After years of complaining, residents of Alexandria's usually quiet Del Ray neighborhood finally saw city officials yesterday evict the residents of a rundown boarding house that police said had been the source of frequent neighborhood complaints about fights and loud parties.
Chief Fire Marshal Randolph Kirby, after a Thursday inspection, yesterday declared the house an "immediate danger to the occupants," and ordered it closed. And throughout the day -- under the eyes of Alexandria police -- the rooming house's seven tenants removed belongings from the building, as some complained that they were being treated unfairly.
Alexandria Vice Mayor James Moran Jr., however, said residents of the northeast Alexandria neighborhood have constantly complained about the house's residents.
"The four years I have been elected to City Council," Moran declared in a letter to city department heads, "I probably received more complaints about [this] single house in Del Ray than in regard to any other issue."
The building's landlord, however, said the problems were not with his tenants. "The trouble doesn't come out of these people who live here, anyway," said owner Richard T. Wood, as he prepared recently to give one its residents a ride to a nearby supermarket. "It's the people from the outside who come to visit. That's where the trouble comes from."
Nonetheless, the rooming house at 113 E. Del Ray Ave. has been a constant source of complaints from neighbors to police, who this year alone went to the house 34 times, said Deputy Police Chief Arlen Justice.
"For one house -- yes, that's a lot," Justice said.
Last spring, neighborhood residents circulated a petition calling for something to be done. The petition was given to Moran, who on Nov. 8 wrote his letter to department heads.
Neighborhood residents were reluctant recently to talk about their complaints, and none interviewed would allow his name to be used. "You don't want to cross them," said a woman as she raked leaves in the yard of a nearby house.
Originally, the house's residents were to receive 30-day eviction notices on Dec. 1 -- not because of the condition of the house but because of the allegedly disruptive behavior of its residents, Moran said. But the fire marshal's Thursday inspection led him to order the residents' evicted. The house must remain closed until housing officials confirm it is safe, Kirby said.
Landlord Wood met with Alexandria officials late last month and was told to evict his tenants or face prosecution for his property being a public nuisance, Moran said. Wood didn't evict his tenants, and recently told a reporter that the meeting with city officials angered him because the residents would have no place to go if evicted. Wood, who city officials said has agreed to rent the house only to a single family in the future, said the rooming house's reputation is unjustified.
Joseph Franklin Napier, 54, a resident of the house who spends much of his day sitting at the sunny end of the porch on a weather-worn couch, has lived in the home eight years. He said he earns the $130-a-month he pays for his second-floor room doing odd jobs, mowing lawns, raking leaves.
"There's not a lot of mess around here 'til people come from the outside," he said. "Ordinarily, it's as calm as a June bug around here."