On Height Limits, It’s Time For a Plan
Mayor Vince Gray's mention of his support for raising height limits east of the Anacostia seems to have touched a nerve: Even NewsChannel8 got interested in the subject (yeah yeah, my quote's nonsensical and they repeat the myth that building height limits were instituted to preserve monumental views, but it's T.V.).
The depressing thing: The city's been talking about this for years now. In 2008, then-city administrator Neil Albert said it was a good idea too:
The Fenty administration, Albert said, hopes to prod developers to invest east of the Anacostia River, where he said historic areas such as Anacostia, Deanwood and Congress Heights are ripe for what has been built downtown: a dense mix of residential, commercial and retail.
But to achieve that vision, Albert said, the District probably will have to reconsider one of its main tools for controlling development: a height-limit law that bars virtually all city buildings more than 130 feet. Lifting the cap in areas east of the Anacostia River, he said, could mean taller buildings and the chance to create the kind of population density necessary to attract retailers and create thriving neighborhoods.
"There's nothing that would develop Poplar Point faster than if investors saw it as a place to build high-rise offices," he said. "We hear a growing drumbeat from planners and developers that it's the right thing to do."
So I'm not getting excited about this again until I see a bill in Congress. One way to do it: Wrap together a package that statehood groups, the city's business leaders, smart growth types, and social services advocates could all get behind. Throw in things like budget autonomy, the idea of making D.C. into a hub for insurance companies, and anything else that can gain broad support within the city. In other words, instead of narrow constituencies pushing their own priorities with Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, build a coalition to that can mutually support a basket of pressing needs to help the city grow.