The D.C. Municipal Planning Office has proposed a development plan for the Tenley Circle area of far Northwest Washington that would restrain the spread of commercial buildings southward from Friendship Heights.

Under the plan, announced last week, a commercial and office center with buildings up to nine stories high would be developed along Wisconsin Avenue, from Chesapeake Street to Grant Road, just south of Albemarle Street.

The remainder of Wisconsin Avenue in the Tenley area would be flanked by six-story apartment buildings with stores on the ground floor. A townhouse development would be built along River Road and Davenport Street in the block west of 42d Street.

Tenley Circle - named for John Tenley, a blacksmith who was the area's first settler - is at Wisconsin and Nebraska avenues, about midway between the Washington Cathedral and the Montgomery County line at Friendship Heights.

Ben W. Gilbert, director of the planning office and a longtime neighborhood resident, said the new plan is needed to channel growth expected after the opening of a Metro subway station at Albermarle Street in 1982or 1983. The station is on the Red Line to Bethesda and Rockville.

Wisconsin Avenue in the Tenley Circle area is a patchwork of old and new houses, office buildings and retail stores, including a Sears outlet. The planning report states that present zoning of land in the area would permit three times as much development as exists now.

This would overload major streets and cause major pollution and safety problems, leading to unwanted, radical changes in the character of the neighborhood, according to the report said.

Under the new plan, only about two-thirds of the currently permitted retail space and about half of the permitted office space would be built along Wisconsin Avenue in the next 10 years. However, by changing some zoning rules to permit mixed commercial and residential uses in the same buildings, the permitted number of apartment units would jump from 120 to 661.

The northern boundary of the Tenley Circle planning area is Fessenden Street, at the edge of the burgeoning Friendship Heights area - a battleground in recent years between homeowners and developers.

The new Tenley plan would halt the southward creep of solely commercial buildings from Friendship Heights at Fessenden Street. From there to Chesapeake Street would be three blocks of six-story apartment buildings with retail stores on the first floor. From Chesapeake Street to Grant Road would be the central commercial area.

The area immediately adjacent to Tenley Circle itself would remain as it is now. South of the circle, to McLean Gardens, the development of six-story apartment buildings with retail stores would resume.

Major development would be located south of Van Ness Street, on the present sites of a flower shop and a fast-food restaurant.

The plan proposes zoning rules that would grant bonuses, such as somewhat greater building heights, to developers in return for such features as garden courts, pedestrian walkways and underground connections with the Metro station.

The plan, financed in part by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Urban Mass Transportation Administration, will be circulated to city agencies, community groups and advisory neighborhood commissions. A final, revised draft will be prepared later, Gilbert said, for consideration by the D. C. Zoning Commission.