The Approach

The following outline summarizes the overall approach for the joint National Capital Planning Commission and District of Columbia Office of Planning (DCOP) Height Master Plan for the District of Columbia. This effort includes opportunities for public participation and coordination with federal and local stakeholder organizations.  Work products will be publicly released at various stages to help frame public discussion and encourage review and comment. These work products, public comments, and other background materials will be the basis for the recommendations from the National Capital Planning Commission to the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform in fall 2013.

Why are we conducting the Height Master Plan? Who is conducting the work?
What will the study address?
How will the public have an opportunity to review and comment on the work products and recommendations?

Why are we conducting the Height Master Plan? Who is conducting the work?

The National Capital Planning Commission and the District of Columbia are jointly conducting this study at the request of Representative Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform. Additional study-related services are provided by the following consultant teams:

Best Practices and Case Studies

Economic Feasibility Analysis
Partners for Economic Solutions—prime consultant
Structura, Inc.
James G. Davis Construction Corporation

Modeling Analysis
Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, LLC—prime consultant
CyberCity 3D, Inc.
AMT, LLC Consulting Engineers and Land Surveyors
Digital Design & Imaging Service Inc.
Capital Pixel

What will the study address?

As stated in Representative Issa’s request letter dated October 3, 2012, the study will explore strategic changes to the federal Height of Buildings Act of 1910 (The Height Act1) in those areas outside the L’Enfant City2 that support local economic development goals, while taking into account the impact on federal interests, compatibility to the surrounding neighborhoods, national security concerns, input from local residents and other related factors. The NCPC and the District of Columbia are asked to determine the extent to which the Height Act continues to serve both the federal and District government interests.  The study will be guided by these core principles:

How will the public have the opportunity to review and comment on work products and recommendations?

NCPC and DCOP will hold public events at three stages in the study, where the draft work products for each phase (described below) will be presented. 

In addition, NCPC and DCOP will provide the public with information through speaker forums, a website devoted to the study with on-line comment opportunities, and facilitated discussions with stakeholder groups. 

The following is an overview of the three phases that the study will undertake, including anticipated products. The goal of Phase I and Phase II will be to answer a set of questions that form the basis of the draft plan. Phase III consists of formal public review and comment on the draft Master Plan and recommendations.  The National Capital Planning Commission will then deliberate and act on the recommendations and transmit final recommendations to Congress.

Phase 1: Background Research and Definition of Federal and Local Interests
The first phase will develop background information and case studies to help shape the discussion of core principles of the study.

Phase 2:  Identify Geographic and Technical Areas for Strategic Changes to the Height Act
Using information from Phase I, Phase II will identify and analyze geographic areas for opportunities to strategically change the Height Act.  This phase will also review potential modifications to the Height Act language. These initial recommendations will be presented to the public for discussion.

Phase 3: Submission of Recommendations to Congress and Conclusion of Plan
The work products will be summarized into a draft Height Master Plan and recommendations. The Commission will conduct formal public hearings to accept comments.  NCPC will review the plan’s draft plan recommendations and make its final plan and recommendations to Congress.


1. The Height Act is a federal law which provides uniform restrictions on the height of all buildings within the District of Columbia boundaries.

2. The original L’Enfant City (also known as Washington City) generally includes all areas bounded by Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway, Florida Avenue and the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. 

3. The District of Columbia has procured consultants to digitally model alternative building height envelopes in selected areas of the city as a means to demonstrate potential impacts of greater building heights and to also assess the economic feasibility of adding additional floors to existing buildings.