Help for RVA alleys? Some residents got tired of waiting on the city

RICHMOND, Va. -- RVA has something like 3,000 alleys - roughly 200 mile's worth.

Last November we rambled through many of them, looking for - and finding - hidden parks, critters, characters and other backstreet action that is part of RVA's unique vibe.

But what we also found is not all alleys are created - or treated - equal.

The distinctive convertible of Richmond blues/jazz singer Lady E is being thrashed by her Kent Street alley. (Below, watch Lady E perform and beat Holmberg in ping pong in 2011)

"These potholes are a mess," she said as we looked at the huge bumps and almost shin-deep potholes. "I've been to City Hall so many times, I can't even begin to count."

The ride is bad enough to have ripped off her neighbor's muffler. She's worried her cherished Pontiac is also suffering serious damage as she scrapes her way to her parking place.

But just a few blocks away in the near West End, some alleys are so smooth children can learn to ride bicycles on them.

Richmond's new mayor Lavar Stoney acknowledged this week the city has largely ignored the alleys since 2014.

There are more than 3,000 requests for alley help, more than one complaint per alley.

Stoney's proposed budget calls for $700,000 to fix 1,300 alleys.

Residents at Wednesday night's Museum District neighborhood meeting were told by 1st District Councilman Andreas Addison that help is on the way. He said there will be another $700,000 for alleys next year.

But some residents, like those living in the 2900 block of Floyd Avenue, have waited long enough.

"At some point, your car gets beat up, you get flat tires," said resident Carter Snipes. "It becomes such a nuisance and a hassle you figure between all the neighbors on the block, if we pitch in 80 bucks each, it's just worth doing it ourselves than it is to wait around for the city to do it."

So that's what they did. Nearly every homeowner chipped in. Resident Tom Courtney said he shopped around and hired a private company. "For about $800, we all pitched in and got the alley redone so we could stop complaining about it," he said.

The contractor graded the entire alley this week and added gravel so it is a smooth, uniform surface.

Resident Luke Toury, who likes to run errands on his bicycle, said it the alley was a challenge.

"It was really hard to drive back here, much less bike," Toury said. "I was really excited to see they'd done it."

Snipes and Courtney said they are optimistic that Mayor Stoney will try to deliver us from alley misery, along with other operational ills that have long-plagued the city.

But they're also glad their alley is finally smooth and attractive.

And they've definitely made a statement.

Snipes said they talked to the city about their plan, but didn't get a permit.

"The permit to do this - if we had gotten a permit - would've been several hundred dollars," he said.

So it was a renegade operation?

"Little bit," Snipes said. "2900 block of Floyd, you can come find us right here."