Housing Complex

D.C. to Congress: Give Us Some Control Over Building Heights

housing-graphicThe D.C. government formally submitted its recommendations for changes to the Height Act to Congress today, standing firm on its earlier stance that the city should be given a degree of control over its building heights. The move comes a day after the National Capital Planning Commission rejected any many changes to the 1910 law, opting instead to retain full federal control over caps on the height to which D.C. buildings can rise.

The D.C. recommendations, prepared by the Office of Planning, would alter the formula for height limits in the historic L'Enfant City, setting the maximum height at 1.25 times the width of the adjacent street. More significantly, the proposal would free the city from the Height Act entirely outside of the L'Enfant City, allowing the D.C. government to propose height increases that would need to be approved by the NCPC and Congress.

"This approach shifts more decision-making to local control—especially in areas where the federal interest is less significant—in order to accommodate future population growth while at the same time protecting prominent national monuments, memorials, and the unique character of local neighborhoods," the Office of Planning stated in a press release this evening.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) called on the city and the NCPC to conduct a joint Height Act study just over a year ago and requested recommendations for potential changes to the law by this fall. Now that the NCPC—which voted yesterday to change only some outdated language and the rules governing occupancy of penthouses—and the city have submitted strikingly different proposals, it'll be up to Congress to decide which approach is better.

Issa, whose chairs the House committee with oversight of D.C. affairs that's likely to hold a hearing on Height Act next month, told Roll Call today that there's a “very good chance” that his committee will settle on a “nuanced position that is between the two that empowers the city to do more, but recognizes that there have to be some controls.”

Photo and rendering from the Office of Planning

  • Skeptic

    That's Mayor to Congress -- not DC to Congress. The Council's clearly not down with the plan. The citizenry doesn't appear to be either.

  • NE John

    In that picture above, the proposed tall building portion looks like shit.

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  • Maeve

    Mayor and Harriet Tregoning are acting like very willful children. The Sense of the Council resolution passed on Tuesday morning opposed any changes to height limits inside and outside the L'Enfant City. Those residents numbered 35 and 33 were opposed to any changes to height limits. Then on Tuesday, when NCPC held its public hearing, 33 residents testified and 32 opposed changes to the Height of Buildings Act of 1910. NCPC voted not to increase height limits. Both Harriet Tregoning and the Mayor's appointee, Rob Miller, sit on NCPC and heard the testimony and had an opportunity to vote. They were outvoted by the Commission. But that didn't stop Harriet, who moved forward the District's Height Master Plan to Congress Tuesday evening asking for changes to the Height Act. This is an excellent example of why there is so little respect for how business is done in the District. It also brings into question, "who is really running this city?" It isn't Vince Gray!

  • Alf

    @Maeve--

    It'also an excellent reason why Council members should be demanding Tregoning's resignation.

    Tregoning, going, gone. It's about time.

  • george

    @ NE John, Yeah no kidding. That's because they're computer-drawn images of blank white windowless buildings, and on the left it's real buildings. That's not what they would actually build there. Great observation though.

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  • Barney Rubble

    Complain all you want, Issa wants more development in DC to keep VA red. Not that I agree much with Issa, but he is a successful businessman and understands that the business of the City should be growth and not catering to the "olds." I learned that phrase from the Washington Post article last Sunday.

    Shame on Phil Mendelson, yet again, for cowing to those who want no change in a manner that significantly undercuts claims that we want more autonomy. Actually, methinks Phil does not want that.

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