City Paper is not for tourists
The alley running between Hall Place NW and Tunlaw Road NW in Glover Park is hardly an alley anymore. It’s narrow and choked with weeds, and bamboo makes it impassable sans machete. Jersey barriers block one entrance, and a retaining wall holding up one side of the alley appears to be crumbling.
Hall Place resident Tim Robinson obtained permits to park in a spot behind his house last summer. So he called the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to have the jersey barriers at the front of the alley removed. But soon after they’d been taken away, Tunlaw Road property owner Ron Bitondo had them put back, citing the instability of the retaining wall. (The alley sits 8 feet above the edge of Bitondo’s property.)
Robinson says DDOT officials told him they’d hire an engineering firm to analyze the alley and come up with some proposals for fixing it, but a short while later, another DDOT official—Robinson doesn’t remember exactly who—said nothing was going to happen with the alley because of a “political issue with your neighbor.”
Bitondo co-chaired D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp’s mayoral campaign. Says Robinson, “Linda Cropp is in his pocket.”
In the fall, Bitondo submitted an application to close the alley to the city surveyor, complete with a petition with neighbors’ signatures and a $1,870 fee. His petition has wound up as a bill before the D.C. Council to have the alley closed—typical alley-closing procedure.
And now rages a fight that’s seen neighbors taking sides—one side of the alley against the other. The Tunlaw folks who live down below the alley support closure; Hall Placers want it left alone for a variety of reasons, the chief one being that a closed alley reverts to private ownership; they’d be responsible for long-neglected pieces of land and would have to pay taxes on it, too.
At an Oct. 10 D.C. Council hearing on the alley, Robinson forced Cropp to acknowledge that she had more-than-typical relationship with Bitondo. But Cropp denied that his financial support of her campaign had anything to do with the alley legislation.
A city employee testified at the hearing that the rules had been followed, and Bitondo denies any impropriety. “It’s taking the normal process across the board,” he says.