Not So Fast Feds, Say D.C. Planners, We Want Major Changes to Height Limits

In D.C.'s ongoing height limit saga, the other shoe has dropped. Just two weeks after the federal government recommended minimal changes to the limits, their partner in the study - D.C.'s Office of Planning - has come to a very different conclusion.
September 25, 2013, 1pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Just two weeks ago, it looked like the congressionally mandated study into altering D.C.'s Height of Buildings Act of 1910 might recommend preserving the status quo. But citing the need to accommodate the city's projected population and job growth, the Office of Planning has recommended two major changes to the Height Act, reports Aaron Wiener. 

"First, the D.C. Office of Planning, which led the District's efforts on the Height Act, recommends altering the formula for determining maximum heights—currently the width of the street plus 20 feet, with a cap of 90 feet on residential streets and 130 feet on most commercial streets. The Office of Planning recommends a new building-height-to-street-width ratio of 1.25:1, resulting in a maximum height of 200 feet for buildings on a 160-foot street."

"But that only applies within the historic L'Enfant City—roughly bounded by Florida Avenue and the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers," he adds. "The Office of Planning's second proposal is to free the city from any federal height restrictions outside this area, since there's a lesser federal interest in thee farther-flung regions of the city. In these areas, the Office of Planning recommends to Congress that the District be able to set its own height limits through its Comprehensive Plan and zoning process."

Final recommendations are expected to be delivered to Congress in November. Will the NCPC and Office of Planning find common ground or will they leave the decision up to Rep. Darrell Issa and his colleagues?

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Published on Tuesday, September 24, 2013 in Washington City Paper
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