Separation – Church and State, Church and Parking


Separation – Church and State, Church and Parking

Don Shoup writes in his new book that separation of church and parking can be a fight. To wit:

            Efficiency is not the only goal for curb parking management. There are other concerns, including religion. San Francisco provides an important lesson. In January 2013 the city began to operate its parking meters on Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. Previously, it was hard to find an open curb space on Sunday in almost every commercial area in the city. Some drivers would park in metered spaces on Saturday afternoon and not move their car until Monday morning. After the meters began operating on Sunday, it became much easier to find curb parking on Sunday.

Nevertheless, responding to complaints that church members had to “pay to pray,” in April 2014 the city resumed free parking on Sunday. If San Francisco had shared some of its Sunday meter revenue to improve public services in the metered neighborhoods, the prospect of losing public services could have generated political support to keep the Sunday metering. Merchants and residents who benefited from the public services might have insisted on the separation of church and parking. The laws of supply and demand do not miraculously stop operating on Sunday.

Some pastors fear that charging for parking on Sunday will reduce church attendance, which it may. In his book, Going Clear, about the links between Scientology and Hollywood, Lawrence Wright related how L. Ron Hubbard recruited movie stars to publicize the church. One strategy was to establish the Celebrity Center in Hollywood, where notable actors and musicians had their own private entry. A few celebrities did join, but one got away:

  • Rock Hudson visited the Celebrity Center but stormed out when his auditor had the nerve to tell him he couldn’t leave until he finished his session, although the matinee idol had run out of time at his meter. The exemplary figure that Hubbard sought eluded capture.

One of the three legs that hold up Shoup’s rules for on street parking is that the money generated from parking should be plowed back into the neighborhoods from which it came. If the churches and merchants saw it was to their financial advantage to charge for parking on Sunday in San Francisco, perhaps the opposition would have been muted.

I’m reminded of a friend of mine that objected strongly to a program which allowed workers at a nearby hospital to pay to park in front of her house. She was adamant. It was ruining the neighborhood, traffic was out of control, and of course there were the outsiders walking up ‘her’ sidewalk.

I asked her what she would think if money generated from the parkers on her street resulted in a lowering of her property tax bill. Her reaction was instant. “I would love it.”

If people can see just what the revenue generated by on street parking could do, would they not perhaps favor programs that generated that revenue?

Just Sayin….





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John Van Horn

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