Alleys in the City of Atlanta

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Alley between St. Charles and Greenwood west of Bonaventure

A Virginia-Highland alley

Alley between Adair and Highland View west of N. Highland

When our neighborhood was originally platted, it included alleys running behind many of our houses. Some alleys were used for service access and/or utilities, while others were never actively opened. You can see the alleys on City plats and maps officially, as well as Google maps unofficially. They appear as a narrow strip between properties. The alleys were generally 10 feet wide.

Here is the story on alleys.

  1. In the 1970s, Mayor Jackson and City Council abandoned all City alleys except 3 located downtown.
  2. The City does not have a good complete record of what alleys it used to own – which may be one reason that they abandoned them en masse. This is no fault of our City employees today; records were a bit less formal around the turn of the century.
  3. When abandoned, the alleys became the property of the adjoining properties, half to each property. For example, 5 feet of a standard 10 foot alley became the property of each adjoining house (or church or commercial establishment).
  4. The alleys then became the maintenance responsibility of the property owner.
  5. There is a restriction that access through the alleys had to be maintained by the property owner unless all the property owners adjoining the original alley agreed to make the alley impassible.
  6. Many alleys have been absorbed into the adjoining yards, fenced, and landscaped so they are no longer passable. This often happened by acquiescence rather than formal agreement meaning there is not a signed document, but since all the homeowners have taken the land they have effectively agreed.
  7. The property’s share of the alley is measured as part of the property for building permitting purposes, which is a significant benefit.

If you are on an alley, you may already maintain part within your garden. If not, maintenance is still the responsibility of the adjoining homeowner. In a neighborhood of valuable land and small lots, alley share is beneficial.

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