Housing Complex

Issa Calls for Height Act Review

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman (a.k.a District Overlord) Darrell Issa wants to take another look at the Height Act. This morning, the Republican from California, joined by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton of D.C., announced a congressionally requested study into the building-size-limiting regulation for the first time ever.

The study will be jointly conducted by the D.C. government and the National Capital Planning Commission. It's set to begin in December and wrap up by next September.

“Congress has a clear and appropriate interest in preserving both historic characteristics of our nation’s capital and ensuring that longstanding rules and regulations still pass the test of common sense,” Issa said in a statement.  “As time has elapsed and opportunities for economic growth in our nation’s capital continue to present themselves, this study will help Congress and local leaders evaluate the case for expanding existing boundaries for vertical growth.”

The conservative Issa, a perpetual thorn in the side of the Obama administration, has become something of a surprising ally of the District. Last year, he introduced a bill to grant budget autonomy to the city (albeit with a catch). Then, in a single hearing in July, he suggested empowering local leaders to amend the Height Act and appeared to favor legislation to allow D.C. to impose a commuter tax on people who work but don't live in the District.

Issa sent a letter to Mayor Vince Gray on Oct. 3—released by Issa today—that requested a timetable for a study of the Height Act by Nov. 1, and asked that if feasible, the study should be completed by summer 2013. L. Preston Bryant., Jr. of the NCPC replied that he anticipated that the study would conclude, with recommendations to Issa's committee, by September.

"This study will evaluate whether reconsidered and possibly different limits to building heights might affect federal and other interests, preserve the District’s characteristic skyline, and continue to give prominence to the views of stately landmarks and monuments that grace the District of Columbia," Gray said in a statement today.

Like it or hate it—and this column, under my predecessor, has been known to hate it—the Height Act as we know it might be living out its final months.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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