January 21, 2006

Saturday Observer

LOGAN RESIDENTS ASK CHURCHES TO BE GOOD NEIGHBORS. Logan Circle residents are seeking to put an end to illegal parking by churchgoers in their community along Vermont Ave. on some weeknights and weekends. The root of the problem is that the churches with congregations in excess of 1,000 persons -- all within 1 block of Vermont Ave. and R St. NW -- do not have any parking facilities whatsoever.

While most residents consider the churches to be a neighborhood asset, they assert that the illegal activity creates significant safety hazards, is unfairly burdensome, and has caused several accidents. As a result of being blocked, residents have reported missing airline flights, being late for professional appointments and stranding children away from home.

Indeed, earlier in January part of the neighborhood had to do without basic municipal services, i.e. trash collection, because garbage and recycling vehicles were not able to maneuver the streets due to the illegally parked vehicles.

The residents contend that the need to protect public safety and needs of local residents to access their vehicles outweigh any associated limited inconvenience to church parishioners from asking them to take public transportation or arrive early enough to find legal parking which is available only a few blocks away.

Parking enforcement and the Metropolitan Police Department have refused to issue tickets citing an unofficial policy of the Mayor's office allowing churchgoers leeway. The residents contend that the policy is in direct contravention of DC code which specifically prohibits double, as well as illegal parking, at all times in all places in the city.

Though double-parking may occur around churches in limited other neighborhoods around the city, the residents point out that police actively ticket around the Jewish Community Center (located just blocks away) and that most religious institutions and private schools in the city responsibly arrange for alternative parking so as to respect local residents.

To resolve a similar dispute on Capitol Hill, at least one local church responsibly rented parking spaces for its members to alleviate the safety hazards and the burden to local residents. The residents contend that the Logan churches should act as good and responsible community citizens by implementing a similar alternative solution.

Approximately 50 residents calling themselves "Logan Residents for Equitable Enforcement of Parking Laws" signed a letter detailing the problem and protesting the city's lack of enforcement. The letter was sent to various city officials on Dec. 6, but to date no written response has been received.

Residents, church leaders and the ANC have formed a committee to address the problem and seek solutions. In the interim, the police have begun issuing tickets for all parking violations on weekdays and for violations resulting in safety hazards on the weekends. The police have promised to begin issuing tickets for double-parking on Sundays in the near future as well, but say they want to give time to notify the community and the parishoners of their intention to do so.

Todd D. Lovinger
Logan Residents for Equitable Enforcement of Parking Laws

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1 comment:

Eric said...

Good for the residents for sticking up for themselves and demanding help from officials to curb this city-wide illegal practice. I am all for going to church, but I also believe in respecting the local community and being neighborly. I would hope that the churches would volunteer to discontinue double parking on their own out of respect for the residents. But, if not, the police should not be reluctant to enforce the laws.