Parking conflicts prompting churches to flee D.C.

By |
Photo - Cars
Cars
Local,DC,Transportation,Liz Essley

For the District's devout, the Sunday scramble for a parking spot is reason enough to appeal to the Almighty.

D.C. churches face a parking crunch so severe that some congregations are fleeing the District for the suburbs while others fight with neighbors over parking spaces they've been using for decades.

Corinthian Baptist Church left its home at 5th and I streets Northwest for suburban Maryland in 2006.

"We were basically paying lots of money in parking tickets and having to park far away from the church and walk. People stopped coming to church because of the parking situation," said church clerk Deborah Williams. "We miss our church downtown, but we had no choice."

In Shaw, neighbors frustrated with the influx of cars every Sunday requested new, resident-only parking restrictions that effectively ban churchgoers without permits. Lincoln Congregational Temple is fighting back with a letter-writing campaign to local leaders.

"Quite frankly, I'm angry," the Rev. Rubin Tendai, Lincoln's interim pastor, said. "Some of [our members] have been in this church for 30, 40, 50 years, and we are an elderly congregation. We're not going to take this sitting down."

The parking problem is especially severe for historic African-American churches whose members moved to more affordable homes outside of D.C. and now must commute to church every Sunday.

"People grow up in the church. They then go about their lives and move to what they can afford but continue to consider the church where they were raised as their home church," said Terry Lynch, executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations. Lynch is pressing the city for less restrictive parking rules in Shaw. "These restrictions have been a significant factor on why a number of congregations have relocated to other jurisdictions," Lynch said.

The problem isn't new in D.C.

"Twenty-two years I've been dealing with parking on Sundays," D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier told NewsTalk8.

Police try to strike a balance between enforcement and understanding with churchgoers.

"There's passionate people on both sides," she said.

D.C. officials said they plan to sit down with church leaders in Shaw to work out a parking solution. That's what the city did in 2006 to resolve a similar church-neighborhood conflict at Logan Circle.

Todd Lovinger, a Logan Circle resident who waged a public campaign to stop churchgoers from double parking and blocking in residents' cars, said the problem was resolved when the city created more on-street parking spaces.

"We still have a problem with illegal parking in the sense of people parking in the turn lanes and the crosswalks and so forth, which is a safety problem," Lovinger said. "But it's nothing like it used to be."

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

View article comments Leave a comment
Author:

Liz Essley

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner