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Exploring The Issues Behind DC's Controversial Height Act

This week the hotly debated Height Act is getting its own panel discussion with urban planners from a few major European cities to come and share their experiences with building up. Currently, the DC law says buildings can't be twenty feet taller than the adjacent street with a maximum of ninety feet high for residential streets. For commercial streets the limit is set at 130 feet, but Pennsylvania Avenue downtown is an exception with a limit of 160 feet. Many different camps want to see this changed, while an almost equal number are firmly against the idea. After the jump is a list of the major points from each side of the debate, but learn more about the entire can of worms tomorrow night at the National Archives, William G. McGowan Theater (700 Pennsylvania Ave NW) from 7pm to 9pm. The event will also stream live at this link

1) Taller buildings will increase revenue for DC by charging developers a fee for the right to build higher and creating more square footage to charge tax on.

2) Providing more square footage will increase the density of people who live or work in the city. DC infrastructure can't handle the density it has already so adding more will make things worse.

3) Creating more residential units inside the District will cut down on traffic congestion into the city and therefore be better for the environment.

4) Every ton of cement manufactured for use in concrete emits a ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Adding more concrete to build taller buildings will negate any environmental benefit. (See sources below)

5) Increasing the supply of residential units will lower the price of real estate in the city which will curtail how many low-income residents are priced out of their neighborhoods.

6) If the taller buildings are allowed only east of the river (as has been suggested to prevent disrupting the iconic skyline of the city) but offices and residential units are sold/leased at market-rates that will price out the low-income residents who have been living there for generations.

7) Raising the height of buildings will impact the historic feel of DC which is one of the unique aspects of the city that draws tourists each year. DC will lose some of its uniqueness which will negatively impact tourism (and therefore revenue).

· Live Stream: Impacts of Building Heights in Capital Cities [OfficialSite]
· NCPC Speaker Series: Impacts of Building Heights in Capital Cities [Official Site]
· Should the height limit change? [GGW]

1. Concrete CO2 Fact Sheet p.6 [National Ready Mixed Concrete Assoc.]
2.Rice concrete can cut greenhouse emissions [NBC]