Housing Complex

Marion Barry Is the Only Councilmember Who Supports Changes to the Height Act

barryThis morning, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson introduced symbolic legislation opposing any changes to the Height Act—including the proposed change that would give the D.C. Council some say on future building heights. All but one of his colleagues signed on as co-introducers of the bill. The lone holdout: Marion Barry.

Now, the Ward 8 councilmember has issued a press release explaining his support for changes to the 1910 federal law that restricts D.C. building heights.

“The District is only 68 miles square, 10 of which are water," Barry says in the release. "Therefore, in my view, we have to do all that we can to maximize height on the land that we have. I’ve read the District’s Office of Planning’s draft recommendations to amend the Height Act, and I am in total support.”

The Office of Planning's recommendations would slightly raise allowable heights in the historic L'Enfant City, and would free the city entirely from the Height Act elsewhere in the District, with city leaders able to change height limits through the Comprehensive Plan process, subject to approval from the National Capital Planning Commission and Congress.

The NCPC is currently hearing public testimony on its recommendations, which are similar outside the L'Enfant City but would make no changes within it. However, Peter May, a commissioner representing the National Park Service, has introduced an amendment that would strip out a central provision of the recommendations and remove the possibility for future changes to building heights outside of the L'Enfant City. The fate of that amendment will be decided after the public testimony wraps up.

Regardless of what the NCPC decides, Barry's stance leaves him in the surprising position of being the only councilmember to support greater D.C. autonomy over its skyline. Tell 'em a thing or two about home rule, Mr. Mayor-for-Life.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • HEgotIT

    da mayor for life is the only dude who actually understands that keeping something scarce makes it expensive - that "spreading development around" means spreading white people around, spreading african americans into PG, Charles, MoCo, and Prince William.

  • Alf

    I will stipulate that the ex-Mayor-for-Life has always put a priority on going high.

  • Chris hauser

    He's advocating less scarcity, aye. But it would spread the demographic, yes.

    Will poplar point ever be popular?

  • Jeffrey

    I'm glad Barry is making his point in terms of the small size of the city. This is good for everyone. Although, I had to look up what "L'Enfant City" meant because I didn't want to believe that it meant the "original" planned city of D.C. "The area roughly bounded by Florida Avenue and the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers" is massive. Carving it out will just encourage more ugly boxy buildings in the "historic" parts of town. I don't understand why it's so important that people not see skyscrapers in the background when they are at the Jefferson Memorial or why we need to maintain the skyline as it is for the people in Virginia. None of that is making housing cheaper.

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  • The Donald

    Memo to DC: Please raise the Height Limit so that we can build a number of luxury Trump towers to look down on the Capitol, White House and monuments. Of course it will make housing cheaper -- trust me (or you're fired)!

  • cminus

    @The Donald, if we built those towers, maybe the people who move into them will stop moving into my neighborhood and bidding up the prices for houses and apartments that used to be within the reach of ordinary folks.

  • http://www.AustinNCR.com H. Austin Esfandiary

    Washington DC is way over-priced (in terms of Commercial Real Estate Prices and Cap Rates). Adding more inventory has many benefits:

    1 - LOWER PRICED HOUSING: More supply makes housing costs lower and MORE AFFORDABLE

    2 - MORE WALKABLE: With more residents / greater density of residents, that drives the move towards: more/BETTER Public Transit (Metro is over 30 years outdated) along with more/BETTER Retail, making DC a more "walkable city".

    3 - Better / Faster METRO: Public Transit becomes required with higher density (more direct rail lines throughout the entire city; express trains to transport more people more rapidly; much faster MAG-LEV Trains).

    4 - IMPROVED RETAIL OPTIONS: Variety, Lower Prices for Retailers, Grocery Stores, and Restaurants if Dept. of Planning does it job right (if the ratio of retail to residents stays the same, choice will increase but prices remain steady; if ratio of retail increases: Both Variety and Quality will increase while Prices go lower due to increased competition). If the City's BZA does not allow Retail to expand more rapidly than residents, that will artificially increase the costs of goods in DC.

    5 - LOWER TAXES - With a much larger number of residents, contributions to Local Taxes will also expand... allowing the City to spread the costs of governing among a larger number of people thereby lowering the cost per individual.

    To read more about these issues, check out AustinNCR.COM

    What is there not to like about higher density when the positive benefits substantially outweigh the negative ones. For those who like it more quiet, less activity, less trash, etc.... perhaps they are better suited moving into more of an agricultural setting.

    DC is the Capital of the Nation... it is about time we looked like it.

  • LoganRes

    I'm gonna barf if I hear one more rant from any of them about DC statehood. You had a chance to grab a little more control over our city and you passed. Evans (my council member)...you lost my vote!

  • Absurdist

    @H. Austin - you're right that the metro system is 30 years outdated (2), and even that with more density comes the requirement for better & faster transit (3). Please explain how those infrastructural improvements will happen with lower taxes for everyone (5).

  • PCC

    @Absurdist: with more people paying taxes, revenue can go up while tax rates go down. DC's structural deficit is why Mayor Williams and others since have focused so much on attracting private development, i.e., more taxpayers.

  • Typical DC BS

    @PCC: And you conveniently leave out the FACT that DC government will find something stupid to spend all the additional tax money on. Lower taxes? Please, stop dreaming. Any time there is additional money, DEMOCRATS can't understand the concept of ENOUGH. Maybe they need to start thinking, period.

  • SEis4ME

    @Typical, on what stupid thing was the current surplus spent?

  • Typical DC BS

    @SEis4ME: My point is: why does extra money mean DC gets to spend more? Whose money is it? Certainly not DC government's money. Give it back to the TAXPAYERS.

    Do you want a list of stupid things DC has spent money on? I know you follow these things closely - you have some very astute comments.

    How about drivers licenses for illegal aliens to start? How about GENERATIONS of people living in public housing, with no expectation to EVER leave that system? How about streetcar systems to replace the streetcar systems that were removed over 50 years ago? How about a baseball stadium for the WEALTHIEST baseball owners in professional baseball - the Lerners? How about a soccer stadium that's in the works?

  • SEis4ME

    Typical, I agree w/you about the streetcars and the stadium. But unless I'm wrong, the city's surpluses weren't used to fund them.

    As long as we have a lower income class, there will always be (even generations of those) in public housing.

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