D.C. Height Requirements Under Scrutiny

Some say changing height standards will help the economy, while others fear it will detract from the nation's monuments.
Photo courtesy of the National Parks Service

Photo courtesy of the National Parks Service

By MARISSA HIGDON

(TRNS) —- There is some disagreement over the legislation that limits the height of buildings in DC.

Based on a study conducted by the National Planning Commission (NCPC) and the District of Columbia Office of Planning, the Director of the Office of Planning for DC Harriet Tregoing recommends changing the Height Act while Executive Director of NCPC Marcel Acosta recommends keeping the Act as is.

At a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing today, the two witnesses shared differing opinions on the law.

Tregoning supported changing the Height Act in order to allow building height to be determined locally, giving DC residents and representatives the power to decide how tall buildings in their area should be. She said this would help alleviate the current high housing costs because creating taller buildings would create a bigger supply of housing.

“The current Height Act limits contain the city’s ability to grow and accommodate future demand,” Tregoning said. “which in turn threaten our ability to maintain our fiscal stability and continue to provide critical services to residents, workers and visitors of this city.”

Tregoning also argued that a change in the Height Act to allow DC to decide the height of its buildings supports “home rule,” the idea the the District should have more control over its own city.

“I relish the opportunity for our city to roll up our sleeves and deal with this,” she said.

On the other hand, Acosta had a different message.

“Our year-long study reaffirmed the continuing importance of the Height Act,” he said in his written testimony.

Acosta went on to say that allowing taller buildings could negatively impact the view of monuments and other iconic buildings.

“The visual modeling work conducted as part of the Height Plan study demonstrated potential for significant adverse impacts to national resources,” he said.

He suggested the Height Act remain as it is until further study is done to make sure any increase in building height does not block the view of any important buildings or monuments.

“In the end, the Commission determined additional study is required by both NCPC and the District to understand whether strategic changes to the Height Act would impact federal interests within the area,” Acosta said.

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