Church to DC DOT: Give Us Back Our Parking!
This isn't really a story about Washington's Nats, but it does involve the continuing saga about the new stringent parking restrictions imposed by the District Department of Transportation around Nationals Park in Southeast D.C.
Granted, the new rules are designed to make sure that fans don't completely take over all the curbside parking in the neighborhood. But the DOT regs are so draconian that they're discouraging congregants from attending Ebenezer United Methodist Church, says Rev. John Blanchard.
Five weeks ago, the parking restrictions in front of Ebenezer, at 4th and D Streets SE, were changed by the city to restrict Sunday parking to two-hour periods, starting at 7 a.m. -- not just on game days, but every Sunday of the year. Because it has no parking lot, Ebenezer's members traditionally have parked out front, usually starting at 9: 30 a.m. when Sunday school commences -- followed by worship at 11 a.m. -- to 1 p.m.
The result so far: some tickets have been issued, including to the church secretary's vehicle. More ominous: Tow trucks have been seen circling the block on some Sundays.
The solution presented to Ebenezer by DOT officials was parking passes for church-goer's cars, said Blanchard. But that doesn't work well, he said. Which regulars-- who range in age from mid-60s to early 90s (the average age is in the 70s, the pastor said)-- get a pass? What about visitors?
If the Nats only have 13 home games on Sundays this season, why not just enforce the two-hour parking restriction only on game days? Or since all the Sunday games start after 1 p.m., why not enforce the restriction only after 1 p.m.? "All we simply want them to do is change the sign," Blanchard said. "Do the enforcement, but do it after 1 p.m. But DOT wants to do what DOT wants to do. They got hard heads."
On Blanchard's side are the Downtown Cluster of Congregations, headed by Terry Lynch, and DC Council Member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6). But DC DOT spokeswoman Karyn LeBlanc said the department considers the issue resolved. "We've issued them visitor [parking] passes and they can disperse them as they see fit," LeBlanc said. "Frankly, there won't be a lot of enforcement in the morning because we recognize the church is there."
Since the signs went up about a week before Easter, Sunday attendance has dropped by about half, Blanchard said, adding, "The effects are pretty striking to us."
April 22, 2008; 6:59 AM ET
Categories: City Life , Nationals
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