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?
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
James G. Davis Construction Corporation
Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, LLC—prime consultant
CyberCity 3D, Inc.
AMT, LLC Consulting Engineers and Land Surveyors
Digital Design & Imaging Service Inc.
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:
- Ensure the prominence of federal landmarks and monuments by preserving their views and setting;
- Maintain the horizontality of the monumental city skyline; and
- Minimize negative impacts to nationally significant historic resources, including the L’Enfant Plan.
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.
- Phase 1: Overview, discussion of study principles and issues shaping federal and local interests, case studies.
Public meetings in May and June 2013.
- Phase 2: Planning analysis results and identification of opportunity areas for strategic changes to the Height Act.
Public meetings in late July 2013.
- Phase 3: Draft recommendations.
Public hearings in September 2013.
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.
- What is the Height Act and how has it shaped the city’s form? What other factors influence Washington’s form?
Product: Overview of Height Act and how it is currently used, short history of evolving form of city and surrounding areas.
- What can we learn about height and building form from other capital cities around the world? From other US cities?
Product: Case studies
- What are the major federal and local issues and interests resulting from managing building height in Washington, DC?
Product: Issue paper describing major federal and local interests and issues related to the Height Act and how they could translate into additional principles to guide the plan.
- What are the baseline conditions and trends in federal and local development (for example, workplace mobility, or federal employment and procurement) that should be considered?
Product: Issue paper describing important trends that can affect the analysis of building height in the city.
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.
- What are some baseline areas of interests in the city? This question will be explored through a mapping exercise that looks at existing information such as historic districts, federal property locations, and areas identified for development in the District Elements of the Comprehensive Plan.
Product: A series of base maps.
- Based on the core principles identified in Phase I and the mapping exercise described above, what geographic areas of the city should be studied in more detail for potential Height Act changes or be eliminated from further consideration?
Product: Map identifying strategic locations for potential Height Act changes.
- What are the impacts to the core principles and federal and local interests of allowing greater height in strategic locations? This question will be explored using the locations identified in #9, above, digital modeling and other studies3, and the principles and interests defined in Phase 1.
Products: Modeling studies; impact analyses, proposed recommendations.
- Are there potential technical policy or language changes to the Height Act that could modernize or clarify the Height Act?
Product: Identification of areas within the existing Height Act, if any, where the language could be amended.
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.
- Recommendations and NCPC Commission Action
- Height Master Plan, which includes a narrative summarizing the work products and public comments, as well as technical appendices.
- Appendices (Includes technical studies, public comments, and a response summary.)
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.