clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

OP vs. NCPC: A Look at Opposing Revisions to the Height Act

Will D.C. get taller buildings? Should it? Those are the questions that the National Capital Planning Commission and D.C.'s Office of Planning have had to consider while reviewing the Height Act, the 1910 law that keeps D.C. buildings from going too high into the sky. Each organization has come up with a set of proposals that would tinker with the current legislation and shockingly, they don't line up at all! We've broken down both sets of proposals into language that paraphrases their arguments.

The Current Law:

Hey, D.C., no skyscrapers for you! A building cannot be 20 feet taller than the width of the street on which it stands. To keep things uniform in the case of those pesky wide stretches of road, buildings on residential roads cannot be taller than 90 feet, buildings in commercial areas cannot be taller than 130 feet and Pennsylvania Avenue's buildings can only go as high as 160 feet. Yes, the Old Post Office's 315 foot clock tower sticks out like a tongue that's taunting the Height Act but it was also built 11 years before the legislation came into existence.

National Capital Planning Commission Says:

In short: leave it alone! They believe that restricting the heights of buildings has allowed D.C. to have a distinct and aesthetically pleasing skyline and changing it would mess up the setting of and sight lines toward iconic structures like the National Mall, The Washington Monument and the Capitol. But people should be able to live in the top floors of buildings now. That's okay.

Office of Planning Says:

In short: screw the current Height Act! Okay, they didn't use language that was nearly as harsh, but they've stated that due to population growth in the city, buildings within the traditional L'Enfant City should be allowed to go up to 200 feet and outside of those boundaries the height limitation should disappear entirely. To keep sight lines to the monuments clean, there can be viewsheds around the White House, Capitol and Washington Monument.
· Few changes for D.C.'s Height Act, panel recommends [WBJ]
· Tall Buildings Beyond the Core: DC Releases Height Act Recommendations [UrbanTurf]
· D.C. Recommends Major Changes to Height Act [WCP]
· Does D.C.'s Building Height Limit/Low Skyline Help The City? [CDC]
· Exploring the Issues Behind D.C.'s Controversial Height Act [CDC]