Urban Fold

Congress Inching Toward Small Changes to D.C. Height Restrictions

A strange scene this week: members of Congress discussing height restrictions in one of the country's largest urban centers. In the end, a House committee approved a bill that would loosen D.C.’s century-old Height of Buildings Act.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has unanimously approved HR 4192, a bill that would allow the penthouse space of certain buildings to be used for human occupancy, reports Daniel J. Sernovitz. The bill will go before the full House next.

The process to approve the changes to the Height of Buildings Act of 1910 is a testament to the surreal governance of Washington. Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, who wanted the bill to go further in relaxing height restrictions, noted a deep rift between local political leaders on the changes. According to Sernovitz: “The National Capital Planning Commission voted 7-3 last fall in support of only minor changes, including the penthouse provision, while the District's planning office called for more relaxed standards and city council itself unanimously approved a ‘sense of the council resolution’ against any changes at all.”

Rep Issa’s, who wanted the bill to go further in loosening the height restrictions, offered this assessment on the city's incremental approach to loosening the height restrictions: "I'm deeply disappointed, but I understand that in this case, there may be some question about whether the city trusts itself with this responsibility…"

Full Story: House committee advances bill to raise D.C. Height Act


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