The owners of a Georgetown apartment building have asked the city to let them erect a steel gate across an adjacent public alley to protect their tenants from nighttime burglaries they contend have troubled the neighborhood.
In an unusual move, they have applied for permission to close the public alley that juts off the west side of Wisconsin Avenue NW near the C & O Canal, giving them the right to block it off only at night. In the daytime, the gate would be opened for truck deliveries to an adjacent retail complex.
Alley closings in the District are commonplace but usually are sought by real estate developers attempting to consolidate properties that are separated by alleys in order to form sites for new buildings. Each alley closing requires the passage of legislation by the D.C. City Council after time-consuming reviews and hearings.
The Georgetown application was filed by attorney Norman Glasgow Jr. on behalf of Leonard Greenberg and his partners, who own the Georgetown Residence Club, an apartment building in the 1000 block of Wisconsin Avenue. The apartment building is on the north side of the 30-foot-wide alley, and the Waterfront Center, a retail complex until recently called the Dodge Center, is on the south side. Trucks making deliveries to the center use the alley.
Police Sgt. David Scott, who supervises patrols in that area, said he has not detected any rash of recent burglaries there. "It may be, but I don't think so," he said.
The owners of the Cherry Hill condominium, adjacent to the apartment building, have supported the alley closure proposal, Glasgow said.
Greenberg sought to minimize the reference to burglaries, saying publicity would distress his tenants. He said the break-ins actually had occurred some time ago and security devices have been installed in the apartment building. The main current problem, he said, is "rowdiness and noise late at night" caused by pedestrians who use the alley.
While unusual, the closing of alleys to stifle crime is not unprecedented. According to the City Council's transportation committee, there have been three closures for that reason in the past two years -- two at the request of churches in the far Northeast and Scott Circle areas and one at the request of the Salvation Army on New Jersey Avenue NW. A similar request from some residents of a Capitol Hill neighborhood was rejected after other neighbors protested.
The D.C. surveyor's office, which prepares documents on alley-closing requests prior to City Council action, has asked for comments on the Georgetown locked gate proposal from affected city agencies, including the fire department, as well as private utility companies. The City Council's transportation committee will hold a hearing, probably in October.
The proposal won support recently from the D.C. Joint Committee on Landmarks, which had to review it since all of Georgetown is a historic district under its architectural jurisdiction.
The alley extends from Wisconsin Avenue 232 feet westward. From that point, another 45 feet of the alley extending to Cecil Place is privately owned. Because of that, it is already legal to erect a gate at the Cecil Place end of the alley.