The Bay Citizen-New York Times partnership is already jazzing up the quality of what was a very weak Northern California section in the Times. And now the pair have discovered one of the dirty little secrets of San Francisco Sundays -- illegal parking by church-goers who just leave their cars in the middle of the street.
This is one of my favorite crusades, and I've been on it for quite a while. The Times/Bay Citizen story tries to sort out what the rules are and why this is allowed to happen. The SF Appeal tried to figure it out, too. But when you talk to the cops on the beat in the Mission, here's what they'll tell you: There are no rules. There is no law. The church-goers have no legal right to park in the middle of the damn street. It's just a tradition that goes back so long that nobody wants to defy it.
And whatever the cops and the MTA say, it's not a public service for community events. It's about religious gatherings. If you want to go to a secular gathering -- say, a Yoga class -- and park in the streets Sunday morning, you get a ticket. In fact, I know somone who tried that; she said a cop on the scene asked where she was going, and she said yoga, and the cop said she couldn't park there. It's only "for church services."
I'm all in favor of closing streets to traffic, but turning them into parking lots -- and allowing private institutions to use city property, at no cost, to promote religious events is not only a violation of church and state. It's wrong.