Logan Circle Parking Problems

A Blog designed to bring to the attention of our political leaders the problems of illegal church parking

Monday, May 15, 2006

Task forces run around a trapped Logan Circle (Washington Times)

By Tom Knott (May 11, 2006)

It is against the law to double-park, except, apparently, if you are attending a church service on Sunday morning, when you are permitted to park anywhere you please.

This longtime exemption continues to baffle D.C. lawmakers and frustrate the residents of Logan Circle, many of whom find themselves living in a freeze zone on Sunday mornings. Residents are obligated to plan their Sunday mornings around the illegally parked vehicles of the churchgoers that form a barricade. God help the residents of Logan Circle if something unplanned comes up -- such as a medical emergency.

So you're having chest pains? Take two aspirin and wait out the pastor's sermon. If that does not work, have a nice afterlife.

Residents of Logan Circle and members of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2F formed a task force to study this issue, and what they developed, besides a plan to add more parking spaces, was a call to the D.C. Department of Public Works to enforce the double-parking laws.
This novel concept undoubtedly came to someone only after an exhausting amount of deliberation. The concept, however bold and exciting, received the thumbs-down sign from Mayor Anthony A. Williams because of the complexities and nuances of double-parking churchgoers.

And it is a complex issue. Churchgoers descend on their places of worship in order to lead better lives and to do right by others, which, in some cases, means parking their vehicle in a location that blocks the vehicle of a fellow man. It is doubtful there is a psalm that celebrates this inconsiderate act.

Anyway, the good mayor has decided to form another task force to come up with a solution that will satisfy everyone. This task force is stuffed with community leaders, clergy, city officials, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.

Before Task Force II is this: double-parking churchgoers versus the trapped residents of Logan Circle not receiving a fair return on their tax dollar. They have stepped up to the queue at the Wilson Building and ordered the basic public service of being able to use their vehicles on Sunday morning.

To which the city says: We'll get back to you on this in a few months. We need more time to study the faith-based, double-parking initiative. If Task Force II fails to devise a solution, there is always the prospect of Task Force III.

Until then, the obvious seems to be eluding the brain power of too many, which is: No one likes to have a vehicle that is hemmed in by another. The mayor would not like it. Members of the D.C. Council would not like it. The ANC commissioners would not like it. Then again, they are allowed to park wherever they like, so long as they are -- wink, wink -- on official business.

The churchgoers probably would not like it either. They have things to do after church each Sunday and no doubt would be incredibly annoyed if their vehicles were barricaded behind another line of vehicles.

See, that is another problem with double-parking. Two can play the double-parking game, which actually would make it triple-parking.

The failure of city officials to resolve the parking lot of Logan Circle is comically absurd unless you are one of the poor souls whose quality of life is compromised on Sunday mornings.

The city, as always, remains in the business of saving lives, judging by its ever-expanding deployment of speed cameras. Common sense would dictate that Logan Circle doubling as a parking lot is probably not the safest condition.

But let the deep thinkers of Task Force No. II come to that in the months ahead.
Perhaps the residents of Logan Circle could bring a sense of clarity to the situation by double-parking their vehicles at the meeting place of the deep thinkers of Task Force II.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Parking Task Force Update

Well, we should call this an update without an update. Neither the mayor's office or the D.C. Council have done anything on the parking issue. A task force has yet to be formed and no one is talking about when it will be. It really does appear that the churches have won. They knew what would happen if they delayed and delayed.

We still urge everyone to call or email the mayor's office and D.C. Council members.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Response from the Office of Attorney General for the District of Columbia (OAG)

The following email comes from the DC's Office of the Attorney General. It is in response to questions about illegal church parking. Like all other replies from public officials we do not make comments in the same post:
Thank you for contacting the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia (OAG) though the ‘Ask the Director’ section of the website. We have received your April 24, 2006 comments regarding parking regulations.

We care about your concerns and appreciate your comments. However, the issues you described do not concern the OAG. We would like you to know that the OAG is the law firm for the government of the District of Columbia (the District). In that capacity, OAG represents the Mayor and various District government agencies and provides legal advice to certain District officials. The OAG represents and defends the District government and District laws in court proceedings. Furthermore, in disputes involving the District government, OAG may be adverse to private parties. Thus, except pursuant to limited statutory exceptions, the OAG cannot provide legal advice to private citizens or conduct legal research on their behalf.

We hope that you achieve a satisfactory resolution of your concerns.


Attorney General

Reaction to DDOT spokeswoman's comment

"There has been a decision as to which groups will be represented, but I think they are in the process of approaching people," said Karyn LeBlanc, a spokeswoman for the department.
The above comes from today's Washington Times article on the illegal church parking problem (see below). We would just like to say that the mayor's task force, if it ever gets off the ground, will most likely be overwhelming black, religious, and unrepresentative of "newcomers."

This is not surprising and unless we do away with the codes words and other reference laden language that has been used in this debate (especially at the rally and by politicians), we will not get to the heart of the problem. The reason why there has been no action has to do with a political calculus that DC politicians have made. What they have done is weight the costs and benefits of trying to enforce parking laws (a cost-benefit analysis). They have found that enforcing the parking laws will cost them more politically than to not enforce them. The reality is that most DC politicians do not want to anger black people and realize that new white middle to upper class folks are less likely to protest or become active in the DC political environment when they get screwed on a issue.

Since politicians see the dividing lines as churches=black and newcomers=white, they have done all they can to prevent enforcement and to just appease the "newcomers" with some promise to do something in the future.

Remember everyone has a say in how DC is run. It does not matter if your white, black, rich, poor, newcomer, or oldcomer. No matter what Dee Hunter says you can feel disenfranchised even if you are white. Black people do not have a monopoly on being screwed by government. Anyone can be and until people realize that the DC government is corrupt, wasteful, and non-reactive to the community's concerns, things like illegal and double parking will continue because indifference is a symptom of too much power.

Double-parking task force seen as a diversion tactic (Washington Times)

By Amy Doolittle (May 8, 2006

A D.C. task force promised by Mayor Anthony A. Williams to examine the problem of illegal double-parking on Sundays remains incomplete while churchgoers and inconvenienced residents wonder whether help will ever come.
"The general consensus is that it's just a delay tactic and that they have no intention of forming a task force," said Todd Lovinger, a Logan Circle community activist. "Whether they form one or not, they clearly have no intention of including the residents or getting input or perspective."
Mr. Lovinger said he has not been asked to join the task force and does not know of any residents who have.
"I contacted every council member in office requesting a meeting on the issue, and not one has responded, even with a courtesy response just saying they are too busy -- nothing," he said. "We have no intention of letting this issue go."
The task force is aimed at finding a solution over the next four months to parking problems near D.C. churches. Churchgoers coming into the city for Sunday services often park on median strips or double-park on streets, which blocks vehicles owned by residents. The task force plan was announced late last month.
"We're still contacting people; it takes some time to get a hold of them," said Vincent Morris, a spokesman for the mayor. "I don't think the task force has met yet or has been formed just yet."
Christopher Dyer, a member of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2F, said the city needs to move forward with the task force to respond quickly to community needs.
"I think it's important that they form this task force," he said. "I take it at face value that they're going to do it, but it would be interesting to see if they don't. I would hope that they take into account the thousands and thousands of residents who have expressed an opinion that there needs to be equitable enforcement of parking laws."
Double-parking is illegal in the District, but churchgoers have ignored the law on Sundays for at least 30 years. The Metropolitan Police Department, which is responsible for parking patrols on the weekends, has not been issuing tickets to violators. Double-parking carries a $50 fine.
Enforcement of the parking law was set to begin May 21 in Logan Circle, where a group of residents and ANC 2F formed their own task force to address the problem.
The group developed a strategy that added more than 140 parking spaces to the Northwest neighborhood and arranged with the D.C. Department of Public Works to begin enforcement there on Sundays.
The law was to be enforced citywide starting July 1, after a brief warning period to give churches time to make other -- legal -- parking arrangements for parishioners.
But Mr. Williams, a Democrat, late last month delayed enforcement for at least four months in Logan Circle and citywide. An administration appointee announced the plan for a parking task force April 23 as about 1,000 ministers and churchgoers from across the city protested the changes at a Logan Circle rally.
"We cannot always do things as quickly as we like when we take into account legitimate, important, very critical community issues in our city," Mr. Williams said. "Everything we've done in our city, we try to bring together all the parties...on a solution."
The task force will consist of community leaders, clergy, city officials and the mayor's interfaith council, officials said last month.
Officials from the D.C. Department of Transportation, which will have representatives on the task force, said last week that they expect the panel to begin meeting this week. The officials also said the panel will not meet until the city has approached representatives from every concerned group.
"There has been a decision as to which groups will be represented, but I think they are in the process of approaching people," said Karyn LeBlanc, a spokeswoman for the department.
It was not clear which community and church groups the task force will include or which parts of the city they will represent.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Logan Residents Ask Questions of the Mayor's Task Force

This is an email from the Logan Residents for Equitable Enforcement of Parking Regulations to DDOT spokesperson, Ann Simpson, asking about various aspects of the Mayor's church parking task force.
It has been widely reported that the Mayor's new church parking enforcement task force -- which will inexplicably revisit all of the work done by the Logan Circle parking task force over the last 4 months -- is being created in an effort to gather input from all affected parties in an attempt to find a workable, cooperative solution to the blatant disregard by church parishioners for lawfully enacted parking regulations which exist in order to protect public safety.

Along those lines, our question is as follows:

Given that during the past several months Mayor Williams, DPW Director William Howland and Acting DDOT Director Michelle Pourciau have all met individually and repeatedly with church leaders to discuss this issue but none have ever met with ... or even had the simple courtesy to respond to a written communication from ... a single resident, how will the concerns of the residents (who are constituents and taxpayers) be represented on the task force?

Clearly, the fact that to date city leaders have regularly met with church leaders but refused all requests to hear from the tax-paying residents is of great concern and casts serious doubt on the administration's motives. The fact that the administration's only communication with residents has been through the local ANC, which passed resolutions calling for enforcement that the city then blatantly disregarded, is indicative of the equitable nature of this inquiry.

Although we have not received a response to our communications to date, we would appreciate a response to this one. In particular, we would like to know whom will be representing the residents on the task force and how many representatives will there be (if any) for the residents versus the churches.

Your prompt response will be greatly appreciated.

Update on the Mayor's Church Parking Task Force

The following is the standard response that DDOT is sending out DC residents who email asking about the Mayor's task force and other parking concerns. As you can read, the task force hasn't gotten off the ground which is puzzling seeing that the Mayor's spokesperson, Dr. Susan Newman, said last week that it had been formed and was currently working on solutions. Oh well bending the truth was something she had going for her that day (see previous post on her).
On behalf of the DDOT Acting Director, thank you for your comments on church parking. DDOT is currently working closely with the Mayor's office and the Council in an effort to expedite the development of the Parking Task Force. We have been working to identify partners for the task force and will recommend those individuals to the Mayor's office. It is our understanding that the Mayor is interested in having representatives from ANC's, churches and other community representatives on the task force. The District is committed to ensure that the task force identify the areas of concern and offer solutions in a timely manner.

DDOT is dedicated to continuing in our efforts to work with the church communities and the neighborhoods in order to find possible parking alternatives. We will continue to meet with the individuals to assess current parking availability and discuss alternatives that may be developed to provide additional parking spaces.

Should you have any questions, please continue to contact Ann Simpson-Mason at ann.simpson-mason@dc.gov. Again, thank you for sharing your views with us.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The ongoing indifference of our elected leaders

This is the second update to our previous post, "A Call to public officials." So far only ANC 2f Chairman Chales Reed has been kind enough to answer our questions about the church parking problem. Again, we continue to wait and are saddened at the indifference that many elected officials have over DC resident's concerns.

We decided to again use this picture of Williams, Cropp, and Evans because of the time the DC Council is taking today to debate baseball and not parking concerns in the District.

We again ask everyone to call these people and demand action! Here are phone numbers to call:

Mayor Anthony Williams (202) 727-2980 or (202) 727-1000
Deputy Mayor for Operations (202) 727-6053
Mayor's Press Secretary (202) 727-5011
Councilmember Jack Evans (202) 724-8058
Council Chair Linda Cropp (202) 842-2006
Councilmember Carol Schwartz (202) 724-8105
Councilmember David Catania (202) 724-7772
Councilmember Phil Mendelson (202) 724-8064
Councilmember Kwame R. Brown (202) 724-8174
Councilmember Adrian Fenty
(202) 727-8052 or (202) 667-2006

New Angle Parking in Logan Circle (Without Enforcement)

Sunday Double Parking Still Going Strong in Logan Circle

Most council members back parking delay (Washington Times)

By Amy Doolittle (May 2, 2006)
The majority of D.C. Council members said yesterday that they support Mayor Anthony A. Williams' decision to postpone Sunday enforcement of double-parking laws until at least late August.

"I think we should find a solution, and I don't think it would be hard to find a solution that is both tolerant of churchgoers and prevents homeowners from being locked in," said Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat. "This is a cooling-off period. I think it's very unfortunate how heated it has gotten."

Parking enforcement -- which was scheduled to begin in Logan Circle on May 21 and citywide July 1 -- was lifted after protests from churches across the city prompted Mr. Williams to create his own task force to take a four-month look at the rampant Sunday parking infractions.

Officials late last year began examining enforcement of double-parking laws after a group of residents in Logan Circle petitioned the District. The group's actions prompted neighborhood officials to form their own task force to study the problem and develop solutions.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) responded to the Logan Circle group's recommendations by adding 77 new permanent and 78 Sunday-only parking spaces in the area. The DDOT also promised double-parking enforcement there by late this month.

But the mayor intervened.

Council members who say they support the delay include Mr. Mendelson; Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat who is running for mayor; Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican; Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat; Vincent B. Orange Sr., Ward 5 Democrat who is running for mayor; and Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, at-large Democrat who is running for mayor, said last week that she also supports the mayor's decision.

"Enforcement should be postponed until the [mayor's] task force ... recommendations, and we'll go from there," Mr. Orange said.
The council voted in July 2002 to exempt itself from city parking regulations when on official business.

Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat whose district includes Logan Circle, said he wants enforcement to begin this month and in July, as previously planned.

"The point is they need to enforce the law," he said. "I think they need to enforce it citywide, and they need to enforce it according to the original plan."

Earlier last week Mr. Evans said he supported the mayor's plan to delay enforcement. His position changed Thursday after constituents accused him of not fairly representing them.

Mr. Evans said yesterday that he did not flip-flop his position but rather "clarified his previous statement."

Several council members said they likely would support council action to resolve the church parking issue.

"In the next few months, we need to come up with something," Mr. Barry said. "This issue is like a raisin in the sun. The longer it festers, the bigger a problem it becomes. We don't want this animosity to get any worse."

Mr. Graham and Mrs. Schwartz said they also likely would support council action, but would like to hold off until after the mayor's task force examines the issue.
Double-parking is illegal in the District and carries a $50 fine.

Council members Kwame R. Brown, at-large Democrat; David A. Catania, at-large independent; Vincent C. Gray, Ward 7 Democrat; Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat; and Sharon Ambrose, Ward 6 Democrat, did not return calls for comment.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Statement from ANC 2f Chairman Charles Reed

The ANC 2f Chairman Charles Reed answered our questions about the Logan Circle parking problem (please see previous post). To better inform the reader, here are the questions asked:

1) Do you support ticketing illegal parkers regardless of religion?
2) Do you agree with the Logan Circle solution to the church parking problem?
3) Do you agree with the Mayors stay on the Logan parking plan?
4) Would you state publicly that church members shouldnt double park and that the Mayor should reinstate the Logan parking plan?

Here is his statement, unedited, with no comments from us:
I don’t know who sent this to me, but I am happy to let anyone know my views. First, I believe that the writer has no reason to fear expressing his/her views publicly. The rally was, as I saw it (I was there) was hardly something to fear. There was some overstatement, misunderstanding, and demagoguery. There is typically an extremist element on virtually in any issue of importance. But there was also a main stream _expression of concern that the churches not be damaged by lack of parking, and those same speakers clearly acknowledged the need for the churches not to injure the residents either. I am aware that the rally was a reaction to an intemperate letter circulated on the other side of the issue.

Second, as I have said before (see the Chairman’s page on the ANC2F web site) it is important to understand the parking issue from both sides. Residents are justifiably angry at having their cars blocked in and exposing themselves to safety hazards by an apparently unconcerned and even hostile appearing set of mainly out of town parishioners. Church leaders and their parishioners often see the issue in totally different frames of reference. To them, it is nostalgia for their traditional church, it is umbrage at the rapid gentrification that has both pushed less affluent, mainly minority, residents out of an area that had been theirs for several generations. And to some, there is a Constitutional right of free exercise of religion issue.

Third, it is equally important for everybody to understand that no responsible person is urging that the parking laws not be enforced. This includes the church leaders. Their issue is only how and when, and the when becomes significant only to avoid a flight out of the churches by their distant parishioners. The residents are prepared to make reasonable accommodations to the churches, but they will not agree to a continuation of the sort of inundation that is taking place. Fortunately, in our area, this is not an insoluble problem. The church leaders at the rally—at least those that were not simply making political statements—are aware of this.

Fourth, the ANC has been very active and a constructive force in reaching solutions. Perhaps not everyone knows that the Mayor had authorized a change in the long standing tradition to avoid ticketing churchgoers cars in the area. This was the direct result of the ANC’s working with church, community and government groups. A carefully laid out plan, fully approved by the working group of which the ANC (represented by me and Commissioner Chris Dyer) was a leading member, was forged which involved (1) dedication of some 193 new parking spaces which we got DDOT to arrange by adjusting parking configurations, (2) instituting strict parking enforcement after a reasonable warning period, and (3) ongoing efforts to improve parking for the whole area, such as extending the Metro cross town connector, better bus schedules, and innovative ideas like off-duty use of government and business parking spots in the areas, etc.

Now the ANC will continue its efforts, and I believe we will succeed in greatly improving the situation. It takes patience, understanding and skill. I know that some in the community think I am not aggressive enough, or that I would be more aggressive if my own parking were not involved. Of course, my parking is involved. I have lived for the past 30 years next to the Kingman Boys and Girls Club and have the same ongoing problems with blocked cars, and more than my share of frustrations. I have no apologies for appearing less aggressive. There is a limit to the practical use of aggression. There are problems—and this is one of them—that will not be solved by power plays (from either side, despite the strong rhetoric and threats of political action last Sunday).

So, to answer the questions: 1. Yes, 2. Yes, and that solution is an ongoing one, 3. No, I would have preferred that the Mayor stick with the plan, but I understand that a part of the problem is that the enforcement action was not only scheduled for Logan Circle but for the city as a whole. Other communities were not as well prepared as we were.4. I personally am not opposed to double parking where it can be controlled and does not pose safety and convenience problems for residents, but otherwise, I certainly agree that double parking should not be permitted—by anybody. By the way, nothing has stopped the implementation of the plan to increase spaces; I think the Mayor should resume full enforcement, period.

Charles Reed