Thursday, June 29, 2006

A D.C. task force is considering a plan that would make double parking legal at churches on Sundays.

“One of the things they are trying to do is look at whether the law should be changed,” said Vincent Morris, a spokesman for Mayor Anthony A. Williams. “They are looking at: Does the law make sense when you have churches scattered throughout neighborhoods that once or twice a week need many places to park? Does it make sense to have the same parking rules in effect for churches?”

Churchgoers have ignored the laws against double parking in the District for at least 30 years, and the Metropolitan Police Department, which is responsible for parking enforcement on the weekends, has not been issuing tickets.

Residents near many D.C. churches say that double parking on Sundays blocks in their vehicles and causes traffic-safety hazards. They also say laws against such practices should be enforced. Double parking carries a $50 fine.

Changes to the double-parking law would need to be approved by the D.C. Council’s Committee on Public Works and the Environment, which is chaired by council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican. The changes would then go before the entire council.

Mrs. Schwartz said she would reserve comment until “the mayor sends over his recommendations [and] after the task force has completed its work.”

The task force, announced by Mr. Williams in late April, held its first meeting Wednesday morning.

T he group was formed to represent the entire city, but the majority of the members live in Northeast, even though the most of the complaints are from Northwest.

The group is composed of three D.C. government officials, three church officials, three Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) members and two community members.

One position remains open, which officials hope to fill with a representative from the D.C. public-school system, Mr. Morris said.

It is not clear how many of the appointed members — which include Michelle Pourciau, acting director of the District Department of Transportation — attended the first meeting. Mrs. Pourciau said she was not able to attend but that the agency would like to create more parking spaces in the District.

“We’re still receiving concerns from the community about double parking on the weekends,” she said. “What we’re doing is looking at how we can provide more parking for the communities, period.”

The task force will discuss a variety of possible solutions to the problem, Mr. Morris said.

“I think almost everything is on the table,” he said. “One of the things that they’re trying to balance is the churches’ needs.”

Mr. Morris said the task force will likely present its solutions to Mr. Williams, a Democrat, by Labor Day.

“Then it will be up to the mayor as to how to address this parking challenge,” he said.

It was not clear when the task force will meet again.

The qualifications of several of the task force members have been questioned.

ANC 6B Commissioner Antoinette Russell of Southeast said she has participated on previous parking task forces, including one last year that examined parking at RFK Stadium.

Dalton Howard, a Northeast resident, said he is qualified because he is a concerned neighbor who does not want churches to leave the city because their members have no place to park.

Charles Reed, chairman of ANC 2F, was appointed after his neighborhood formed its own task force earlier this year to examine parking problems in Logan Circle in Northwest. The other task force members did not return calls.

Mr. Reed’s group worked with the city’s transportation department to add more than 150 parking spaces to the neighborhood. Enforcement of parking laws was set to begin there in late May and citywide in early July.

However, enforcement was delayed and the citywide parking task force formed after more than 1,000 ministers and churchgoers from across the city protested.

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