Large sections of the District of Columbia have become a wasteland for gasoline stations, a D.C. Council committee was told yesterday, as the number of service stations in the city has dropped by more than half in the past 10 years.

Ward 7, which covers a large swath of Northeast and Southeast Washington near the Maryland line, had 34 gas stations a decade ago, according to D.C. government figures presented at the hearing. Last month it had only 15 pumping gas, said Theresa Augustono of the D.C. Energy Office.

In Ward 6, which stretches from Capitol Hill to Anacostia, the number of gas stations has declined during the decade from 26 to 11, Augustono said.

Overall, the number of gas stations in the city has dropped from 270 in 1977 to 119 this year -- a 56 percent decline, compared with a 36 percent decline in gas stations nationwide over the decade.

Ironically, city government efforts to save full-service gas stations have led to the closing of more stations and kept new ones from opening, gas station operators and petroleum company representatives testified.

"It's difficult for many dealers to stay alive on the sale of gasoline and service repairs only," said Eric Grant, staff director of the Greater Washington Petroleum Committee, which represents petroleum companies. But Grant noted that under a 10-year-old law that the council has temporarily extended, stations cannot drop full-service pumps or repair facilities to add convenience stores and more self-service pumps, which he said would be more profitable.

"The conventional filling station is becoming a thing of the past," said council member H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7), who conducted the hearing as chairman of the council's Human Services Committee. "We're trying to hold onto them, but there's no way you can force somebody to stay in business if the bottom line isn't black."

Under a bill that Crawford introduced, gas stations would be forbidden to reduce service without city government permission for another four years, but there would be no limit on the number of stations to which such permission could be granted. Since 1979, these conversions from full service have been limited, even with government permission, to no more than 7 percent of the stations that any company operated that year.

Augustono said the 7 percent limit was reached several years ago.

Crawford's bill would continue the operations of the gas station advisory board -- the only one of its kind in the country -- which considers applications for switching from full service and makes recommendations to the mayor, who has final authority to grant permission.

Augustono said Mayor Marion Barry supports Crawford's bill.

Jack Doherty, a representative of Shell Oil Co., said that if the bill is passed, his company would seek permission to reopen two closed stations in Southeast with self-service pumps, a convenience store and a car wash.

High real estate prices have caused some gas station properties to be sold, particularly in downtown. However, Ward 3, west of Rock Creek Park, which has some of the city's most expensive real estate, had the smallest drop -- 46 percent.

Council member John Ray (D-At Large), one of the sponsors of the original gas station law, questioned why dealers who sought the bill a decade ago want it eased now.

"The market has changed," said Roy E. Littlefield III, executive director of the Greater Washington-Maryland Service Station and Automotive Repair Association. "Then we saw the {limit} as protection. Now we see some dealers operate convenience stores very successfully. We have to be flexible."