Or allow bar-hoppers to block each other in up and down 18th Street in Adams Morgan on Saturday nights? Perhaps we'll solve the "parking crisis" at the new Nationals Park by letting sports fans clog up the roads in Southeast on game days. In the end, it shows the discrimination behind the current "look the other way" logic if you try to apply it to anyone other than those of us attending Church on Sunday morning.
I read this article last month when it was originally published and really saw both sides of the issue...

but today while I was circling the neighborhood to find parking in my home, because of the early hour I leave for work, and in front of me was woman pulling out of a diagonal spot in front the church on Vermont. I politely waited for her to exit safely and then pulled up to back in when a man quickly walked out a placed a cone right behind my car! I rolled down the window and asked why he did that and he informed me that there was no law saying he couldn't. I told him that I didn't not think that was respectful to anyone and he told me essential that I didn't have to move to this neighborhood... and essentially he deserved to be able to reserve the spot over me. I ended up parking much further away because I knew I needed to home to walk my dog and I had to pass him to get to my house and again he confronted me! I explained that I attend an urban church in a neighborhood with little parking and we are respectful of our neighborhood by most parishioners using metro.

And to answer the question: Jesus would be respectful and loving of all people! He would not be self-righteous and believe he is more worthy than parking over others!
Our church in Foggy Bottom has this particular problem too- insufficient parking for the people who live there (I read that only 29% of them have a car, too), and the church's lot isn't that big, either. The civil solution to this problem is to have all who can to use the large GW garage by the metro station, and shuttle the churchgoers a few blocks. And the access to 23rd street is easy for everyone coming off I-66 and the Cabin John Pkwy.

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