12 Investigates: City overselling Fan permits

Fan parking permit zone 1
Fan parking permit zone 1
Fan parking permit zone 2
Fan parking permit zone 2

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Parking spots are hottest commodities in the Fan District and the City's parking permit plan is only exacerbating the problem.

To figure out why the issue exists, you have to go back to when the Fan was originally developed.

"The roads of the fan were designed for a lot of walking and carriages and horse drawn carriages," says Valentine History Center tour guide Melissa Sleeth.

The nation's first electric trolleys entered the picture in 1888 and brought with them city dwellers eager to move to the suburbs, but by the 1980s single-family homes were turned to duplexes, VCU's population exploded and buildings encroached.

"Many, many more people than those streets were originally built for," says Sleeth.

The City's answer was to divide the streets closest to VCU into two zones. You need a $25 permit to park. $35 gets you a pass for your visitors, but was too much of a good thing? An NBC12 analysis of the numbers found that the city is over selling parking permits for the fan.

We measured several of the Fan's streets and even counted up the number of available parking spaces. For example, on the 1100 block of West Avenue there are 54 parking spaces, but in 2011 the City sold 141 parking permits and guest permits. That's nearly triple the number of empty spaces.

Just three blocks over on 1100 Grove Avenue there are only 22 spaces, but the City sold four times as many parking permits. It issued 106 permits and guest passes in all.

There are only 1,680 places to legally park your car in zones one and two of the Fan. And yet, just last year the City sold almost twice as many parking permits and visitor passes at 3,097.

We took our findings to Steve Bergin, the City's Parking Management Analyst. He agrees there's way more permits than spaces, but blames the parking ordinance passed by City Council in 2004 which placed no limits on the number of permits that can be sold.

See the full list of parking spaces in the Fan

"The reason for what you call overselling is because there is no limit," said Bergin.  "A household of three can get three, a household of seven can get seven, so there is no limit. We're all for limiting, but it's got to be their suggestion, it's their neighborhood."

And after months of meetings between the City and Fan residents, frustrations continue. But changes to the parking regulations may also be just around the corner.

"'Cause working together we make Richmond a better place to live and that's what the whole story's about. Making Richmond a better place," said resident Gordon Musch.

City leaders tell me they are going to test out new parking restrictions for the Fan. The plan's roll-out has been pushed back several times. It's now supposed to be released by the end of the year.

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