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Author Topic: For Koreatown LA mosque congregants, parking is a challenge  (Read 887 times)
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« on: Feb 08, 2010 09:57 PM »


This is kinda funny but really sad. This problem is at every Mosque I've ever known!! Why can't we buy land?! Why didn't we plan ahead for this kind of thing? Sad At our new Mosque I think we'll have 150 parking spots...Definitely not enough... just imagine Jumah or Eid!!  -- J.
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For Koreatown mosque congregants, parking is a challenge

Friday prayers at midday find hundreds scrambling, many hiking in from blocks away. Those who've worked out special arrangements at nearby establishments guard the information closely.

Mosque parking

Security Supervisor Marlene Morales closes the gate to the parking lot at the Islamic Center of Southern California in Koreatown, which has about 45 spaces, most designated for the disabled or for employees. (Christina House / For The Times / February 5, 2010)

By Raja Abdulrahim

February 8, 2010


Omar Haroon guards the secret of his Friday prayers parking spot even from close friends. People ask, but he refuses to spill.

For much of his life, the 33-year-old hedge fund manager has attended prayers at the Islamic Center of Southern California in Los Angeles' Koreatown district. And for much of that time, congregants have coped with a parking shortage by arriving early, by using illegal spots or by generously -- and privately -- tipping parking attendants at nearby businesses.

For years, Haroon and his father have parked at a nearby building that isn't supposed to allow it and turns other congregants away. They pay the attendants the required parking rate and several dollars extra, in essence doubling the amount.

"The guys have told us not to tell anyone, not to tell our friends or anything," Haroon said. "So we just stay totally quiet. We don't want anything to jeopardize our parking."

Those attending churches and synagogues have holy days that fall on Saturdays and Sundays, when there are often relaxed parking restrictions, more available spaces and no street cleaning. But for Muslims, at least in Western countries, their Friday holy day means a balancing act between work, school and religious obligations.

Weekly prayer services at mosques fall during lunchtime on Fridays, which makes it possible for many Muslims to leave work at least briefly to attend. But that timing can also make it tricky to find convenient parking in crowded, car-obsessed cities like Los Angeles.

Good parking spots are especially important to mosque attendees who must rush out after the service to get back to work.

At King Fahd Mosque in Culver City, one-third of a mile of shady residential street runs beside the mosque. But street cleaning on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. puts half the street off limits during prayer hours. The mosque administration recently contacted the city to see if the time can be changed.

A squeeze

The Islamic Center in Koreatown, which has been at its Vermont Avenue location since 1978, has a lot with 45 parking spaces, most of which are reserved for the disabled and for board members and employees of the mosque and its elementary school. About a dozen other vehicles squeeze onto the basketball court.

In recent years, as the congregation has grown, a handful of spaces have also been taken up with green carpets as worshipers spill out into the lot. That leaves most of the estimated 800 to 900 weekly attendees scattering in all directions in search of parking, legal or under the table.

"People are parking at the grocery stores, at the bowling alley -- pretty much people are doing all sorts of things and you see them walking from everywhere," Haroon said.

Haroon's arrangement means he can spend a few extra minutes at the office if he needs to -- as it happens, prayers begin just as the stock market closes for the week -- and doesn't have to worry about his car, a cobalt blue 2007 Porsche.

It would be tougher to park on the street, Haroon said: "People coming for prayers try and squeeze in so there's no room between the bumpers."

The Islamic Center's leaders have tried to find solutions. For a while, they arranged to rent part of a county parking lot directly behind the mosque, but the county recently decided it needed the space, said Mohammed Qureshi, the center's administrator.

In early 2009, an empty Chevrolet dealership beside the center -- with about 150 parking spots -- was put up for sale. The mosque submitted a $6.5-million bid but lost to a Korean supermarket. Construction began a few weeks ago.

On a recent Friday the imam stood at the mosque's pulpit, giving a sermon about the importance of forgiveness. As he spoke, latecomers streamed into the prayer area, having walked blocks to get there. The construction work next door was clearly audible from inside.

That lot "definitely would have alleviated our parking problem," Qureshi said. "It could have covered our needs." He said mosque administrators have approached the supermarket's owners about renting out part of the lot during prayers but don't have an answer yet.

Moin Kureshi, a longtime congregant at the mosque, said that for many years he ate lunch each Friday at the Denny's restaurant two blocks away and then walked to the center, leaving his vehicle at the restaurant. Eventually the owner figured out what Kureshi was up to and put an end to it.

"He knew what we were doing because it only happened on Friday," Kureshi said.

Secret deals

Now Kureshi, who drives to Koreatown each Friday from his security company in Torrance, has an arrangement at another business. But he wouldn't speak about it on the record, not even in vague terms, for fear of losing his latest system for getting to the mosque in time for the imam's call to prayer.

Every Friday a security guard stands at the partly closed gate of the mosque's parking lot, allowing only a few cars inside. Drivers slow in front of the center, craning their necks to read parking signs. Worshipers come walking from the east and west, north and south.

"I don't know where people park, it's always been a mystery," said Jihad Turk, the center's director of religious affairs. "It's a bit of an enigma."

latimes.com/news/local/la-me-beliefs8-2010feb08,0,7932092.story
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« Reply #1 on: Feb 09, 2010 12:17 PM »

Yes, sad and funny.

As for us in Portland, in recent years, the masjid has purchased more land right next to the smaller parking lot it already had (which during Jumu'ah was reserved for sisters/carpools, etc). While we have much space, those who are late end up parking in the nearby streets, which is surrounded by apartment complexes. I myself, most of the time, even though are spots in the larger lot, usually park on the side street just across from the masjid - might seem unselfish, but actually, its easier to leave.

Yet, sometimes, others who also park on this street, sometimes end up parking too close to the stop sign of that street or maybe overcrowding the other. So a few times, the neighbors have complained for cars not being in the right areas, etc. So some brothers, hang around in the lot directing late-comers.

As for E'id Salah, since our masjid (or the others) are not big enough to accommodate the city's population (well, not many Muslims as some of you in bigger cities may have, so we actually rent out space (conference rooms) in the convention center downtown (where larger exhibitions take place, such as the yearly Auto Show or those Bridal shows, etc) or another hall a little further out. The reason for the larger halls, is that now we have up to 1000+ people coming for Ei'd and for the late comers, there is a second salah. Thus, the convention center's or hall's parking provides more than enough space.

Of course, in general its a problem each Friday and in all communities, as Sis J stated.

Would love to hear some more stories from the rest of the members.

 desibro
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« Reply #2 on: Feb 09, 2010 03:29 PM »

Asalam,

You are right it's funny and sad. Our Masjid has been around for lets just say too long. We have a small parking lot in the back that can support maybe 40 cars. We didn't really have a problem till about a year ago. MashaAllah more and more Muslims have been attending the weekly Friday prayer and we're now at the point of not having enough room in the Masjid for everyone to pray. The President of the committee has even asked the youth who drive to park on a street a few blocks away. The committee had made plans a long time ago to build a new mosque but could never find the funding for it. Alhumdulillah now we have enough money to buy the lot and are looking for one big enough and close enough to the city and InshaAllah they are planning for everything to be done in 3 years. Apparently they're waiting for the FBI/CIA to give them a clearance to build so they don't think it's a sleeper cell. I can't wait though, I saw the designs they've drawn for the new Masjid and it's beautiful.

Assalamu Alaikum
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