CFA 18/NOV/10-7


Old Georgetown Historic District Tree Fences
United States

D.C. Department of Transportation
Old Georgetown Historic District Tree Fences
Standards for fencing around tree beds at various sites
Review Type


Dear Mr. Thomas:

At its meeting of 18 November, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed the proposed fence specifications for tree boxes within the Old Georgetown historic district, consistent with the recommendation of the Old Georgetown Board (enclosed) with one modification.

The Commission of Fine Arts and the Old Georgetown Board are strongly supportive of efforts to protect Georgetown's urban landscape and recognize the problem of soil compaction and its detrimental effect on the health of trees. In their discussion at the public meeting, the Commission members noted the importance of the tree bed design—including sufficient soil volume and configuration as a continuous planting trench—to promote the survival of trees in the urban context in general and in the Old Georgetown historic district in particular. They agreed with the recommendation of the Old Georgetown Board that a fence taller than 14 inches in the typically narrow sidewalks would have a negative impact on the visual character of the Georgetown historic district and on the pedestrian experience. While they acknowledged the anecdotal testimony in favor of the higher fence, they found no compelling documentation demonstrating that the proposed tree fence height of 18 inches would be substantially more effective than 14 inches in protecting the trees to merit the adverse impact to the historic district. However, the Commission recommended that locating the fence 12 inches (rather than 18 inches as recommended by the Old Georgetown Board) from the curbside edge of the tree box would be acceptable in order to deter pedestrian, vehicular, and animal access into the tree boxes.

The Commission of Fine Arts appreciates the advocacy of Trees for Georgetown and of Casey Trees to support the D.C. Urban Forestry Administration in its efforts to protect and ensure the existence of a characteristic element of the Georgetown historic district—its mature canopy of street trees.


/s/Thomas E. Luebke, AIA

John Thomas, Associate Director
Urban Forestry Administration
D.C. Department of Transportation
2000 14th Street, NW
Washington DC 20009

cc: Betsy Emes, Citizens Association of Georgetown, Trees for Georgetown
Mark Buscaino, Casey Trees
Ron Lewis, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E
David Maloney, DC Historic Preservation Office

Enclosure: Report of the Old Georgetown Board, 18 November 2010


OG 10-255 (HPA 10-459)
Old Georgetown Historic District Tree Fences
D.C. Department of Transportation/D.C. Urban Forestry Administration/ Citizens' Association of Georgetown
Standards for fencing around tree boxes—various locations

REPORT: As part of DDOT's O and P Street Rehabilitation Project, the Old Georgetown Board reviewed the design for tree box fencing at its meeting of 3 June 2010. This review was made in the broader context of the Rehabilitation Projects, which included streetscape design issues such as the preservation of historic trolley tracks, brick drive aprons, pedestrian curb ramps, streetlights, signs, as well as tree boxes.

Based on report information gathered on site visits conducted by one Board member and CFA staff, the Board recommended that the tree box fences be no taller than 12 inches and installed 18 inches back from the outer edge of the curb. At the June meeting, the Urban Forestry Administration (a division of DDOT) and community tree advocates spoke in favor of 18-inch-high fences to deter dogs, bicycles, and people from entering the tree planting area.

The Urban Forestry Administration and the Citizens Association of Georgetown considered the June recommendation applicable only to the O and P Streets rehabilitation project. Accordingly, tree boxes for the entire historic district were reviewed by the Old Georgetown Board at its 7 October 2010 meeting. The tree advocacy group continues to ask for an 18-inch-high fence design. Citing the undesirable impact of this high of a barrier in the sidewalk, the Board reiterated its preference for 12-inch-high fencing, but conceded that 14 inches would be acceptable (12 inches above a 2-inch bottom rail). The Board also maintained its preference for installing the fence 18 inches back from the outer edge of the curb and recommended that a single design for the fence be implemented although another design might be acceptable within several years.

This item was placed on the Commission's Consent Agenda. It has been removed and placed on the review agenda at the request of the applicant, DDOT, through the Urban Forestry Administration, who continue to request the full 18 inches in height for the tree box fences.

RECOMMENDATION: No objection to a consistent design for the fences around tree beds throughout the Old Georgetown historic district provided the metal fence is no taller than 12 inches high with a bottom rail 2 inches above grade (for a total of 14 inches high), and that the fence is installed 18 inches back from outer edge of curb. Refer to the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board.