- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2006

D.C. police will soon begin ticketing vehicles that are double-parked around several churches in Northwest on Sundays, a parking infraction that was previously ignored by authorities.

Most of the vehicles belong to people who attend Sunday services at at least four churches in Northwest, specifically in the Metropolitan Police Department’s 3rd District. Nearby residents repeatedly have complained to city officials about being blocked in by illegally parked cars.

“We will start ticketing double-parked cars on Sundays,” said Sgt. Stuart Emerman with the Metropolitan Police Department.

“At this point, we have yet to actively enforce that on Sunday, but our hope is that we can ticket throughout the week and get some notification out to the community that it’s going to start happening on Sunday,” Sgt. Emerman said. “We are going to start slowly easing into it and let people know that this is what’s coming, that it’s inevitable and it’s on its way.”

Police did not know yesterday when they would begin enforcing double-parking laws. They said ticketing will begin when police feel the community and churchgoers are made sufficiently aware of the new policy.

The churches affected by the new policy include Vermont Avenue Baptist Church at 1630 Vermont Ave. NW, Metropolitan Baptist Church at 1225 R St. NW, Lincoln Congregational Temple United Church of Christ at 1701 11th St. NW and Tenth Street Baptist Church at 1000 R St. NW.

Church officials and officials with the D.C. Department of Public Works said last month that illegal parking has been tolerated over the years, even though nearby residents frequently are left with their cars blocked in by churchgoers.

Church officials had said parishioners traditionally have been allowed to park illegally because police give “special courtesies” to the churches.

But, police said yesterday that all vehicles that are double-parked, including those vehicles belonging to neighborhood residents, will now be ticketed because it is against the law.

“[Double-parking is] illegal; it’s against D.C. parking regulations,” Sgt. Emerman said. “It’s a safety issue, and it’s a convenience issue as well.”

The proposed changes came less than a week after a group of residents and church officials discussed parking problems and possible solutions at the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2F meeting.

The commission voted to form a committee of church and community representatives to discuss the double-parking problem and report its results at a Feb. 8 meeting.

Rather than wait for further input from the community, Sgt. Emerman said, the police department chose to move ahead on its own. Police asked the committee to come up with alternative parking options for parishioners instead.

“The reality is that what we’d like them to do for us is find some kind of alternative, so that we don’t have to issue tickets at all,” Sgt. Emerman said. “What we have to do is come up with a solution for the double-parking.”

Todd Lovinger, who heads a group of residents against the illegal parking, said a parking lot at Howard University, local public school and business parking lots are among the possible alternative spots where churchgoers can park.

“The goal for everyone was for everyone to be happy and for everyone’s needs to be met,” said Mr. Lovinger, who lives near Vermont Avenue Baptist Church.

Police said last week that they immediately would begin enforcing safety-related parking infractions and ticketing cars that block fire hydrants and crosswalks.

No tickets were given to several cars blocking fire hydrants Sunday, Mr. Lovinger said. Police said that Sunday parking enforcement is dependent upon officer availability.

Church officials did not return calls for comment.

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