What You're Saying

Media Coverage

A compilation of writings and thought pieces reflecting the variety of opinions on the issue of building heights in Washington, DC. The collection does not reflect the opinion and policy perspectives of the National Capital Planning Commission and/or the District of Columbia.

We need old buildings to make great cities, but we need new ones too
By Ben Adler
Grist (May 19, 2014)

Small Change To Height Act Signed Into Law
By Elliott Francis
WAMU (May 19, 2014)

With Obama's Signature, Height Act Change Becomes Law
By Bridget Bowman
Roll Call (May 16, 2014)

Everyone likes the status quo
By Matthew Yglesias
Slate (January 16, 2014)

Obama signs minor change to DC building height law
By Associated Press
(May 16, 2014)

Most District residents oppose Height changes
By Benjamin Freed
Washingtonian (January 16, 2014)

What the Height Act poll didn’t ask
By Aaron Wiener
Washington City Paper (January 16, 2014)

Poll: Height Act changes opposed by majority
By Mike DeBonis and Scott Clement
Washington Post (January 16, 2014)

DC population boom continued
By Aaron Wiener
Washington City Paper (December 30, 2013)

What would taller buildings mean
By Neil Flanagan
Greater Greater Washington (December 23, 2013)

Short, ‘Dowdy’ DC considers high heels
By Liz Halloran
NPR (December 20, 2013)

We need more housing. Lots more housing.
By Aaron Wiener
Washington City Paper (December 19, 2013)

Is tall all there is?
By Tim Halbur
Planetizen (December 16, 2013)

DC Council opposes height changes
CBS Morning News (December 17, 2013)

Washington's horizontal woes
By Todd S. Purdum
Politico (December 16, 2013)

Don’t count on taller buildings for cheaper housing
By Roger K. Lewis
Washignton Post (December 15, 2013)

Why the Height Act is not so cut and dry
By Mary Fitch
Washington Business Journal (December 13, 2013)

District Trying to Hash out Differences on Height
By Hannah Hess
Roll Call (December 12, 2013)

Lack of building up keeps cities down
By Alissa Walker
Gizmodo (December 11, 2013)

How Washington would look w/ skyscrapers
FastCoDesign (December 10, 2013)

Ask Congress to give DC self-rule on heights
By David Alpert
Greater Greater Washington (December 6, 2013)

Penthouse change not as visible as it seems
By Christopher H. Collins
Washington Business Journal (December 6, 2013)

Norton urges Gray and Mendelson to talk
By Aaron Wiener
Washington City Paper (December 5, 2013)

Norton: Gray and Mendelson must talk height
By Sarah Anne Hughes
DCist (December 5, 2013)

The Height Act: An apology and a clarification
By Ryan Cooper
Washington Monthly (December 5, 2013)

Congress hears debate over building heights
By Elizabeth Wiener
The Northwest Current (December 4, 2013)

Rosslyn skyline
By Marie Maxwell
National Archives blog (December 4, 2013)

Who Are the Height Act Supporters?
By Ryan Cooper
Washington Monthly (December 3, 2013)

Agreement in DC a tall order
By Meredith Somers
The Washington Times (December 3, 2013)

DC Height Requirements Under Scrutiny
By Marissa Higdon
Talk Radio News Service (December 3, 2013)

Height Act Hearing Reveals Fissures in DC
By Hannah Hess
Roll Call (December 3, 2013)

Old Washington Rules Meet Push for Change
By Andrew Siddons
The New York Times (December 3, 2013)

Would taller buildings ruin the DC skyline?
By Richard Simon
LA TImes (December 2, 2013)

Hearing gives some life to height changes
By Benjamin Freed
Washingtonian (December 2, 2013)

Issa Shames DC at Height Act hearing
By Sarah Anne Hughes
DCist (December 2, 2013)

To be continued: Congress and Height Act
By Editors
Urban Turf DC (December 2, 2013)

More discussion needed on DC Height Act
Daniel J. Sernovitz
Washington Business Journal (December 2, 2013)

Issa open to changes to DC building heights
By Ben Nuckols, Associated Press
Washington Post, (December 2, 2013)

Issa offers hope for DC autonomy on heights
By Aaron Wiener
Washington City Paper (December 2, 2013)

Agencies considered taller K Street
By Aaron Wiener
Washington City Paper (December 2, 2013)

DC height restrictions congressional hearing
By Associated Press
WJLA (December 2, 2013)

Congress Hears Testimony on Heights
By Associated Press
NBC 4 Washington (December 2, 2013)

VIDEO: 150 years of the U.S. Capitol Dome
By Scott Pelley
60 Minutes, CBS News (December 1, 2013)

Letters: Views are a 'national interest’
By Ernest E. Johnson, Washington
Washington Post (November 29, 2013)

A small future for tall buildings in DC
By David Brussat
Providence Post (November 28, 2013)

DC's Building heights head to Congress
By Patrick Madden
WAMU 88.5 FM (November 28, 2013)

Home Rule to dominate height hearing
By Hannah Hess
Roll Call (November 27, 2013)

Building-heights hearing set
By Mike DeBonis
Washington Post (November 27, 2013)

Height Act arguments go to Congress
By Benjamin Freed
Washingtonian (November 26, 2013)

Phony height reform is dead!
By Matthew Yglesias
Slate (November 22, 2013)

Is the prospect of a taller DC really dead?
By Shilpi Paul
Urban Turf DC (November 22, 2013)

Talk of raising Height Act was premature
By Daniel J. Sernovitz
Washington Business Journal (November 21, 2013)

Mayor asks for buildings to be built higher
By Ryley Trahan
Washington Times (November 21, 2013)

Issa Predicts Nuanced Position on Height Act
By Hannah Hess
Roll Call (November 21, 2013)

DC Asks Congress For Some Height Act Control
By Sarah Anne Hughes
DCist (November 21, 2013)

DC to Congress: Give Us Control Over Height
By Aaron Wiener
Washington City Paper (November 21, 2013)

DC height restrictions to be maintained
By Associated Press
Associated Press (November 21, 2013)

Never Grow Up; No Changes to the Height Act

By Valerie Paschall
Curbed DC (November 21, 2013)

U.S. panel rejects changes to DC skyline
By Ian Simpson
Reuters (November 21, 2013)

Federal Commission: Leave Heights Unchanged
By Benjamin Freed
Washingtonian (November 21, 2013)

Federal panel resists height change
By Elizabeth Wiener
NW Current (November 20, 2013)

Mayor Gray: 'People don't like change'
By Michael Neibauer
Washington Business Journal (November 20, 2013)

Commission votes against recommendation
By Associated Press
Washington Post (November 20, 2013)

Tall buildings are toast
By Mike Debonis
Washington Post (November 20, 2013)

Height changes are rejected by commission
By Mike Debonis
Washington Post (November 20, 2013)

NCPC to Send Watered-Down Recommendation
By Aaron Wiener
Washington City Paper (November 20, 2013)

Barry Only Member Who Supports Changes
By Aaron Wiener
Washington City Paper (November 20, 2013)

D.C. Council Has Lost Its Mind on Height Act
By Aaron Wiener
Washington City Paper (November 20, 2013)

Majority are Against Changing Height Act
By Sarah Anne Hughes
DCIst (November 20, 2013)

NCPC: No Major Height Act Changes
By Urban Turf Staff
Urban Turf (November 20, 2013)

Final decision: Leave the Height Act alone
By Michael Neibauer
Washington Business Journal (November 20, 2013)

Panel Opts To Keep D.C. Height Act Intact
By Martin Austermuhle
WAMU (November 20, 2013)

D.C. Council Not Down With Plan
By Martin Austermuhle
WAMU (November 20, 2013)

Heights could rise in some places
By Mike DeBonis
Washington Post (November 19, 2013)

The door opens a crack for taller buildings
By David Alpert
Greater Greater Washington (November 19, 2013)

Might There Be a Compromise?
By Valerie Paschall
Curbed DC (November 19, 2013)

Height restrictions should be eased away
By Associated Press
WJLA (November 19, 2013)

We're Close to a Height Act Compromise
By Aaron Wiener
Washington City Paper (November 19, 2013)

Executive Director's Recommendation
By Prince Of Petworth
Popville (November 19, 2013)

A case to change the city skyline
By Pooya Hajibagheri
GW Hatchet (November 19, 2013)

Proposal Would Keep Building Caps
By Benjamin Freed
Washingtonian (November 19, 2013)

Some DC Buildings Could Be Taller
By CBS Staff
CBS DC (November 18, 2013)

Commission Opens Door to Taller D.C.
By Hannah Hess
Roll Call (November 19, 2013)

We're Close to a Height Act Compromise
By Aaron Wiener
Washington City Paper (November 18, 2013)

An opening for taller buildings in DC
By David Alpert
Greater Greater Washington (November 18, 2013)

Might There Be A Compromise on Heights?
By Valerie Paschall
DC Curbed (November 18, 2013)

Feds: Heights Should Remain Downtown
By Martin Austermuhle
WAMU 88.5 FM (November 18, 2013)

NCPC Gives a Little in Height Fight
By Michael Neibauer
Washington Business Journal (November 18, 2013)

NCPC Open to Taller Buildings
By UrbanTurf Staff
Urban Turf (November 18, 2013)

NCPC: Taller Buildings w/ Congress' Review
By Sarah Anne Hughes
DCist (November 18, 2013)

Report is Cynical, Illogical, & Self-Serving
By Aaron Wiener
Washington City Paper (November 18, 2013)

Taller Buildings Are Fine, If the Feds Sign Off
By Aaron Wiener
Washington City Paper (November 17, 2013)

Would Repealing D.C.’s Height Limit Help Republicans Win Back Virginia?
By Marc Tracy
New Republic (November 14, 2013)

Charge of the Height Brigade
By Aaron Wiener
Washingotn City Paper (November 6, 2013)

Critics note Paris, but building it wasn't pretty
By Payton Chung
West North (November 5, 2013)

Council Examines Building Heights
By Griffin Cohen
The Hoya (November 5, 2013)

Scramble for Consensus on Height Act
Hannah Hess
Roll Call (November 4, 2013)

Topic of the Week: DC’s Height Limit
Steven Yates
Greater Greater Washington (November 4, 2013)

DC Architects Support Changes to Heights
By Aaron Wiener
Housing Complex (November 1, 2013)

9 Suggestions to Change the Height Limit
By Dan Malouff
Greater Greater Washington (October 30, 2013)

Council Enters Fray on Raising Height Limit
The Northwest Current (October 30, 2013)

Downtown: Built Up, but Not Built Out
By Aaron Wiener
Washington City Paper (October 30, 2013)

DC’s Odd Relegations and Laws
By Valerie Paschall
CurbedDC (October 29, 2013)

At Hearing, People Don’t Like Changes
By Matt Cohen
dcist (October 29, 2013)

Main Arguments against Changing Height Act
By Aaron Wiener
Housing Complex (October 29, 2013)

Two Misconceptions about DC Land-Use Regs
By Michael Hamilton
In My Backyard (October 29, 2013)

Height Hearing Reveals Opposition
By Shlipi Paul
UrbanTurf DC (October 29, 2013)

Grow High or Low: City Must Change
By Michael Neibauer
Washington Business Journal (October 28, 2013)

Height Act Changes Get Slammed
By Aaron Wiener
Washington City Paper (October 28, 2013)

Height Act Supporters Rip Plan for Tall
By Benjamin Freed
Washingtonian (October 28, 2013)

Residents Look Down on Height Proposals
By Martin Austermuhle
WAMU 88.5 FM (October 28, 2013)

Should the Height Act be Amended?
By Valerie Paschall
CurbedDC (October 28, 2013)

Commentary: Support City's Height Limit!
By Janet Quigley
The Hill Rag (October 25, 2013)

Commentary: The Case for More Height in DC
By Shalom Baranes
Capital Buisness (September 30, 2013)

Please, Congress, Don’t Alter the Heights
By Nancy MacWood, Committee of 100
Washington Business Journal (October 11, 2013)

Height of Insanity
By Rebecca Miller, DC Preservation League
Washington Business Journal (October 4, 2013)

How Washington Went Topless
By Ryan Avent
Washington (September 29, 2013)

The Big Building Height Question
By Editors
BisNow (September 27, 2013)

District and NCPC Can't Agree
By Hannah Hess
Roll Call (September 26, 2013)

DC Wants Buildings To Be Able To Grow
By Martin Austermuhle
WAMU 88.5 FM (September 26, 2013)

DC Proposes Increasing Building Height
By Mike DeBonis
Washington Post (September 26, 2013)

New DC and Federal Studies Disagree
By Douglas Cantor
Examiner.com (September 25, 2013)

OP vs. NCPC: Revising Height Act
By Valerie Paschall
Curbed DC (September 25, 2013)

Press Release Reposted (comments)
By Editor
Prince of Petworth (September 25, 2013)

DC Planners Want Height That's Targeted
By Dan Malouff
Greater Greater Washington (September 25, 2013)

Tall Beyond the Core
By Shilpi Paul
UrbanTurf DC (September 25, 2013)

DC Wants Major Changes to Height Act
By Benjamin Freed
Washingtonian (September 25, 2013)

DC Recommends Major Changes to Height
By Aaron Wiener
Washington City Paper (September 24, 2013)

DC Proposes Major Changes to Height Act
By Michael Neibauer
Washington Business Journal (September 24, 2013)

Skyscrapers Belong Where There's Demand
By Matthew Yglesias
Slate Magazine (September 24, 2013)

The Needle: Sky's The Limit
By Perry Stein
Washington City Paper (September 24, 2013)

Washington Skyline Slowly Changing
By Alicia Lozano
WTOP (September 20, 2013)

We Urge Rejection to Relax Height Act
By Editor
The Intowner (September 15, 2013)

DC’s Height Limits: The Risk of Ending Them
By Philip Kennicott
Washington Post Magazine (September 15, 2013)

How DC Could Look if Height Limits Change
By Emily Chow and Gene Thorp
Washington Post (September 15, 2013)

Want to Shrink Government? Let DC Grow
By Lydia DePillis
Washington Post (September 15, 2013)

The Needle: Paper Moon
By Perry Stein
City Paper (September 13, 2013)

DC with chaged height limits
By News Desk
PBS Newshour (September 13, 2013)

Federal Planners: DC Is Just the Right Height
By Nancy Scola
Next City (September 13, 2013)

Tension Might Define Height Act Debate
By Hannah Hess
Roll Call (September 13, 2013)

NCPC's Role Is to Define Federal Interest
Aaron Wiener
Washington City Paper (September 13, 2013)

Planners Release Height Sstudy Findings
By Victoria St. Martin
The Washington Post (September 13, 2013)

Planners Release Height Act Findings
By Victoria St. Martin
Washington Post (September 12, 2013)

Raising the Roof?
By Mark Segraves
NBC News 4 (September 12, 2013)

Building Heights to be Discussed
By Editor
ABC News 7, WJLATV (September 12, 2013)

NCPC Releases Draft Recommendations
By Shilpi Paul
UrbanTurf DC (September 12, 2013)

NCPC's Lame Timidity on the Height Act
By Matt Yglesias
Slate (September 12, 2012)

NCPC likely recommending tweaks to height
By Dan Malouff
Greater Greater Washington (September 11, 2013)

Federal Panel Proposes Leaving Act Intact
By Martin Austermuhle
WAMU 88.5 FM (September 11, 2013)

Height Recommendations Not a Done Deal
By Aaron Wiener
Washington City Paper (September 11, 2013)

Five Ways NCPC Is Wrong About Height Act
By Aaron Wiener
Washington City Paper (September 11, 2013)

No Federal Benefit to Altering DC Height Act
By Hannah Hess
Roll Call (September 11, 2013)

Few changes for Heights, panel recommends
By Michael Neibauer
Washington Business Journal (September 11, 2013)

NCPC: Mild consideration to Height change
By Michael Hamilton
ElevationDC (August 13, 2013)

DC with taller buildings?
By Lauren Williams
In My Backyard DC (August 14, 2013)

Skyscrapers for DC?
By Steven Nelson
US News and World Report (August 12, 2013)

Height Meetings Expose Growth Concern
By Hannah Hess
Roll Call (August 12, 2013)

Building Height Study Nears Completion (AUDIO)
By George Mesthos
CBS DC, WNEW 99.1 FM (August 10, 2013)

Options to Amend Height Act
By Anthony L. Harvey
The Intowner (August 10, 2013)

Study Looks at Impacts from Easing Heights
By Elizabeth Wiener
The Northwest Current (August 7, 2013)

DC contemplates ending height limits
By Ryan Greene
Vox Populi (August 6, 2013)

Should DC be More Like NYC?
By Shaun Courtney
Fairfax City Patch (August 4, 2013)

This is how DC would look w/ taller buildings
By Aaron Wiener
Washington City Paper (August 2, 2013)

CityCenter wraps-up & DC revisits height
By Laura Fisher Kaiser
Architectural Record (July 31, 2013)

Raise height limit? That’s a bigger question
By David Alpert
Washington Post (July 29, 2013)

Height Master Plan Visual Modeling Released
By Christopher Brown
Architecture DC Blog (July 25, 2013)

Study Makes Case for Increased DC Heights
By Jonathan Nettler
Planetizen (July 25, 2013)

Balancing Local & Federal Interests in Heights
By Martin Austermuhle
WAMU 88.5 FM (July 25, 2013)

DC Height Restriction Limits, Public Meeting
By Associated Press
ABC 7 Washington (July 24, 2013)

Public Meetings Set on DC Height Limits (VIDEO)
By Tom Sherwood
NBC News 4 Washington (July 24, 2013)

Raising height limit would end the world
By Lydia DePillis
Washington Post (July 24, 2013)

DC With Tall Buildings?
By Shilpi Paul
UrbanTurf DC (July 24, 2013)

Imagining D.C. Under a Modified Height Act
By Aaron Wiener
Washington City Paper (July 24, 2013)

NCPC Holds Hearings On Relaxing Height Limits
By Martin Austermuhle
WAMU 88.5 FM (July 23, 2013)

2nd Round of Public Meetings for Height Act
by Greg Bianco
Washington Business Journal (July 22, 2013)

Changes to DC Height Limit? (AUDIO)
By Kevin Rincon
CBS DC, WNEW 99.1 FM (July 19, 2012)

DC Skyline Should Look Like Manhattan
By John-David Nako
PolicyMic (June 7, 2013)

DC‘s big problem with short buildings
By Sam Seifman
Next City (May 22, 2013)

Project reflects Paris' ambitions
By Peter Sigal
New York Times (May 21, 2013)

Let's get high
By Bill Bradley
Next City (May 20, 2013)

Changes coming to DC's heights?
By Thomas Warren
WTOP (May 18, 2013)

Agencies get public input on building height
By Douglas Canter
D.C. Green Business Examiner (May 18, 2013)

Rile up a crowd (in DC): Talk building heights
By Aaron Wiener
Washington City Paper (May 14, 2013)

Study: Whether to let buildings grow tall (AUDIO)
By Martin Austermuhle
WAMU 88.5 FM (May 14, 2013)

Don't disturb the skyline: public responds
By Shilpi Paul
UrbanTurf DC (May 14, 2013)

The public opinion on DC's Height Act
By Shilpi Paul
UrbanTurf DC (May 13, 2013)

What your skyline says about your city
By Thomas J. Sigler
The Atlantic Cities (May 1, 2013)

Should washington grow up?
By Ian Simpson
Reuters (April 30, 2013)

A modern city in east Midtown?
(Discusses density and height issues in NYC)
By Robert A. M. Stern
The New York Times (April 21, 2013)

Can urbanists learn to love DC's height limit?
by Jordan Fraade
Elevation DC (April 2, 2013)

Are tall buildings bad For Downtown?
by Michael Lewyn
Planetizen (March 17, 2013)

Keep the lid on DC: Build better, not bigger
by Edward T. McMahon
Urban Land (March 15, 2013)

DC looks to Europe as it rethinks height
by Nancy Scola
Next City (March 14, 2013)

Interview w/ NCPC Chairman Bryant (AUDIO)
Federal News Radio (March 12, 2013)

Learning from European building heights?
by Aaron Wiener
Washington City Paper (March 6, 2013)

Study to allow taller buildings in DC? (VIDEO)
by Tom Sherwood
NBC News 4 Washington (March 5, 2013)

The Pros & Cons of Revoking Height Act
By Irina Vinnitskaya
ArchDaily (December 13, 2012)

A monumental burden
by R.A.
The Economist (November 12, 2012)

The urbanist case for keeping DC's height
by Kaid Benfield
The Atlantic Cities (November 19, 2012)

The math on the cost of the DC height limit
by Matt Yglesias
Slate (November 12, 2012)

Energy and D.C.'s height restrictions
by Shalom Baranes
Urban Land (October 28, 2010)

The Limits of DC - Improving the Height Act
by Ken DCMud (June 9, 2010)

Height Act still something to treasure
by Larry Beasley
Washington Business Journal (June 7, 2010)

The truth about DC's skyline (AUDIO)
by Rebecca Sheir
WAMU's Metro Connection (January 22, 2010)

Thank you to everyone who participated and provided feedback on the Height Master Plan. Citizens of 16 states and nine countries submitted more than 300 online comments. An additional 124 formal letters and written testimony were offered in direct responses to the draft recommendations released in Phase 3. On December 2, 2013 these comments, along with the final reports, were transmitted in support of the Congressional hearing "Changes to the Heights Act: Shaping Washington, DC for the Future, Part II". A video archive of the Congressional hearing and written testimony from NCPC's Executive Director Marcel Acosta and DCOP's Director Harriet Tregoning is available.

The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is accepting public comments on the final reports through December 10, 2013.

NCPC Special Meeting compiled written testimony & letters
November 19, 2013

NCPC Public hearing compiled written testimony & letters
October 30, 2013

DC Council hearing compiled written testimony & letters
October 28, 2013

Includes advance testimony and formal letter received through October 25, 2013.
Comments will be added following close of NCPC’s public comment period.

View Phase 2 Public Meeting comments and submitted documents (PDF)

View Phase 1 Public Meeting comments and submitted documents (PDF)

The comments below have been submitted online by members of the public.
All submitted comments are included in the public record.

Submit a comment »

Phase 3 Comments

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Showing 149 of 149 total comments submitted

DC should increase the height limit but create incentives where additional floors can only be added if they include residential (particularly low income), a public amenity or institution (library, school, etc), or demonstrated need. I think this would make more affordable housing available in the downtown core and make the area more dynamic with people using. . . buildings 7 days a week, for all uses.

The downtown core is not for DC residents now. It is for office workers - a significant number of whom come from Virginia and Maryland- and for tourists staying in hotels located there. THe height act will help it become a living part of the city.

In the meantime, DC could look to help developers add office to key areas such as along the Anacostia river, McMillan Reservoir area, Old Soldier's Home, and Walter Reed to add mixed usage to areas that currently are only residential.

Read more

  —Adam, Washington, DC (September 27, 2013)
I am a DC resident who relocated from Toronto twenty years ago, and am very much opposed to tinkering with Washington DC building height restrictions. The height restrictions have served the city extremely well over the years. Thanks to the farsightedness of the creators of these restrictions, Washington DC doesn't have dark canyons, but is illuminated. . . with natural light. Plus, it has a distinct, unique and beautiful skyline.

Moreover, it isn't scarred with buildings that were once de rigeur, but failed to age gracefully - like Chicago's infamous Robert Taylor Homes. Its neighborhoods are also protected from developers erecting high rise apartments that tower over smaller homes and leave old time residents in the shadows.

Finally, to those who claim that the height restrictions need to be lifted to accommodate growth - do some basic research. In 1950, Washington DC was home to 800,000 people, who all lived here WITH the existing height restrictions. That is nearly 200,000 MORE people than currently reside in the District.

The height restriction is part of what makes Washington, DC such a special place. ALL Washingtonians - rich and poor, enjoy bright skies and an abundance of natural light. Don't jeopardize this priceless amenity so a select few developers can blot the landscape and ruin it forever.

To those that want to live in Manhattan, Dubai or Hong Kong - please move there now. But don't ruin our city because you have height-envy.

Read more

  —AK, Washington, DC (September 17, 2013)
I support altering the height of buildings act in Washington DC.

The analysis of the remaining room for development in DC from the Office of Planning is persuasive; more room is needed to allow for the continued growth of the city in a healthy manner, allowing for revitalization and growth without widespread displacement. . . .
Cities and urban economies are akin to living organisms; they grow and change all the time. And given the tremendous pressure for growth in the District, the most responsible reaction is to liberalize some of the rules that govern growth in the city and allow the market to provide for the demand to live and work in the city.

The role of planners should be to roughly shape that growth, not stymie it all together. I am fearful that NCPC's embrace of the anachronistic height limits in DC will do just that.

Unfortunately, the NCPC assertion of the Federal interest is both too broad and too limiting to realistically apply. If one were to take NCPC's broad declaration of interest to the logical conclusion, you would end up with a Federal interest in only maintaining the status quo; and an interest that is so broad as to crowd out any local interest.

The irony of this would be that such a broad interpretation of the federal interest would thus require running roughshod over other American virtues, such as private property rights; local government control; and the local democratic process.

As an alternative for the Federal Interst, I would argue that the jointly-agreed upon principles that framed this study are an excellent definition of the Federal Interest: maintaining a horizontal skyline, maintaining certain vistas and viewsheds, and maintaining historic assets within the city.

Even the most aggressive of the scenarios modeled as a part of this process is still consistent with these broadly stated interests; strong physical planning can maintain a taller, yet still horizontal skyline; view corridors and vistas will remain; the additional growth capacity from added height and density will help relieve development pressure on historic resources worthy of preservation.

Finally, it is important to note that any changes to actual building heights will be subject to extensive planning work; alteration of the federal law is just the first step in that process. Given the large impact on local conditions from the federal law, as a supporter of home rule for the District of Columbia, I support a full repeal of the federal height limit law, and remanding decisions on building heights back to the government agencies that help craft our current hybrid federal/local planning process.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on such an important planning study.

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  —Alex Block, Washington, DC - Ward 6 (October 30, 2013)
I think the Office of Planning's recommendations to modify the height limit in DC is an excellent idea. Creating a denser, more amenity rich and varied urban environment is a positive move as we proceed to keep DC a world class city. The constraints currently imposed on architects has resulted in a skyline and street. . . front of boring boxes.

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  —Alice giancola, Washington, DC (September 27, 2013)
Please don't raise the height limit on buildings in the District. The relatively low building heights are part of the charm of the nation's capital, much as is true in another livable capital, Paris. As Paris has constructed its high rises across the river at La Defense, so let us have ours in Rosslyn, Arlington and. . . Crystal City. Adding air space to increase income is a bad idea.

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  —Alison Daifuku, Washington, DC (September 17, 2013)
I think the building height restriction in Washington DC should be lifted for limited areas of the city.

Building height in the downtown area of NW/SW Washington, roughly bounded by 24th St, NW, North/South Capitol and M Streets (NW and SW) should be limited as current law specifies.

However, outside of those bounds, building. . . height restrictions should be lifted to permit buildings of up to 50 stories or 500 feet.

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  —Alvin Hutchinson, Washington, DC (September 30, 2013)
I am opposed to any changes to the Height Act.

NCPC report: I agree with the NCPC finding that "changes to the Height Act within the L’Enfant City and within the topographic bowl may have a significant adverse effect on federal interests" and that "The Height Act continues to meet the essential interests and needs. . . of the federal government and it is anticipated that it will continue to do so in the future. There is no specific federal interest in raising heights to meet future federal space needs."

D.C. Government report: The pdf of the District government report located at: http://www.ncpc.gov/heightstudy/docs/092013_DC_Height_Master_Plan_Draft_Recommendations_Report_FINAL.pdf is an incomplete version and only contains even-numbered pages. Therefore, the public does not have full access to this report for the purposes of reviewing and commenting. The Commission needs to provide full information to the public to ensure a credible public comment process.

Based on the incomplete information provided on the website, I oppose the District government's recommendations. While I oppose changes in the height limits District-wide, I want to point out that I live between Buzzard Point and the Waterfront Station, and I am opposed to any changes in those locations.

New development in the District should focus on communities near metro stations that need positive neighborhood investment and where it is affordable for families to live and for residents to open small business, such as Deanwood, Benning Road, and Capitol Heights. The average family cannot afford to live in the many new high rise buildings in the District. But they may not feel safe in some neighborhoods that are affordable and near metro. These areas in the district would greatly benefit from low or medium-rise development that would encourage neighborhood vitality and livable communities.

We need more neighborhoods with locally owned shops of all types, from bakeries and coffee shops to card stores to day care, yoga studios and local artists--not more high rise buildings with yet another CVS, Subway restaurant, and bank in the commercial spaces because no one else can afford to locate there. Instead, moderate density development in other neighborhoods will help improve their safety and community stability. I don't see any benefit in cramming more expensive, sterile, high-rise housing into the small center city, already overwhelmed with traffic.

One of the primary reasons I live in Washington, D.C. is because of our open skies, unique among major American cities. The heigh limit makes D.C. special. The bottom line is that seeing the sky and the sun makes people happy, even when downtown. And they allow the beautiful trees we have in the District to thrive. The sun, the sky, and the trees fill D.C. with glimpses of nature--feeding our souls in a way that most cities cannot. And seeing the stunning vistas of the Capitol dome, the Library of Congress, the Washington Monument, and the wide avenues can also bring a smile to many faces.

When has a concrete canyon, blocking the sky, casting shadows and creating a gray landscape, ever made anyone smile?

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  —Amy Mall, Washington, DC (20024) (November 04, 2013)
I attended the final Phase 2 meeting hosted by OP's Harriet Tregoning, and my sense of the crowd’s input was, keep the Height Act intact; there is presently much unexploited vertical and horizontal space in the city for development.

Given the already overtaxed, inadequately built-out public transportation system and ongoing reductions in parking,. . . I question how increasing density benefits sustainability, livability, or economic development for D.C. residents. I already know many people who live in the suburbs and in D.C. who decline to shop or dine in town because they find the combination of heavy traffic and scarce parking daunting. There are probably people who also choose to work elsewhere for the same reasons. At the same time, public transportation is so underdeveloped, and declines so precipitously on weekends, that using it requires driving to a transport node, like a Metro station, and then hunting for a place to stow one’s car so it won’t be ticketed. To add vitality to a city, public transportation must run frequently, dependably, and extensively. That doesn’t describe our current system.

The city has much under-utilized space at present; our population is still well below its peak of 800,000 in the 1950s. If we want economic vitality to push its way out of the pockets where it took refuge in and has been holed up since the 1960s, why would we build commercial and residential space in the already gentrified areas of the city? As to the notion that adding commercial and residential space brings down commercial and residential prices, then Manhattan--where relatively speaking, the sky is the limit--would be one of the least expensive housing and business markets in the U.S.

If casting off the Height Act limits is the best we can expect from our city planners, it is even more discouraging to contemplate what they will do if Congress grants the D.C. government the complete freedom from Height Act constraints that OP seeks outside the L’Enfant City. (If this is what Statehood would look like, I may lose my zeal for it.) I understand that the city’s own zoning regulations are in many neighborhoods more stringent than the Height Act’s restrictions, but I have no doubt that OP and the Zoning Commission will figure out how to jerry-rig those as well.

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  —Andrea Rosen, Washington, DC (Ward 4, Chevy Chase) (September 25, 2013)
Please find attached my testimony on the Height Master Plan for Washington, D.C., in connection with today’s hearing at the NCPC. I regret that I cannot present it in person.

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  —Andrea Rosen, Washington, D.C. 20015 (November 04, 2013)
I am writing to request you Retain the Height Act.
Increasing prevalence of tall buildings is changing the character of DC. All over the city I see neighborhoods I no longer recognize because they have been taken over by buildings three, four, sometimes five times the height of what they replaced. These areas lose their. . . small town within a big city feel.

I made a deliberate choice when I moved to DC in 1999 at age 31 with the intent to spend my working life here. I lived near New York City at the time but found the idea of living in the city, or even commuting there to work every day amongst sun blocking buildings, suffocating. I choose DC because of the lower buildings and the atmosphere that comes with them.

DO NOT raise the height limits. Not all growth is positive, especially if the cost is the soul of the city.

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  —Angela Carpenter Gildner, Washington, DC (20015) (October 30, 2013)
I strongly endorse the NCPC position that the Height Act be retained. Your recommendations are well researched and well supported. I cannot say the same for proposals the eliminate or modify the Act. Please let citizens know what they can do to help keep our iconic city the beautiful place it is.

  —Ann Hamilton, Washington, DC (Cleveland Park) (November 04, 2013)
I have lived in Washington, DC since 1991. I attended the briefing on alternatives to the current Height Act presented at the Tenley library in early August. After careful consideration of the pros and cons to each approach,I urge that the National Capital Planning Commission adopt Approach 1B. This approach allows no height. . . increase but does allow penthouse occupancy with or without setback.
The reasons for my recommendation include:
1. The distinctive beauty of Washington, D.C. is attributable not only to federal monuments and buildings but also to its warm and welcoming skyline. As the nation's capital, Washington, DC is unlike other cities. Hence a careful decision must take into consideration its national role as well as its role as a comfortable home to its residents. The very human dimensions of the city allow it to excel in both roles. This alone should be sufficient to retain the current Height Act, with the modest modification contained in 1B.
2. The depiction of various height increases in drawings presented at the briefing showed box like structures atop existing buildings to illustrate the changes in street width to height. Unfortunately, they seemed all too realistic. Few of the new buildings in DC are architecturally interesting. Most look like the new big box structures along New York Ave and H Streets--relatively cheap to build but which bring big profits. They do nothing to enhance the visual charm of the city. Therefore, any increase in height limit for buildings in the District are likely to produce more of the same, only taller. This is not an inviting picture.
3. There is currently plenty of unoccupied new construction in the city offering both office space and apartments/condominiums. Moreover, the District currently enjoys a budget surplus which deflates the argument emphasizing the need for increased tax revenue. Improvements DC government ethics policies and practices as well as robust enforcement of anti-corruption and oversight measures should only improve the DC government's revenue situation.
When all current structures are occupied and there is no more space to develop, then the Height Act can be revisited. There is no need to do this now. Once this genie is out of the bottle, it cannot be put back.
In conclusion, I strongly urge the National Capital Planning Commission to retain the current Height Act with the modest penthouse modification. Retaining the current act will ensure that the District of Columbia continues to be a beautiful and livable city.

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  —Ann Phillips, Washington, DC (September 29, 2013)
I would like to support the continuance of the Height Act and protect L’Enfant’s view of our federal city. There are plenty of places beyond the federal city where penthouses can be built. It is only in the interest of the developers to extend the height limits so I would like to maintain our Height Act. . . as it now stands.

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  —Anne Vinson, Washington, DC (September 26, 2013)
My fear is that the decision will simply go the way of the developers drooling their money over 69sq/mi of airspace currently guarded by the mayor and the city council. This is the same DC government that could not even stand up against Walmart and its promise of jobs calibrated to swell the class of. . . working poor.

The decision should be according to what we want Washington DC proper to look like and to feel like. If we want a skyline the level it is, the height restrictions should stay as they are. Do we want skyscrapers? Do we want to look like other high-rise cities? Maybe. It’s a decision.

Of course, in a high-rise DC, there will eventually be a well-dressed, security cleared person, licensed to own rocket launchers and assault weapons, sitting by his/her window on the 35th floor overlooking the White House, waiting for the right moment to shoot.

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  —B. Becker, Unknown (September 25, 2013)
This e-mail is to register my opposition to the Office of Planning’s (OP’s) proposed major changes in the Height Act which would adversely affect many residential areas of DC, including Foggy Bottom-West End, where I live. I also wanted to register my thanks for NCPC’s modest proposed changes. – Barbara Kahlow, 800-25th Street, NW, WDC. . . 20037

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  —Barbara Kahlow, Washington, DC (Foggy Bottom-West End) (October 29, 2013)
My name is Ben Klemens. I live in a house at the North end of L'Enfant's plan. My day job is as a manager in a federal agency, working at the federal center in Suitland, Maryland.

My understanding of federal administration is that its central problem is how to attract and retain talented. . . people. It is the key to efficient government.

In the segment of the NCPC draft report on the location of federal agencies, where I had expected discussion of this central federal interest, the report instead states that recent federal office developments "outside of traditional downtown federal enclaves [are] often serving as catalysts in distressed or emerging markets and anchoring development around Metrorail stations." The discussion in this section of the report is therefore not about federal interests, but about how the federal government can encourage local growth. Further, from my perspective in Suitland, the statements in this segment ring false: if anything, the Suitland Federal Center, off limits to not-federally-employed local residents, has had a deadening effect on the area around the Suitland Metro.

What that means for us as federal workers is that we are effectively trapped in the bubble of our building from clock-in to clock-out. In other places I have worked, my coworkers and I have often gone out to lunch, which naturally made us a better team and helped us to enjoy work a little bit more. If we had an interviewee that the bosses were especially interested in, we'd go out for dinner with him or her. All of that is largely impossible from Suitland, Maryland. My agency has a strong workforce, but I have also seen coworkers leave, complaining of the problems with working at a geographically isolated agency. I've listened to interviewees---suburbanites and urbanites alike---wonder aloud whether they could make the commute every day.

The report as written gives several examples showing that new federal office space continues to be developed at a regular pace, and points out that the trend has been toward building more Suitland-like campuses. But it fails to make the link that this trend can be detrimental to the key federal interest of hiring good people and helping them to enjoy coming to work every day.

I have noticed that, although the option has always been open to them, the NCPC has never chosen to relocate to Suitland, Maryland. There, they would have bigger offices at a lower land-use cost, thus freeing up budget for new or expanded programs. The fact that the NCPC has not made such a move to less dense pastures indicates that it has found value in its current location, perhaps from easier transportation, better amenities, or proximity to other agencies or businesses. Whatever it is that the NCPC has at its current location, other federal managers like myself need as well, so that we too can attract and retain the best and the brightest.

Because the problem of attracting and retaining talented people is absolutely central to federal administration, I believe it is vitally in the federal interest to take steps to expand the availability of central DC office space where federal agencies can locate.

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  —Ben Klemens, Washington, DC (October 25, 2013)
Without reservation, I support NCPC’s position on preserving the Height Act.

  —Bernard Ries, Washington DC 20015 (November 04, 2013)
Keep low rise bldgs in DC. Please include my voice as one who would like to retain the Height Act and who readily supports the NCPC's recommendations.

  —Beth Campbell, Washington DC (October 29, 2013)
I have lived in the same house in Washington for 54 years! Please, as a concerned citizen, I beg you to leave the height act as it now exists! It is part of what makes Washington unique!

  —Bob Asman, Washington, DC (October 29, 2013)
NCPC's Height Master Plan offers a sensible approach to accommodating growth in our great city. This visionary plan recognizes that our existing urban form offers many benefits, which result in a distinctive, walkable, and sustainable environment unique among American cities. It also stands in sharp contrast with a drastic proposal by the DC Office of Planning. . . proposal that would irreparably change our prominent skyline, one which simply cannot be defended with a rational justification, let alone on the basis of economic development.

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  —Brad Gudzinas, Washington, DC (October 29, 2013)
I would like to submit the attached comments on the Height Act recommendations for the record. Thank you.

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  —Carol Aten, Washington, DC (October 30, 2013)
Please, both of you and the NCPC, hear the pleas of those of us who have lived in this beautiful city for 40 years and more: Do NOT allow the Planning Dept. or the BZA or any other District or Federal agency intent on raising the height maximums to do so!

  —Carol Zachary and Jon Axelrod, Washington, DC (October 29, 2013)
While there are many -- MANY -- pressures on you to allow the building height regulations to be shifted, i.e. raised to greater heights, I strongly urge you to either say "no" or add a five-year moratorium for more consideration. Our city's horizon now sparkles with the monuments and buildings that are the heart of this. . . city. Just as Paris looks to its Eiffel Tower (with higher buildings far out of the city center), residents and visitors look to the Washington Monument and the other monuments and the Capitol as the core of the nation's capital.
Developers are building more small studios, which suit many of the new young workers in town. Let those fill. There is no likelihood in rents or purchase prices going down. Add to that the additional costs of transportation infrastructures and headaches.


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  —Carolyn Lieberg, Washington, DC 20024 (November 04, 2013)
I've just learned about your interest in citizen opinion about whether there is a desire to raise the height limits.

I hope my opinion not being sent too late. I am opposed to increasing height. Believe there are other ways to increase density.

  —Celeste Regan, Washington, DC (20015) (November 04, 2013)
I write to compliment the careful Height Act assessment of the NCPC’s “Federal Interest Report and Findings,” but also to draw attention to the premature and even reckless recommendations of the DCOP based on its incomplete “Height Master Plan for the District of Columbia – Evaluation and Draft Recommendations.”

A telling contrast between the two. . . approaches is that NCPC accurately observes: “The District of Columbia has had one of the nation’s strongest commercial and residential development markets, and its stability has made it consistently one of the most desirable real estate investment markets.” (p. 13) By contrast, OP refers back to a 1997 study “…that our tax burden results in at least a 25-percent higher cost of doing business than in the surrounding area, discouraging location in the District and undermining our competitiveness.” (p. 4) While acknowledging “demonstrable improvements over the past decade,” OP and their consultant PES and its two developer partners, continually suggest DC is now somehow not “competitive” and insists DC “is literally constrained by the Height Act.” (p. 8)

In fact, of course, as NCPC notes, DC has long been one of the strongest commercial and residential markets in the country, gaining population for the past 15 years since 1998. In fact, according to the BLS and BEA, DC now provides more jobs than ever before on record; 730,000 payroll jobs – and another perhaps 85,000 entrepreneurs/self-employed. The total number of jobs in DC is far higher than even the resurgent total 640,000 men, women, children and seniors who live in DC much less than the 340,000 working-age DC residents who are employed and pay DC income taxes. This remarkable, unique-in-the-nation imbalance between offices and housing is why DC has over 500,000 in-and-out commuters each day bidding up housing prices to unaffordable levels, over-taxing our daytime commercial infrastructure and creating the worst congestion in the nation.

These half-million daily commuters leave each evening with $1.5 billion in annual state/local income tax payments sent outside DC along with most of their spending and investing. The huge commercial infrastructure demands and revenue losses – despite a strong economy -- are key reasons why DC’s residential infrastructure – schools, affordable housing, resident-oriented businesses, safe streets, playgrounds… have been so badly neglected. OP claims to have looked at other cities but NO other city but DC is prohibited by law from capturing any portion of tax revenue from commuter income earned here.

Major policy changes must always be considered in light of potential budgetary impacts but this is absolutely vital for DC with its unique revenue constraints. NCPC takes budgetary concerns seriously; OP does not.

NCPC points out in 3.3 Infrastructure Overview: “Taller buildings could impact infrastructure capacity if they result in greater density. These impacts may affect services ranging from sewer and water, storm water management, road and transit capacity and other utilities. Like many American cities, Washington’s infrastructure is aging and requires repair or replacement. Particularly in various locations in the L’Enfant City/downtown, road, transit and sewer infrastructure is at capacity and efforts are underway to fund improvements to these systems. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), for example, has an $11 billion Capital Needs Inventory to upgrade and maintain current infrastructure. In addition, many of these systems have costs, customer demand, and operational considerations that are regional in scale.”

And NCPC states in Key Findings 3.3.a: Infrastructure in the National Capital Region, including transportation, is a federal interest. Large or uniform increases in height may impact the city’s infrastructure. Due to timing and funding constraints, this study does not specifically analyze infrastructure impacts nor provide recommendations to mitigate those impacts. Representatives from federal agencies and local residents alike expressed strong concerns about impacts to infrastructure from increases in height.

That is, NCPC finds that DC is doing well and until it can be shown that raising the iconic Height Limit will likely result in more benefits than costs, there is no need for major change to the height limit.

OP, on the other hand, limits its contracted “Economic Feasibility Analysis” largely to builders’ costs, and the imagined need to become more “competitive” and capture even more office building to maintain or even worsen the current worst-in-the-nation office/residential imbalance, congestion and bidding-up of housing prices. OP barely mentions DC’s already deeply stressed infrastructure and ignores entirely its many billions of dollars in unfunded maintenance and modernization needs and yet OP recommends raising the 130 foot height limit by 54% to 200 feet. How would this enormous addition to density affect car traffic and road maintenance, Metro crowding and breakdowns, our vulnerable power grid, water, sewer…?

OP’s Feasibility Analysis finds that 80% of construction jobs will go to more commuters but that new tax revenue associated with much taller buildings may bring in about $100 million/yr. compared to about $6 billion in current DC tax revenue. Since OP fails to offer any consideration of the very significant added cost for infrastructure and other services associated with much taller buildings, it is not possible to know whether its added height recommendation would likely be a net benefit or loss to the DC budget. I suspect such additional demands on DC’s aged infrastructure would result in public expenditures far exceeding the meager tax revenues gained. (And it is hard to imagine neighboring jurisdictions or Congress rushing to pay a larger share of DC’s bills.) So why would OP make such a reckless recommendation to raise the height limit before assessing the likely budgetary impact?

One final, perhaps minor point that has annoyed me about OP’s relentless selling of this project from the beginning: If you read carefully you can find places where OP does admit that this challenge to the Height Act comes from one “Tea Party” Congressman from California, not usually considered a friend of DC, Darrell Issa, He was appointed Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform which has jurisdiction over DC matters. Issa called a Subcommittee hearing in July 2012 which he did not attend and, in fact only three members of the 39 member full Committee attended any part of the hearing much less did any of the other 435 members of the full House attend. The letter requesting this project was sent on Oversight Committee stationary but by Mr. Issa (as Chairman) alone; neither the Ranking Committee Democrat nor anyone else signed. There was never a vote on this project, by anyone – anywhere. And yet, OP has constantly referred to this project as “requested by Congress” as is done again in the Press Release of Sept. 24, 2013 announcing OP’s draft recommendations. However, there is absolutely no indication of significant interest in Congress or among DC or US residents to raise DC’s height limit.

I am disappointed in OP’s reckless recommendation and do not believe that it is “smart” or good for DC. I hope it goes no further.

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  —Charles W. McMillion (PhD), Washington, DC (September 27, 2013)
Thank you for providing this opportunity to testify. I am opposed to any changes to the federal height act for the District of Columbia. I live in NE next to the McMillan Sand Filtration site and changing the height act would dramatically alter the character of our neighborhood.

  —Cheryl Wagner, 3013 Hawthorne Dr NE Washington DC (October 30, 2013)
I am a metropolitan development trends specialist and am a resident of Washington, DC. My experience includes owning and running the country's largest real estate consulting firm for 20 years, a former real estate developer, an author of 12 books on urbanism and numerous articles for national publications. In addition, I am a professor. . . at George Washington University and a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

I urge the adoption of the District of Columbia recommendations to ease the height restrictions outside of the L'Enfant old city boundaries and slight easing within the original L'Enfant boundaries to reflect changing fire suppression technologies.

The major reason for this recommendation is that following 60 years of losing relative job, office, retail and residential growth to the suburbs, the District in @ 2004 economically turned around and began to relatively grow. This was one of the first center cities in the country to turn itself around and it has provided residents with more opportunity, the District with a healthy balance sheet, a safer and more vibrant city and a model for center cities across the country.

The problem is that the L'Enfant city is running out of developable land and square footage that can be developed, mainly due to the height limit and the appropriate desire to preserve historic buildings. The L'Enfant city is probably 15-25 years from running out of developable land based upon current growth rates.

However, the District needs the ability to continue to grow. It would be a major shame to lose the advantage of offering walkable urban places to grow jobs and families due to not having enough land and building development potential.

In addition, the city is a leading model of environmental sustainability since walkable urban development is essential to reducing green house emissions. The City is also providing a model of green building, lower green house gas emissions as well. Having the early 20th century limitations of building heights maintained will reduce the ability of the District on reducing climate change forces, especially since the built environment (buildings and transportation) is the largest category of emissions, contribute nearly 75% of all green house gases.

Keeping an early 20th century law or provide a national model of reducing green house gases is not a difficult decision for me. We should let the nation's capital be an environmental model by selectively raising the height limit.

Finally, little is said about the financial implications of raising the height limit. In the District today, the value of a floor area ratio (FAR) square foot is between $100 and $200 per foot. The air rights above the current limit belongs to the citizens of the District. They are worth billions of dollars that could build the new streetcar system, affordable housing, redevelop our schools and many other positive things. The citizens of DC, whom I am one, would like to take advantage of this significant asset we own.

No one wants to disturb the sacred view corridors or character of the L'Enfant city. However, outside Boundary Street (generally Florida Avenue) the city government should have jurisdiction to determine the appropriate height. Economic growth will go to the predominantly minority northeast and southeast parts of the city that have rarely in 220 years received its fair share of economic opportunity. Raising the height limits will encourage racial and social equity.

Please accept the District's recommendations for modifying this arbitrary law outside the L'Enfant city while making minor adjustments within the old city.

Thank you,

Christopher B. Leinberger

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  —Christopher B. Leinberger, Washington, DC (October 28, 2013)
I am submitting this statement on behalf of the Sheridan-Kalorams Neighborhood Council (SKNC) in support of the Historic Districts Coalition and in opposition to changing the DC Height Act. Sincerely, Christopher Chapin

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  —Christopher K. Chapin, Washington, DC (September 28, 2013)
Two comments:

Op recommendations were supposed to take into account public input. If one reviews the comments presented at the OP meetings and posted later concerning the research and proposal for Height Act changes, one finds NO evidence at all that the public's voice was heard.

The OP website says "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."

Harriet Tregoning sent OP’s DRAFT proposal to Issa before hearing public testimlony to NCPC and conferring with them, even tho Issa specifically asked for the two agencies to submit a consensus plan to him. Words fail me.

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  —Claudia Phelps, Washington, DC (September 27, 2013)
As district residents for more than 20 years, my family and I welcomed the National Capitol Planning Commission’s determination that the District has not adequately justified its efforts to circumvent Height Act restrictions. A critical part of what makes the District the livable and distinct city that it is, is the low profile of our. . . buildings. It contributes to highlighting the monumental and government core of our capital city, brings in light, and fosters pedestrian and commercial friendly avenues. There is plenty of space that can be developed within the city to support future growth, and we have seen what senseless building can do to destroy the appeal and people scale of places like Bethesda and Silver Spring. The current and appropriate Height Act limits provide a necessary constraint to developers to plan and design their projects in a manner that is consistent with the unique low profile character of our city rather than taking tall building shortcuts that would forever change Washington’s enviable cityscape. I hope you continue in your efforts to hold the City Planning Office accountable for and resist its unjustified efforts to amend the Height Act.

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  —Cliff Johnson, Washington, DC (November 04, 2013)
Sirs: As a native Washingtonian whose family settled in the city before Abe Lincoln's first term as President, I am amazed that the DC Government is allowed to violate the Federal Law that forbids the erection of over head power lines for streetcars in the city of Washington.

  —Clyde Howard, Washington, DC (November 29, 2013)
The Committee of 100 on the Federal City responds to the Mayor's Height Act recommendations (see attached)

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  —Committee of 100, Nancy MacWood, Washington, DC (September 25, 2013)
I prefer the current limits. The Washington cityscape is unique, and belongs in part, to the American People. If development pressures are affecting the height limits, there are numerous opportunties for development laterally, without extending development upward.

  —Connie Graham, Alexandria VA (October 30, 2013)
A city like Washington benefits from height controls in many ways. They help sunlight reach windows and green spaces, air move on dank summer days and sun warm surfaces in frigid months, pollution dissipate, and trees and plants survive. Our lower density has helped manage our population, helped spread development laterally across the city,. . . and led to Washington being one of the most beautiful and livable cities in the country. These benefits are immeasurably positive and should be protected. However, the height rules, as written now, do not address increases in height to create more green space, seem arbitrary such as where a portion of one side of Pennsylvania Avenue has a higher height limit than the rest of the city, and do not allow for higher density nodes of live-work development to be created in the east and north sides of the city. Walkable live-work cities require increased density that is best captured through managed and thoughtful increases in height with controls on overall density to limit overwhelming embedded infrastructure. We should be looking at massing models of the city to create density contours that protect our treasured viewsheds and greenness while fostering opportunities for more sustainable live-work neighborhoods and greater freedom of architectural expression. The process of allowing taller building must be deliberative, open, and well-studied for each taller building. Aesthetics and sun angles at the scale of the neighborhood and greater viewshed need to be factored each time. Washington is a city for its citizens and a city for the nation - it has two parents. We need to develop new rules that make sense and protect the interests of both.

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  —D. Wauters, McLean, VA (September 30, 2013)
I support increases to height limits in the District of Columbia. I fell this is a greener form of urban development. A good compromise is to allow increased heights east of the Anacostia River if there is popular support for height limits west of the Anacostia River.

  —David Anspach, Clinton, MD (October 30, 2013)
At ANC 2D's September 16th Meeting, the following action was taken endorsing the Coalitions efforts. As always, David Bender, PhD (ANC 2D, Chair/Secretary)

8.2 Height of Buildings Act….Sally Berk; Following a presentation and brief discussion; Commissioner Lamar moved that; ANC 2D agrees to support The Historic Districts Coalition endorsement to “Make. . . No Changes to the Height Act” and agrees to be a signatory on future correspondence which states this position. Seconded Approved

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  —David Bender, PhD (ANC 2D, Chair/Secretary), Washington, DC (ANC 2D) (September 18, 2013)
I am a community activist from Southwest Washington, DC, and a former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner.

I express no opinion on what height limit Washington, DC, should have for buildings.

As an American citizen and a resident of Washington, DC, I’m testifying only to one point: that the citizens of Washington, DC, either ourselves or. . . through our elected representatives, should decide the limit to building height in our city. It is intolerable to have a federal law, passed by a Congress in which we have no voting representation, determine the height of our buildings.

Therefore, I strongly support radical revision of the federal Height Act. Congress should either repeal it altogether, or limit it to the same borders statehood proponents call for a new federal district to be formed after Washington, DC, achieves statehood.

Democracy means the right to make our own mistakes. If we don’t trust our own elected representatives to make the right decision about local building heights, let’s have a popular referendum on the proper heights for buildings in DC.

Democracy means the right to make our own mistakes. We will never achieve self-government, let alone statehood, in this city if we make exceptions to our right to self-government for any issue on which we expect to disagree with the result of a democratic process--whatever that issue. If we let Congress tell us the limit to our building heights, we can’t tell Congress that how we spend our tax dollars, or how we regulate drugs, is none of their business.

U.S. Citizen
Resident of Southwest Washington, DC

I am a community activist from Southwest Washington, DC, and a former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner.

I express no opinion on what height limit Washington, DC, should have for buildings.

As an American citizen and a resident of Washington, DC, I’m testifying only to one point: that the citizens of Washington, DC, either ourselves or through our elected representatives, should decide the limit to building height in our city. It is intolerable to have a federal law, passed by a Congress in which we have no voting representation, determine the height of our buildings.

Therefore, I strongly support radical revision of the federal Height Act. Congress should either repeal it altogether, or limit it to the same borders statehood proponents call for a new federal district to be formed after Washington, DC, achieves statehood.

Democracy means the right to make our own mistakes. If we don’t trust our own elected representatives to make the right decision about local building heights, let’s have a popular referendum on the proper heights for buildings in DC.

Democracy means the right to make our own mistakes. We will never achieve self-government, let alone statehood, in this city if we make exceptions to our right to self-government for any issue on which we expect to disagree with the result of a democratic process--whatever that issue. If we let Congress tell us the limit to our building heights, we can’t tell Congress that how we spend our tax dollars, or how we regulate drugs, is none of their business.

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  —David C. Sobelsohn, SW Washington, DC (October 25, 2013)
Please reject the District’s attempt to set aside the height requirements for buildings in the District of Columbia.

This is a federal city, and its character and symbolism need to reflect its 200 year purpose and convey its uniqueness to future generations. The is room for whatever growth may come throughout the metro area. But. . . the shape and character of the city, once lost a higher-tighter-denser growth model, can never be recaptured. It will be gone forever.

Please do not let that happen.

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  —David E. Leslie, Washington, DC 20015 (November 04, 2013)
Please reject the District’s attempt to set aside the height requirements for buildings in the District of Columbia.

This is a federal city, and its character and symbolism need to reflect its 200 year purpose and convey its uniqueness to future generations. The is room for whatever growth may come throughout the metro area. But. . . the shape and character of the city, once lost a higher-tighter-denser growth model, can never be recaptured. It will be gone forever.

Please do not let that happen.

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  —David E. Leslie, Washington, DC 20015 (November 04, 2013)
I am adamantly opposed to any raising of building heights. I do not want DC to become another NYC.

  —David Elliot, Arlington, VA (September 26, 2013)
Please see the attached file.

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  —David Haresign & Mary Fitch, Washington DC (October 21, 2013)
I understand you're seeking opinions re raising the building height limit in DC.

I'm opposed to raising the limit because our neighborhoods are truly neighborhoods, where we can stroll on the sidewalks in the sun and recognize our neighbors, as well as the people who work in our neighborhood. Look at. . . NY or Chicago, both of which are unacceptably noisy and dirty because of the density of their populations, which leads to anonymity on the streets - an atmosphere in which crime can flourish.

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  —Davida Perry, Washington, DC 20015 (October 31, 2013)
The first thing out of town visitors express is delight at the low rise character of our city. It is wonderful to not be overwhelmed with tall buildings that block the sky.

Please do not cave in to real estate developer money and pressure to raise height limits and create an over crowded, congested. . . environment.

Lets show pride in our nation's capitol city and continue with height restrictions as envisioned by city planners with foresight and good judgement.

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  —Deborah Kavruck, Washington, DC (September 13, 2013)
Keep low rise bldgs in DC. The first thing out of town visitors comment on is the beauty of our skyline without marring tall buildings. We are fortunate for the Height Act limitations and don't need higher buildings. Developers -- not residents -- are behind the aggressive movement to increase building height. DC has no research. . . to justify raising heights. Hopefully the National Capitol Planning Commission will do the right thing and prevent the DC city planning office from removing our status quo height limits.

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  —Deborah Kavruck, Washington, DC (October 29, 2013)
As Dc native I believe that the city of dc should set heights to 250 ft in the Lefant city. We should look to European cities to see how not having a federaly mandated height act has mas made the construction of some of their most beautiful buildings possible, without turning these cities into. . . Ne York. These cities Include London, Barcelona, Madris, Hamburg, Berlin, Brussels. All of these cities have beautiful and iconic skylines distinct from New York or Philadelphia with out a federally mandated height act.

Outside the Lefant city as se dc native I belive that across the anacostia dc should be able to build free of height restrictions. We have to remember that zoning laws still exist regardless of what is done to the height act. So if we remove it from across the river it is the city that will have option of rasing heights higher in this area if need be. This area is has been neglected for years slowing it to build up will enable dc to generate more revenue, it will alow the city to reap the benefits that Arlington has been having with out affecting the skyline. If arlington has been able to benefit greatly economically due to no height restriction why cant dc do the same to areas of undeveloped land across the anacostia.
Please take this in into consideration and permit our city to have greater economic,social, and cultural growth.

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  —Devin Lawrence, Washington DC (November 26, 2013)
I am Howard University graduate from Congress heights with a BA in economics. Increased economic development is great, but they're not the only thing. DC's skyline view of the Capitol and Washington Monument is one of the world's most iconic, thus should of with out a doubt be preserved.

But taller buildings in Farragut Square. . . or Brookland or Anacostia wouldn't impede that view any more than they do in Rosslyn. One thing that bothers me particularly is why can't the land east of the anacostia build up if rosslyn is able to do so. There should be not a fedreal law dictating heights outside the lefant city just zooning regulations placed by the committee, espacialy east of the anacostia river.

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  —Devon Smith, D. C. (October 31, 2013)
I am surprised at the thought of changing the Height Limits in the District. They are there for a
reason and we citizens appreciate their value and depend on the idea of having normal neighborhoods.
Please leave them alone. Put your energy towards solving problems not creating them.
Is the District. . . government going to support as many stupid things in this town by changing those limits
as the Congress does is in this town by not doing anything?

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  —Diann Heine , Unknown (October 29, 2013)
Thank you for the opportunity to provide input on the significant issue of changing (or retaining) height limits in the District. I reside in the 3rd ward, and one of the reasons that attracted us to the district was the distinct character of the city – a very real and human scale city, without being. . . overwhelmed in a canyon of tall buildings, and with distinct neighborhoods that are essentially like a collection of villages. Each of these communities in the district has a genuine charm, with small businesses and a solid feeling of community. I have watched this city change and rehabilitate over the past twenty or more years (I have worked here for many years but was only able to move to the district permanently 3 ½ years ago) – with neighborhoods being rebuilt, small businesses opening, and a vibrant street life that was once non-existent. I see this process continuing, and with (hopefully) more attention to immediate needs such as improving jobs and neighborhoods in areas struck by poverty. Raising the height limits would benefit developers – not the population of our nation’s capital, or the attractiveness of this city to the huge numbers of visitors from our country and from abroad. The district would lose this character, without any apparent relatively greater benefit.

We regularly walk to small restaurants and shops near our home, housed in one and two story buildings – which would be in danger of being razed in favor of high rises if the height limits were changed. We like this scale. We also think that this change would ruin the desirability of exploring other areas of the district, including the downtown section. This beautiful city would become just another American high rise enclave, and not the distinct and attractive representation of our country to the world. We enjoy walking in different parts of the city, and part of the charm is watching small businesses open, and a feeling of a village – rather than a sterile and crowded city of high rises. The city economy is improving, and improving in a way that provides broader benefits and greater public good than turning it over to predatory developers. To be clear, I am not opposed to responsible development (and redevelopment) within the context of the existing heightline restrictions. There are many opportunities for business growth – including incubators, technology companies, start-ups, biotechnology, service companies, small shops, restaurants – promoting small businesses that could not afford the rental costs of a luxury high rise. To lose this base would both deprive the city of meaningful job prospects across the spectrum, and the diverse business base that makes this city such a great place to live.

I travel – extensively, within the US and broadly across the rest of the world. I find that cities that have given way to high rise development become empty, and desolate on weekends, with no character. Small shops and businesses are nonexistent (other than lunch places), and there is no reason to walk or spend time in this type of environment. Nor would DC be as attractive as it is now, or as representative of our nation. Let’s not let this happen here. Some have said that a change in the height limit would not impact zoning laws and therefore of no danger to the outlying areas – I don’t believe this. This would be a first step towards creeping large building development – now that a high rise has been built, there is no reason not to change the zoning for surrounding properties – and so it goes throughout the city.

I should also comment that I do not believe that a vote by the ANC in our ward (not to support opposition to a change) was representative of the community’s feelings. Recent votes by some members of the 3rd ward ANC not to oppose development were cast despite overwhelming opposition from a very large turnout of community members present. In speaking with other residents in the area (a broad range), there is a complete failure to grasp why these members were taking these positions.

Thank you very much for your efforts to oppose this change.

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  —Donald Crane, Washington, DC 20015 (October 30, 2013)
I'm writing to support your efforts to retain the Height Act. As a citizen of DC for over 25 years, I feel it is very important to maintain the cohesiveness and character of our neighborhoods and not threaten them with the creation of additional high rise buildings and developments.

  —Dr Phyllis Stubbs, Washington, DC 20015 (October 31, 2013)
I've been driving down N. Capitol Street for many, many years. Although the route has been less than visually appealing for that time, when the sight of the Capitol dome came into view it was a clear and exciting perspective of the horizon. Already someone's approval of a tall, bulky new building at M Street has. . . destroyed that experience. See for yourself in the attached photos. Now you are considering relaxing the rules to do away with height limits that provide the city's vistas and character. Please don't do it, please don't do more harm than this.

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  —Eileen Emmet, Silver Spring Md (September 28, 2013)
Leave the height restrictions as they are for D.C. This city doesn't need to be come another New York City with towering buildings blocking out views of the mall and its inspiring monuments!

  —Elaine F. Graves, Washington, DC 20024 (October 30, 2013)
This note is a request to keep the current height restrictions. When I first came to Washington in the mid 1970ies, I felt so much at home, one reason being that I could see the SUN! I never liked New York City as I felt overwhelmed by the tall buildings. Even now, I skip past Bethesda/Wisconsin. . . Ave. and shop at Westfield Mall where I feel more comfortable. PLEASE, don't let us become another New York City. D.C. is special. Our monuments and our people should not feel overwhelmed. Thank you for you attention.

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  —Elaine Vande Hei, Washington, DC (NW) (October 29, 2013)
I am looking for the DCOP draft Height findings and report. I understand that it was to be posted on the NCPC website this week.

  —Eleanor Budic, Washington, DC (September 21, 2013)
I support retaining the Height Act in DC -- There's still room for development within the existing regulations and the low heights are one of DC's major characteristics.

  —Ellen Maxwell, Washington, DC 20016 (November 04, 2013)
The DC Government has failed to complete their assignment. Issa's request was to "...examine the extent to which the Height of Buildings Act of 1910 continues to serve federal and local interests, and how changes to the law could affect the future of the city."

The very first sentence in DC's report states "The. . . central question that this report attempts to answer is whether changes to the federal Height Act can be accomplished in a way that allows the federal government and the District of Columbia to reap the economic, fiscal and social benefits of additional height."

In other words, they went at this activity with the predetermined conclusion that they wanted to raise the Height Limit in some way - thus rendering this entire report instead as a one-sided vehicle for supporting their position.

I also find it disturbing that this report has been publicized without taking into account the comments provided at the public hearings, and without consultation with City Council.

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  —Erik Hein, Washington, DC (September 25, 2013)
Identity is a extremely fragile value in built environment because we cant, or don´t, measure it. Nor do we have any economic calculations for "subjective" values like identity, charm or livability. And this despite that we know that these values create the best prerequisites for economic values in built environments! Be aware of the subjective values. . . you have! And select a reasonable size piece of land within (or beside) the existing urban area and let new buildings create new values without choking existing.

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  —Erika Wörman, Stockholm, Sweden (September 30, 2013)
I support raising the height limit. Raising the height limit is the only viable way to create a more sustainable efficient city. Increasing the height limit will also create much needed tax revenue to fund new mass transit options.

  —Eugene Dudink, Penn Quarter, Washington, DC (October 30, 2013)
Please do not raise the height of city buildings! As a native Washingtonian, I firmly believe that this low height currently no higher than 200 ft ( think) should not be increased because
1. I want to continue to see and enjoy the sunshine and clouds,
2. if I wanted to be among tall. . . buildings, I could have moved to New York,
3. this city is unique and should retain this low height density,
4. there is room to increase living density without going upward,
5. I do not want the voice of the few to dictate to the many what the future of this city should be, especially folks who just moved into the city in the past five-ten years. and
6. this city is too beautiful, neighbor friendly, and with a great deal of scenic value and purpose to be changed.

Please do not let this proposal go forward!!!

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  —Ferial Bishop, PRP, Washington, DC (October 29, 2013)
Attached is a revised copy of my original statement.

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  —Ferrial H. Lanton , Washington, DC (October 30, 2013)
I support the Anacostia Renaissance org. belief that it is Dc's best interest to real this Act. Please do so. Home Rule!

  —Frank Lewis, DC (November 26, 2013)
The Kingman Park Civic Association strongly supports the height limit restrictions in the District of Columbia. The historic character of the city, and the national memorials must be protected from over-development and unsightly appearances of towering buildings and blocked views of the city's beautiful vistas.

The height limits provide a teachable moment. . . for students of history, architecture and science. Preserve the city for future generations, and please don't allow over zealous developers to dictate the future of our city and nation.

Thank you,

Frazer Walton, President
Kingman Park Civic Association

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  —Frazer Walton for the Kingman Park Civic Association, Washinton DC (November 05, 2013)
See comments attached.

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  —Frederic Harwood, Washignton, DC (November 04, 2013)
My name is Gale Barron Black, I am a native Washingtonian and reside in northwest DC, on Crestwood Drive. I also serve as the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for the single-member district 4A08, which covers census tract 26 (Crestwood). I support preserving the Height Act, without any changes to it. DC is unique. . . and beautiful because we can see the sky and enjoy the panoramic views. The Federal Elements better protect my interest, and this local resident hopes that the NCPC will hold steady on this one. It is a matter of national importance. We have the capability of accommodating newcomers, as DC did in the 1940s and 1950s. We don't need to build up. We need to protect what's here already. Plus, without adequate infrastructure, it would be an unwise investment and a departure from the grand plans that have guided us thus far.

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  —Gale Barron Black, Washingotn, DC (ANC 4A08) (October 30, 2013)

Gene Solon’s Testimony on the National Capital Planning Commission Draft Federal Interest Report and Findings for the Height Master Plan for Washington, DC, Submitted October 30, 2013


1. As you know, my neighborhood, the Near Southwest/Southeast community, is experiencing an ongoing building boom. The development pattern here includes not only our existing high-rise. . . residences, hotels and commuter-filled office buildings and the visitor-attracting Nationals’ baseball stadium - but also the proposed multipurpose waterfront Wharf project’s130-foot-plus high rise buildings (and unsafe, unnecessary proposed pier extensions into the Washington Channel blocking emergency evacuation by boat), and now, a proposed soccer stadium.

2. The development pattern’s impact upon Near Southwest/Southeast roadway congestion is already of major concern. DDOT has promised to periodically monitor car, truck, tour-bus and other traffic along Maine Avenue, M Street, 4th Street and other area roadways – but DDOT has refused to say what it will do if its monitoring program shows that the development-generated congestion will be too much for our roadway and subway systems to bear. Let’s face reality: it is no secret that Increased building height produces increased traffic.

3. The development pattern now looming will constrict treasured northward views we waterfront housing complex homeowners have had of the height of the Washington Monument (as well as the views we’ve had of Washington Channel water expanses).

4. Car and bus passengers’ views of our capital city’s unique features, including the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial the Capitol and other area attractions, will be constricted by buildings taller than current law allows.

5. A nation’s capital - our nation’s capital – must continue to be a special place, one that provides and protects open spaces, reflects history, respects its residents as well as visitors, and honors a nation’s most humane aspirations.

6. Washington, D.C. must not be allowed to become just another congested, cramped collection of tall towers!

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  —Gene Solon, Washington, DC (October 30, 2013)

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  —George Clark, Washington, DC (October 30, 2013)
Please repeal the height act and leave the height to DC. Not only are we the only world power without universal health care, but we are not only world power with a federally mandated regulation on the building heights of our capital.

  —George T Tamils, Washington DC (November 26, 2013)
I worked in Washington for many years. At one time I had a co-worker who had traveled a lot in Western Europe. I asked him which great capital city he thought was the most beautiful, expecting him to say Paris or Rome. He immediately said, "Washington." I laughed and accused him of being. . . too nationalistic. He replied that Washington alone had controlled the height of its buildings so that its great vistas and monuments stood out and left the clearest imprint on anyone visiting. That's why the height limits in the city should not be changed

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  —Georgia K. Cannady, Alexandria, VA 22301 (October 30, 2013)
I write in support of keeping DC’s height restrictions throughout the city. These restrictions are critical to maintaining the quality of life and appearance of our beautiful city.

As far as I’m concerned, the City’s Office of Planning has not made the case for lifting the restrictions, and is unduly influenced by commercial. . . interests.

Many thanks for your consideration.

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  —Greg Ferenbach, Washington, DC (NW) (October 29, 2013)
There is plenty of room for growth WITHOUT raising building heights in Washington, DC. Washington is not - and should never be -- a typical high-rise mega city. Washington, DC is the capital of the United States, and should be focused, in every way and in every neighborhood, on its original purpose -- focused on the. . . governing and the government of the people, by the people and for the people, the buildings that house the government of the people, and the buildings that memorialize the spirit of the people.

Our neighborhoods should support the spirit of DC with quiet residences and low key retail areas.

All growth must include growth of the spirit as well as the physical. "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? Mark 8:36

Keep the unique spirit and purpose of Washington, DC; keep Washington, DC low-rise.

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  —Hannah Family, Washington, DC (20015) (October 31, 2013)
I am a dc native who has been residing in the city of London for the past two years. Here i have seen how not having uniform city height act does not mean the city will turn into New York. London has done a faboulous job, of growing upward and at the same time maintaining. . . the identy and beuty of its city. I belive that dc should follow in example and not have a uniform height act. All we should have is a rule that states that the capitol and Washington monuments will remain visible parts of our skyline and leave the rest to zoning. In doing this we will be doing something similar to what Lodon has done with st pauls cathedral and its other land marks.

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  —Henry Gruber, London, England (November 23, 2013)
Thank you for having my previous input displayed.

I would like to add that I hold the firm belief that the Dc Height act should be comply repealed. My reasons for this is that they serve as barrier that hinder our capital from becoming more dynamic, as well as its economic,. . . cultural, and social well being.


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  —Henry Gruber, DC Native living in London, England. (November 26, 2013)

This message is to voice my support to retain the Height Act.

  —Isabelle Barres, Washington, DC (October 30, 2013)
Dear Sirs,as a resident of the District,I see no reason to adjust the Height Act. There is plenty of developable land in the District for commercial and residential use that is underutilized. Developing commercial space outside of the core would do wonders for neighborhood economies and infrastructure relief.

  —James Church, Washingotn, DC (20002) (October 25, 2013)
Well done.

Thank you for preserving the integrity and human scale of L'Enfant's design.
The fabric of Washington is expressed in the relationship of boulevard width to building height. That is nothing less than art.

  —James Lee, Unknown (November 20, 2013)
DC is the only world city with a federally mandated height regulation. London, Madrid, Brussels, Barcelona, Hamburg all are examples of cities that do not have neither a federally mandated height nor a uniform height limit. Why this the case surprises me, we should fix this and repeal this binding and oppressing act on our city.. . . />
James Huang

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  —James R. Huang, From Washington D.C. Studying abroad in London (November 26, 2013)
Capitol Hill Restoration Society comments on Office of Planning's 9/20/13 report. Thank you.

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  —Janet Quigley, Capitol Hill, DC (October 30, 2013)
Capitol Hill Restoration Society testimony on OP report at City Council, held 10/28/2013.

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  —Janet Quigley, Capitol Hill, DC (October 30, 2013)
Capitol Hill Restoration Society testimony for public meeting 10-30-13 is attached. Thank you.

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  —Janet Quigley, CHRS, Capitol Hill, DC (October 30, 2013)

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  —Jim Schulman, Washington, DC, NE (Ward 6) (October 30, 2013)
An example of similar restriction for Height is set in Building Constructions in Barcelona

In our city we also have several iconic buildings and only some of the are allowed to avoid restriction

In my opinion, WDC shouldn't look for skyscrapers and, if needed, provide more space for business and living within. . . very delimited areas at least 5 kilometers from downtown

and, of course, always linking both the new area and downtown thorough rail connections.

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  —Joan Valls Fantova , Barcelona, Spain (September 26, 2013)
From my experience in Barcelona the vibrant city needs walkable streets and provide all needs within the same neighborhood. Car-based cities would never be vibrant but sometimes and under certain circumstances inside malls.

  —Joan Valls Fantova, Barcelona, Spain (September 28, 2013)
I support basic conclusions of the Height Study, that some increase in building height allowed in District of Columbia will benefit our city. “Both federal and our local interests will be served by having a vibrant, economically healthy, livable Capital City.” I accept DC studies projections regarding development capacity to accommodate future growth. . . .
I do have strong reservations regarding proposed heights of up to 200’ in certain areas and on streets with 160’ ROW. The modeling study images confirm that 1:1.25 ratios of street width to building height retain human scaled streetscapes. The images of the city from the distance tell a different story. Figure 13, L’Enfant city at 200’ height from Fredric Douglas House, and Figure 18, Illustrative clusters at 200’ both demonstrate dramatic change in views of the city. WHERE IS THE CAPITOL DOME?
Iconic images of our city include those views of Washington Monument AND Capitol Dome from some distance and from the streets and houses on the edge of topographic bowl. Those view sheds do not appear to be sufficiently protected in the proposed approach.
And sincere thanks to NCPC and DC DOP for excellent work on this study and for sharing it with all of us citizens and residents of Capitol City.

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  —Joanna Kendig, Washington, DC Hill East (October 30, 2013)
I think the Office of Planning's recommendations to modify the height limit in DC is an excellent idea. The economic benefits, coupled with creating a denser and more amenity rich urban environment, far outweigh any possible drawbacks. I'm all for it!

  —John Bradley Papp, Astoria, NY (September 25, 2013)
Raising the height limit in a control area could create a focal point for the city, but instead of focusing on a aesthetics should be interesting in analyzing the demand space for, residential, office space , commercial, and understand what are the city's internal needs.

In our case Tegucigalpa, is experiencing gentrification on the. . . outskirts due to the land in the city's center with the greater value is developing into modern office and residential buildings, not much have been done for urban space to accommodate all influx of upper class and workers. Our buildings aren't that tall, but have an excellent and appealing design.

This started to create well define boundaries between downtown- historic district and modern area and the rest of the city.

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  —Jonathan Mendoza, Honduras (September 30, 2013)
See Attached

Jose Alberto De la Fuentes Chavez

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  —Jose Alberto De la Fuentes Chavez, Friendship Heights (October 31, 2013)
I suppose I would ask exactly what is meant by a thriving city; what are the larger goals of the city? Some cities have begun to use measures of 'density', though this can be misleading. I would tend to disagree that just increasing the FAR will make a city 'thrive'. Paris has relatively low building heights,. . . very high density, and a lot of vibrancy. Compare that with some cities like Dallas, which while definitely on the up-swing, have a lot more height and large swathes of dead zones in the downtown. (Or look at the financial district in New York, but don't go there at night.)

I think the solution is likely much more nuanced than height. Mixed use is all the rage in many circles, but there is some legitimacy to it. Activities that keep people on the streets at all times of day, not just office towers that close at 6pm are safer and attract more residents. There also need to be areas for people congregate, 'democratic' spaces where the public interacts and that are useful. People here have mentioned Barcelona, while the Sagrada Familia is great, Las Ramblas, a wide boulevard, is the attraction for many people and activities.

Now to pull in investment to the city, an increased FAR could definitely help. That investment then may help to support other investments in the city through a TIF, but I would think this would need a careful study of the cost-impact and the nature of the development. With the cost of housing in DC, I think the limits of market saturation for housing units would be extremely difficult to reach, so I doubt one could hold costs down through increased height limits -if in fact rental costs are a factor.

I would say creating a vibrant city is much different than the nature of the skyline and view corridors of the capitol that deserve a bigger discussion about what makes a city thrive.

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  —Joshua Palmer, Austin, Texas (September 29, 2013)
A friend just e-mailed me that the building heights limit in Washington is again under discussion and the deadline to submit comments is today. Because I was alerted so late this will be a brief note but I definitely want to voice my strong support for maintaining height.
I am fifth-generation Washingtonian who lived in. . . quite a few other U.S. cities in my young adulthood (Boston, San Francisco, Minneapolis, New York, and Portland, OR) but have been back home now for 17 years. A change in the height limits would substantially change much of what I love about this city and it seems to me that economic growth here is taking place at a sufficient pace.
Oddly, I was just thinking about this yesterday. I was in Wilmington, Delaware on business and as I walked from the train station to the office where my meeting was being held I was aware (not for the first time) that Wilmington felt a bit like Washington in the ‘80s/’90s, a bit depressed but filled with history and evident change on the way. It was a pleasant walk until I hit the “downtown” area where tall buildings had eradicated whatever history may have been there and left the sidewalks in deep shadows so nobody was lingering or strolling outside; I thought to myself, thank goodness we haven’t done this in Washington!
When I returned from Wilmington I walked from Union Station to Dupont Circle loving this city, its architecture, its trees, its light. Being forced to cross Massachusetts Avenue in several places where sidewalks were closed due to large construction projects, I was thankful that whatever was being built was not going to fundamentally change the feel of the city. And later in the evening, as I rode a bikeshare from Dupont Circle home, I had that same gratitude as I passed the rubble which used to be the Ontario Theater and will, I suppose, soon become “luxury condos” but not as many stories as I’m sure the developer would like.
I am right now writing this from my fourth-floor apartment in Mount Pleasant and looking out my front window at rooftops and church spires and people on the sidewalks enjoying the fall sunshine, in the far distance the tip of the Washington Monument can be seen. From my side window I have a view of Rock Creek Park and soon, when the tall tree a few blocks away loses its leaves, I’ll have my seasonal view of the National Cathedral.
I hope that greed or some misguided idea about what Washington needs will not alter the unique and wonderful character created by the building heights limit. It is one of the things that I believe make this the “fairest city in the greatest land of all.”

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  —Katharine MacKaye, Washington DC (Mount Pleasant) (November 04, 2013)
I have lived in DC for 44 years. Thank you for the opportunity to present.

Raising the height limit in the District is a drastic measure that would radically alter quality of life but which cannot provide any assurance whatsoever that we will maintain economic diversity in our population.

If economic. . . diversity is truly the concern, we should be requiring developers - NOW -to set aside portions of any new development for lower-income residents and not allow - buy-outs. The existing provisions in the District code don't protect moderate and/or low income housing.

There is no assurance that most developers won't take advantage of the housing buy-out and result in a NW Washington that is all upper-middle and upper income residents. Adding stories doesn't change the story

Harriett Tregoning herself has said many times that taller buildings will likely not have affordable housing because it is so expensive to build tall, and luxury housing would be the expected outcome.

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  —Kindy French, Washignton, DC (November 05, 2013)
(1 of 2) Attached are written statements from the DC Federation of Civic Associations and from Penn-Branch Citizens/Civic Association that were presented yesterday at the D.C. Council's Committee of the Whole hearing on the Height Act. Both statements strongly oppose the District's "modest" proposal, especially its complete repeal of the Height Act outside the L'Enfant. . . City. These organizations would like to see no change to the Act, but do not strongly object to NCPC's reasoned approach as presented. We would not like NCPC to endorse changes beyond those that it already has presented.
Please accept these statement into your record.

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  —Laura Richards , Washington, DC (October 30, 2013)
(2 of 2) Attached are written statements from the DC Federation of Civic Associations and from Penn-Branch Citizens/Civic Association that were presented yesterday at the D.C. Council's Committee of the Whole hearing on the Height Act. Both statements strongly oppose the District's "modest" proposal, especially its complete repeal of the Height Act outside the L'Enfant. . . City. These organizations would like to see no change to the Act, but do not strongly object to NCPC's reasoned approach as presented. We would not like NCPC to endorse changes beyond those that it already has presented.
Please accept these statement into your record.

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  —Laura Richards, Washington, DC (October 30, 2013)
I am aware, from discussions on the Chevy Chase listserve, that many of my neighbors have weighed in strongly against changes to the city's height limit. Please understand that this sentiment is not universal.
Affordable housing is clearly a problem in the city, and we need more density to help make it possible. Washington is,. . . after all, a city--not a suburb or rural area.

Some of us would like to see our neighborhood participate more fully in the changes that are making the city a more vibrant and interesting place to spend time. I am one of them, and I am not alone.

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  —Linda McIntyre , Washington DC (20015) (October 29, 2013)
Thank you for this opportunity to provide comment. I am DC born and raised; my grandparents came here in 1933 when times were pretty bad elsewhere. DC was good to them and their progeny, myself included. Good example of how in bad times DC draws people. I believe the current uptick. . . in population follows the same trend, recession-driven. Some will stay, some will go. When the economy improves elsewhere DC will lose its draw. The ups and downs of population growth are not, I believe, as dramatic as the city planners would argue, despite their excitement about “millenlials.” It was interesting to read a study reported in the Post (9/12/12, Kathy Orton) that as many people are moving out of DC as are moving in.

As a native, the scale of the city has been important to me personally. I believe in democracy, the voice of the common man (as in this statement), and the sense that citizenry has responsibility for and dominion over the laws of the land. The scale of the city, the low rise buildings, encourages this conviction. Our city streets and avenues do not overwhelm, intimidate or alienate. This is best appreciated by contrast with other cities, where tall buildings diminish the individual, dominating the pedestrian and making one fearful or at least cautious. Those cities do not encourage an expansive view, a “we can do it” attitude or a sense of “we’re in it together.” They engender a myopic view of self protection rather than the confidence and strength our city’s profile creates all across the city, downtown as well as in neighborhoods.

I absolutely support the NCPC recommendation not to remove the Height Act. And I recoil from the shenanigans of the Office of Planning whose unilateral recommendation to Congressman Issa was high-handed and autocratic. It was typical of an office who would undermine the common man in a city of towering fortresses.

If anything, the NCPC has gained stature in my eyes. Thank you for your work.

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  —Linda Schmitt, Washington, DC 20015 (October 31, 2013)
I've reviewed both NCPC and DC inputs. It appears that there is no intent to provide Congress with a joint recommendation, which puts both parties at risk because it forces Congress to integrate the two inputs. Recommend NCPC and DC develop a jointly acceptable recommendation, in accordance with Congressional intent.

With regard. . . to DC's input: the District goes to great lengths to explain that they need to grow their tax base, so they can continue to provide city services and affordable housing to all District residents. However, their recommendation to increase heights to accommodate further high-rise development would seem to attract only high-income residents and high-paying businesses. That this influx of wealth could somehow prevent rising living costs seems misguided at best, or a blatant attempt at wealth redistribution (tax the rich so we can buy affordable housing!) at worst. At least in the media, DC has been reported to be running an annual surplus anyway, so this rationale for height increases is unconvincing as currently structured.

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  —Lowell Nelson, Arlington, VA (September 25, 2013)
I would have loved to partake in yesterdays discusion however I was unable to due to tending to mother. Unfortunately my mother is currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer and thus requires much attention. I am uphaled and very disapointed on ncpc's close mindedness and harm they have decided to inflict. . . on our city. I am a native resedent of dc aswell as a Howard University grad.To start I would like to clarify that none of the models posed by this study will make the DC skyline resemble New York or even Chicago.New york has 225 buildings that exceed 500 ft. Please keep in mind the washington monument is 555ft. and the capitol is 289 ft. So would you agree rising heights in the lefant city by 2-3 strories would defenately not turn the city into new york or Chicago.

In regards to outside the lefant city I bafflaed to NCPC opposition for areas outside the Lefant city to be able to have taller buidings if aproved by the residents of the area. I think areas that desire taller growth ouside of the lefant city should be able to do so. This should be so because there are already buidings on the maryland side less then a couple steps away on the other side of western ave in chevy chase that have buildings that range from 10-25 story buildings. It is important to note that they right next to dc yet they have not destroyed the dc skyline, they are to far to scene fom the washington mounment skyline. Also something else that really bothers me about the current height ACT be fixed is this height act puts restrictions on habitable buildings yet not srtuctures. Which belive or not is a problem in because THIS HAS LEAD TO THE CONSTRUCTION OF MASSIVE RADIO TOWERS EXECEDING 400 FT IN the areas outside the lefant city. Among them is one in Friendship heights of Wisconsin Ave, a couple in Tenleytown(The Wamu tower (428ft). There are a couple of towers in the district that are taller than the washington monument. There is one in neglected upper NE dc. This tower is the hughes Rdio Tower Standing at 761 ft. If any thing these structures which are well above the height of the capitol and as we have some the washington monument should be demolished. I dont understand how NCPC can be ok with the construction of these monstrosities yet not with taller buildings like inthe maryland side of western avenue and eastern aevenue.

Hopefully it is not to late for NCPc to see the error of their ways and agree with DCOP.

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  —Luis Alberto Sanchez, Tenleytown (November 20, 2013)
Please repeal dc height act.

  —Luis Alberto Sanchez, Washington DC (November 26, 2013)
Not only are NCPC actions wrong and are harming our city, but ncpc study was porely constructed it offers a very poor and irealistic rendering of how buildings would look if heights were relaxed. Skidmore and Merrill and Owings the firm that NCPC sought out for the study has conducted other studies. . . for other cities and as this this link shows our models are primitive to say the least. Attached is model of height modifications in Fushan china. SOM made a design for Fusham that would maintain their historic buidings in their city while still being able to foster growth.

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  —Luis Alberto Sanchez Jr, DC (November 20, 2013)
Dear National Capital Planning Commision,

My name is Luis Alberto Sanchez Jr. I am a dc native as well as a senior at University of Maryland studying economics. First of I would like to congratulate the Districts office of planning on their suggestions on the modification of the height act. I completely agree that. . . it is essential for the district to update this 100 yr old legislation in order to foster growth, and to avoid turning the entire city into nothing but 130 ft boxes in the upcoming decades. I am for a modification that will allow for growth and ensure that national landmarks such as the Capitol remain a part of the iconic dc skyline. A skyline that with careful planning has the potential even be more beautiful. Thus I approve of the district's office of planning recommendation of increasing the height to a ratio of 1 to 1.25 in the l'effant city and to make areas outside the leFant city to be subject solely to zoning regulations. I am in favor of this recommendation. However I have an additional suggestion of making the ratio change as well as allowing for a couple of tr strategically placed buildings along Pennsylvania avea, the Warf deveolopment, as well main transit points.

First of I approve of the districts suggestion because it allows the city to grow while taking into consideration the city's landmarks. This so in that this modification would make only stubble changes in that some roads will stay the same while others will only have an increment of a couple stories. This modification will make it so 200ft buildings will be allowed in the current 160 ft max stretch of pensylvania ave. In other words an addition of two to three stories. Outside the lefant I agree with the office recommendation of of leaving the assignment of height subject to zoning. Thismakes perfect sense because there are parts outside the lefant city near metrostations in which 15 to 20 story buildings could exist for example why can should there be a restriction of areas such as friendship heights when right across western avenue there are an assortment of buildings ranging from 2 story boutiques to 20 story buildings 275 ft. buildings. Also there is no reason why high demand areas in upper north west and north east could have some taller development being that currently there are radio towers that exceed 500 ft and one tower that is taller than the Washington monument.

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  —Luis ASanchez, DC (October 31, 2013)
Please don't raise the height limit for DC buildings. That limit has kept Washington a pleasant and livable city we can be proud of.

We don't want the "canyons" you find in New York, where the sidewalk is in shadow. We don't want to destroy the feel of. . . space and air one gets along Connecticut , Wisconsin Avenue and even much of downtown. That is what makes Washington a city of distinction for residents and tourists.

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  —Marjorie Rachlin, Washignton, DC (20008) (October 31, 2013)
I completely support the OP plan. It seems like a very reasonable plan that 1) preserves the low slung nature of the skyline 2)doesn't allow high rises (it only raises building heights by 30 to 40 ft downtown) 3) specifically protects views of the Capitol, White House, and Washington Monument and 4) provides DC with more. . . room to grow in the walkable, urban core.
As for outside the L'Enfant Core I strongly believe that the regulation of height be left to the zoning regulations. Hopefully NCPC can agree to the mayors proposal and the recommendation to congress sent as one.

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  —Martin A. Lawrence, Dupont Circle (November 11, 2013)
After cautiously analyzing the implications of the height act I have finally arrived to a conclusion. I am adding my voice to the complete repeal of the act in District.

  —Martin Johnson, Washington DC (November 26, 2013)
My family has lived in this city since the turn of the last century. We've seen many changes -- good and bad -- in a hundred years of DC residency. I was born and raised in the area and as a young adult, lived in Paris, Brussels, London and Houston, Texas before choosing to. . . return to DC some ten years ago. One of the many wonderful things about DC is the human scale of our buildings. We only have to look across the river to Rosslyn and Crystal City to see what could happen if the Height Limit was eliminated -- towering buildings hovering over sidewalks, contributing to overwhelming traffic and a dearth of green space, interesting street-scapes or pedestrian-friendly areas. I urge you to adhere to the current restrictions which have served this city so well for so long and have contributed to it's beauty and elegance.

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  —Mary Emerson Slimp, Washington, DC 20015 (November 04, 2013)
Changes are obviously needed to the height act. DC has the most expensive downtown office prices in the country - because of supply constraints. This makes operating the federal government more expensive for all of us!

  —Matthew Dickens, Washington, DC (November 19, 2013)
The Executive Director’s Staff Report concerning The National Capitol Planning Commission’s final recommendations to the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government reform concerning the Height Act Master Plan for Washington D.C. is now before this Commission. The recommendation about whether and how to amend the Height of Building Act for areas inside the L’Enfant City. . . are contained in Recommendation 1. The Recommendation about whether and how to amend the Act outside the L’Enfant City are contained in recommendation 2.
I support Recommendation 1 and I oppose Recommendation 2.
Recommendation 1. This is concerned with both the federal interests within the L’Enfant City and the form and character of the nation’s capitol. It recommends no change in the Height of Buildings Act. It discusses proposed formulas and approaches for calculating the allowable height and explains that the proposed Ratio Approach would add height where it is least appropriate, where building heights should be lower to emphasize views of the Capitol and White House. It also examined the need for additional development capacity and determined that the city would not realize much additional capacity under the Ratio Approach.
I agree with the recommendation that the Height of Buildings Act should remain in place within the L’Enfant City and no change should be made.
Recommendation 2. This is concerned with the areas outside the L’Enfant City and is purported to balance the long-term potential growth needs with the importance of protecting the integrity of the form and character of the nation’s capitol, including federal interests and local communities. In the first place, there is no data to support the need to accommodate growth, but the recommendation sidesteps this deficiency and concentrates on what process should be used if it becomes necessary to accommodate a dialogue about growth and building heights. In other words, the recommendation concedes that is no need for a change to accommodate growth now, but nonetheless, recommends a process if and when the need arises.
The process that is recommended would allow amendments to the law outside the L’Enfant City to permit “targeted exceptions" through the Comprehensive Plan process. As explained in the recommendation that process appears to provide safeguards, but in practice, the process for amending the Comprehensive Plan, as we saw in the last round, results in opaque amendments from Office of Planning and further unexpected amendments at the whim of individual Council members.
Do you recall the last major round of OP amendments about four years ago? The number of Office of Planning amendments amounted to over a hundred.
Were any of them ”vetoed” by NCPC? Or rejected by Congress during the 30-day layover period?
We have seen the tax deferments that have been offered to developers. Do we expect the “targeted exceptions” to the Height Act would be any different? Recommendation 2 will result in spot zoning by the Office of Planning and the Council, because the Zoning Commission will have to implements the “targeted exceptions” in order that zoning is not inconsistent with the Comp Plan.
I oppose Recommendation 2. The Height of Buildings Act should remain in place outside the L’Enfant City and no change should be made.

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  —Monte Edwards, DC, Capitol Hill (November 19, 2013)
I am a DC resident that is also concerned about the proposed changes to the 1910 Height Act and height limitation. As a leading planning agency for the region, I hope that the National Capitol Planning Commission will use the latest planning and design principles and analytics to review the proposal and reach a reasoned decision.. . . With respect to linking the height increases to the creation of affordable housing, there are alternative measures, including the Districts inclusionary zoning program.
Montgomery County, our neighboring jurisdiction, is a leader in advancing affordable and mixed-use housing, having established the nation’s first inclusionary zoning program to develop Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDU) in 1976. Since the IZ Program development, the county developed over 13,246 MPDU units: 9,290 off sale units (condominium and townhouse) and 3,956 rental units. See “Number of MPDUs Produced Since 1976” -http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/DHCA/housing/singlefamily/mpdu/produced.html Montgomery County’s inclusionary zoning program has been recognized in a number of publications and has been replication by other jurisdictions. An increasing number of mixed-income properties have capitalized on their proximity and access to Metro stations, again putting Montgomery County in the lead in developing mixed-income transit oriented development (TOD) properties.
The District of Columbia Government passed Bill 16-952 "Inclusionary Zoning Implementation Act of 2006." With the emergency zoning rule change to the city’s inclusionary zoning program, Cheryl Cort, Policy Director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth noted the following in an article published by Greater Greater Washington, Inclusionary zoning will soon be making a difference in DC.
“Nearly 3 years after regulations were finalized, DC's inclusionary zoning (IZ) program is beginning to have a positive effect on affordable housing stock in the city.... While the program has suffered a slow start up because of grandfathering and the recession's effect on residential development, the program’s 3rd annual report suggests that IZ in DC will follow the success of neighboring Montgomery County.” July 12, 2012.

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  —Muriel Watkins, Washington, DC (October 31, 2013)
I reviewed the NCPC Draft Final Recommendations on the Height Master Plan on Monday prior to the Commission Meeting on Tuesday, November 19th. I am a city and regional planner by training. It was refreshing to see the NPCP analysis that went into the development of the recommendations. I have saved the report.

  —Muriel Watkins , Washignton, DC (November 21, 2013)
see attached document

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  —Nancy, Washington, DC (October 29, 2013)
If I wanted to live in a glass and cement canyon I'd live in NYC. I chose DC back in the '80s in part because it's a beautiful city. And it's height restrictions are a major part of what makes it so beautiful. Please don't destroy this city with this nonsense. Let the skyscrapers fill Bethesda. . . or Rockville. Keep them out of the District of Columbia.

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  —Nancy, Washington, DC (December 02, 2013)
Hello, We support retaining the building height restrictions in the current Height Act. There is plenty of room to expand within the city without raising height restrictions.

  —Nancy & David Hammond, Washington, DC 20016 (October 29, 2013)
PLEASE keep the building height restrictions intact in Washington. The lower building heights in our city only lend to it's beauty . As a city, we have certainly gotten along without taller buildings until now. Certainly it is not necessary to change this restriction.

  —Nancy Ann , Unknown (October 31, 2013)
I'm adding my voice to those who oppose any increase in the height limitations for new buildings in the District. We have a beautiful city with buildings constructed on a human scale, rather than looming over pedestrians and residents. San Francisco used to be beautiful as well; while it still retains some of its. . . charm, it no longer has the gracious, low-level skyline it used to have. Why must the District look like every other city in the nation? I don't favor paranoia, but it's hard to escape the conclusion that this push to allow taller and taller buildings is driven largely by the financial interests of developers and construction companies. We need to focus on aesthetics and livability as well.

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  —Nancy Stanley, Washington DC (October 31, 2013)
I am a local architectural professional who lives and works in the District of Columbia and I am in favor of the District having the ability to make its own height decisions.

As a district resident and homeowner, I support height change because I want to have a continued future as a homeowner and perhaps. . . one day raise a family in the District and not be priced out of the city I've grown to love. While new buildings will certainly come with high price tags, it will have a trickle down effect to existing (ageing) structures, creating more affordable middle-class housing. Also, as a district resident, I am a believer of independent rights for the District and believe that DC is capable, like many things else, of determining what is best for its own residents without Congress's approval.

As a local architectural professional, I believe the height limit can change in certain areas without the adverse effects that many are fearful of. With proper zoning setbacks, it is quite possible to achieve tall(er) buildings that still allow light and air to reach the street (most cities in the US and world are able to achieve this, why not us). I also think that height uniformity is a moot point - most buildings in the older portions of the city are in fact not uniform in height, and areas that are like the Golden Triangle suffer in architectural quality, partly due to this restriction. Modest additional height (with proper zoning setbacks) could provide an opportunity to rebuild many of the maxed-out 'boxy' buildings with better architecture that could achieve better building form through massing modification. It could also be an opportunity to make office areas more lively, by having them include residential components that would give the city more life presence at night. Adding height downtown could also alleviate pressure to redevelop historical residential neighborhoods.

I believe that this study's graphics were premature and have scared many people into envisioning expanded building height that is simply not modeled realistically.

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  —Nathan Alberg, Washington, DC (October 29, 2013)
I wish to endorse Charles W. McMillion's thoughtful comparison of the economic and budgetary impacts of retaining the building height limits, as argued by NCPC, or increasing them, as proposed by the Office of Planning. [Comment by Charles W. McMillion (PhD), Washington, DC (September 27, 2013)]

As McMillion makes clear,. . . the NCPC's solid analysis demonstrates the many economic and budgetary reasons for retaining the building height limit. Whereas the Office of Planning's limited analysis asserts the desirability of increasing building height limits but fails to make a solid budgetary case for doing so.

Furthermore, I find it distressing that OP has used a request initiated by a single Congressperson -- Darrell Issa -- as a springboard for putting forth its proposal to change DC's building height limits. One can only wonder whether OP was just waiting for such a (flimsy) basis in order to put forward this proposal.

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  —Pat Taylor ( Ph.D.), Washington, DC (October 29, 2013)
I'm disappointed by how timid NCPC's recommendations are.

I appreciate that low buildings have an aesthetic appeal and contribute to the character of DC. But they have a cost. Limiting the supply of housing and commercial space drives up prices and makes DC less affordable for low income households. Also, urban areas are a key. . . to the fight against climate change; enabling more people to live and work in DC will reduce per capita energy use.

I prefer the recommendations of DC's Office of Planning. I think it is a reasonable compromise to continue to have a federal limit on heights in the L'Enfant City, but to allow taller buildings in other parts of the city.

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  —Paul Joice, Washington, DC (September 27, 2013)
I would like to make two points regarding the Height Act.

The first is that the current debate is about modifying the federal Height Act. Even if we eliminated the federal Height Act entirely, there wouldn't necessarily be taller buildings built in DC, because we would still have local zoning and land use policies.. . . DC doesn't need Congress micromanaging its affairs; we should be able to make our own decisions about urban form.

Of course, if there was no reason to ever build taller buildings in DC, we wouldn't need to change the Height Act. My second point is that DC should have taller buildings, but that we should be careful in doing so. DC has an affordability crisis, particularly in the residential market. If we want DC to be anything other than a playground for the rich and powerful, we need to preserve affordable housing -- not just subsidized housing, but also affordable market rate housing. There are only ways to do that: decrease demand (make DC a less desirable place to live), reduce housing quality (allow homes to fall into disrepair), or increase supply. Obviously, increasing supply is the only one of these we would intentionally pursue. If we increase housing supply without allowing tall buildings, we end up with boring, boxy 8 story buildings all over the place. If we allowed taller, slimmer buildings, we could have more open space at ground level. More importantly, building a few tall buildings in select locations would relieve the pent-up market demand that is affecting lower density neighborhoods. If we retain repressive height limits, neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, Shaw, Petworth, and Brookland will either 1. become even less affordable, displacing longtime residents or 2. see more and townhouses and beautiful historic homes torn down to create 6 story condo buildings. We would be far better served by allowing higher density construction around metro stations and retaining the existing character of some of DC's most special neighborhoods.

The NCPC proposal for changing the Height Act is timid and pathetic. The proposal from DC's Office of Planning, which would allow slightly taller buildings in the L'Enfant city and significantly ease restrictions further out, is much bolder and would make DC a more affordable, economically vibrant, and sustainable city.

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  —Paul Joice , Unknown (October 29, 2013)
I strongly support substantial revisions to the Height Act, as long as they respect the topography and horizontality that define the city's skyline.

Doing so will:
- add substantial flexibility to local architecture
- reduce the supply constraints that needlessly raise local prices and reduce the capital's economic competitiveness
- enhance the city's tax base. . .
/> - improve the city's local market and thus ability to provide innovative urban services
- make better use of existing infrastructure investments, and mitigate demand for unaffordably costly infrastructure extensions
- reinstate some degree of local control over land use decisions, which is where such decisions should be made (not at the federal level)

Almost all of the many hours of arguments that I have heard in opposition to such a change have been grounded in emotion and fear of change rather than in fact or reasoning.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comment.

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  —Payton Chung, Washington (October 30, 2013)
Keep the law as it now stands. It has worked for years to keep DC a city with world-renowned beauty. We do not need to shroud our unique historic buildings as well as DC's well-designed contemporary buildings with over-sized structures that hide the magnificence of the Federal monuments and architecture as well as the historic neighborhoods.

  —Penny Jones, Alexandria, VA (October 24, 2013)
This is a plea to protect the Height Act as is. The Chevy Chase, D.C. community has learned the painful way that developers already have plenty -- I would argue too much -- flexibility to build under the law as it stands. Jane and Calvin Cafritz are in the midst of erecting a building a. . . half block from my family's house that, together with its immense penthouse, will tower 125 feet above the 25-foot and 30-foot single-family homes immediately adjacent to it. What more do they want?

The law has been key to preserving Washington's understated profile, one of the central things that makes this place unique among American cities. Please don't let that be lost.

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  —Peter Gosselin, Washington DC (20015) (October 30, 2013)
Dear Commissioners,
I must voice my strong opposition to the proposal to undo the 1910 Height Act.
There has been steady drum beat for this for years from developers and District officials.
One of the perfections of Washington is the height of the buildings.
This proposal seems to be motivated by nothing. . . but greed, increasing the value of buildings in certain parts of the city and the taxes and emoluments that will be available to officials.
It is a toe in the door. DC has been wonderfully served by the Act, which has helped make the city one of the most beautiful in the US. I beg you not to aid those who wish to change it. Kind regards, Peter Waddell.

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  —Peter Waddell, Washington DC (September 14, 2013)
I'm a DC property owner and would like to testify in regard to #HeightDC: Please do NOT lift the height restrictions. Minor modifications are fine, but to practically wipe them out would be a great disservice to this wonderful city.
In addition to the view of the monuments, a big part of DC's appeal is the. . . manageable, "small town feel." Plus, the low height restriction helps to prompt economic expansion in blighted neighborhoods rather than concentrate wealth in a few areas.
Again, please do not make any significant changes to the current rules.

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  —Phil Piga, Washington, DC (September 26, 2013)
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Draft Height Master Plan, which reflects much effort and hard work.
Regarding the George Washington Memorial Parkway, the National Register of Historic Places notes that
“The landscape values for the George Washington Memorial Parkway have always been the preservation of scenic and esthetic qualities associated. . . with the Potomac River valley. Extending from the coastal plain past the fail line to the piedmont, the valley area is of continuing concern including the palisades and the tree covered slopes, flowering understory, steep-sided creek valleys (runs), and hilltop vistas. THE LATTER PROVIDES A GLIMPSE OF THE MONUMENTAL CORE OF WASHINGTON D.C., A CENTRAL PURPOSE FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT AND CONTINUING PROTECTION OF THE PARKWAY.” (Capital letters Added for emphasis)

Every visitor, every commuter, every driver, and every person who has ever driven on the George Washington Memorial Highway has seen this superb glimpse of the City, which because of its magnificence, is forever etched in their memory. The magnificence of the Parkway, forever embracing the Potomac River, provides an extremely dignified and monumental character that is in keeping with the restrained dignity of George Washington as described by three different authors Paul Longmore, Arthur Schaeffer and Alistair Cooke.

Upon viewing the Parkway, one’s impressions and emotions are intertwined, but they are not created by accident, but by a significant effort brought about by deliberate thought and investments in creating such an entrance. One of these being restraining the height limit in the view shed.

Although the Report talks about opportunities beyond the “edge of the topographic bowl,” this is suggestive of a narrow geographic interpretation. A more realistic approach is a circular view, to which the George Washington Memorial Parkway offers a good example. The Parkway gives almost a 180 degree viewing as one drives in either direction because of the unobstructed perspectives afforded by the current height restrictions. A good example is the view from the Dangerfield Island, National Airport area, The President Johnson Memorial, and Arlington Cemetery. There are numerous sites on the other side of the “edge of the topographic bowl” which also would impacted by the proposed changes.

Alistair Cooke wrote that regarding George Washington “there were several things about him the unquestioned leader of the new nation. A pervasive sense of responsibility, an unflagging impression of shrewd judgment, and total integrity. It can best be summed up in what critics call “presence”. But, it was nothing rehearsed. It was the presence of nothing but character.”

In similar manner, the City bearing his name has evoked the dignified presence of the Father of our Country as a memorial for all time through the limits imposed on building heights. Let us not sully the magnificent cityscape of Washington with outliers interjected for the sake of commerce. For if we do, that special sense will be gone forever.

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  —Poul Hertel, Alexandria Virginia (October 29, 2013)
No change to the District’s height limits should be considered in the name of greater density without first developing and putting into place a comprehensive plan for the infrastructure to support it. Anyone who has ridden on Metro during rush hour or driven down its streets knows we are currently experiencing gridlock. Making room for more. . . people without the means to move them around, much less providing the parks, schools, libraries, police, and firehouses to serve them is a formula for an expensive deterioration of this city’s quality of life.

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  —R. Rhinehart, Washignton, DC (October 25, 2013)
I think D.C should follow the way London is building and changing their city around. London has done a good job of keeping the views of their landmarks viewable while building skyscrapers around them. I think raising the height act in the city would benefit Washington in the long run. IF passed the building coeds could. . . be strict in certain parts of the city so that important landmarks wont be blocked. It would be nice to see 20 to 30 something story buildings scattered through the city but at the same time not OVER doing it. I am all for change and if D.C wants the population to continue to raise changing the height act is what they should do.

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  —Reggie, washington dc (September 14, 2013)

  —Ricardo Espinoza Pujol, Paris, France (November 13, 2013)
I support the repeal of DC's height act.

  —Ricardo Huang, Berlin (November 27, 2013)
Kudos to the NCPC for their thoughtful Height Act recommendations. My family goes back generations in DC and has seen the unique air-filled, green, non-shadowy city for 100 years. Visitors to DC do not simply note the downtown areas of the city, but the overall feel of the Federal City. At the Maryland. . . border at Wisconsin Avenue, the National Cathedral stands out straight ahead among lower rise buildings. In the same sight line, buildings are framed by trees because the limit for many large trees around 100 feet is proportional to the height of buildings. The same trees would be overshadowed in many areas with even a small change in height limits.

Regardless of why the Height Act was originally implemented, the impact has been a very airy, light-filled Washington that is quite unique versus other cities. The entire development pattern of DC was dictated by the Height Act, not just the areas near the memorials and downtown but everywhere across the city. In lower density wards, homes were built in very close proximity to limited height apartment buildings while still maintaining light and air. That adds charm and livability to many neighborhoods across the city that contrasts sharply with other cities. Raising heights in parts of the city even far from the core downtown can have disastrous impacts on the character of those areas and the city as a whole.
The Height Act has already been chipped away over time via dishonest interpretation and enforcement of the Height Act that is contrary to the intent and literal language of the Act. So now 90-foot height limited residential neighborhoods, many newer buildings actually stand 100-120 feet tall from the widest street plus an 18.5 foot penthouse. Extra height means extra shadows for adjacent buildings. Even in peak sunlight hours during winter, a 90 foot building casts a shadow many times that far. So when developers and planners claim that taller buildings and taller penthouses will have little impact on surrounding streets and buildings, it is not true.

Much of the value of higher zoned land simply accrues to the owner of such land. It does not provide broad societal benefit. It also has very limited, if any, reduction in housing costs for the same reason, the value (above construction costs and minimum investment return) always accrues to the land and high rise construction is expensive. The goal of DC should be to be the best city, a unique city, not the largest city with the most cranes and infrastructure not designed for it. Past generations’ wisdom gave DC its unique character. Let’s not ruin it in the blink of an eye, particularly when there is massive FAR available in the City without any changes to the Height Act. The light filled, lower density neighborhoods of DC are among its best.

Having DC become just like every other city is not in the Federal interest, or the local interest.

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  —Richard Graham, Washington, DC (November 04, 2013)
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  —Richard Layman, DC (October 30, 2013)
As a professor of US architecture and urbanism and a District resident for over thirty years, I would like to go on record as adamantly opposing the D.C. Office of Planning's proposal to raise the height limit. The is the most sweeping proposal to occur, in my estimation, since the Senate Park Commission Plan in 1901-02.. . . In every other respect, it is cut of an entirely different cloth. While the SPC Plan was sweeping in its breadth to the degree that it became a major catalyst for establishing the field of city planning and provided a sound matrix for development for decades, the city's proposal is not planning at all, but rather a one-dimensional agenda-driven scheme. It fails to take into serious consideration any of the numerous ramifications its implementation would have -- on residential land values citywide, on infrastructure,on transportation, on the stability of the existing business center, and on the appearance of the city. Washington is an extraordinary, singular place that has benefitted from generations of enlightened planning. This proposal threatens to ruin that legacy. The city planning office should focus on the complex issue of how to foster growth in a responsible multi-faceted way. The fact that it has not done that and, characteristically, ignores public opinion ads insult to injury. I hope your deliberations of this crucial manner are as reasoned and responsible as they typically have been. We can ill-afford to have this radical, ill-conceived proposal take concrete form.

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  —Richard Longstreth, Washington, D.C. (October 30, 2013)
Attached please find the National Trust’s 9/25/2013 preliminary comments and requests for clarification regarding the Height Study. During the public information session, Ms. Tregoning said, I believe, that the positions of some groups participating in the session are already known to the agencies. Speaking for the National Trust, I don’t understand this comment. The National Trust. . . has raised questions, requested additional information and maps, expressed concern about potential impacts to historic properties, and advised caution. However, we have not taken a position regarding NCPC’s 9/12/2013 draft recommendations or DC-OP’s 9/24/2013 draft recommendations. Thank you in advance for considering the National Trust’s preliminary comments as you seek to reach consensus regarding where height changes would be appropriate.

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  —Rob Nieweg (National Trust for Hist. Preservation), Washington, DC (September 30, 2013)

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  —Robert Robinson and Sherrill Berger, Washington, DC 20010 (October 30, 2013)
Except for the "no change" approach, I believe that all of the proposed approaches to manage height in the District FAIL to protect the "light and air" and views of District residents, and unfairly favor commercial development at the expense of quality of life for residents. OP has already established a de facto policy of. . . waiving the height limit and ignoring the District's Master Plan as illustrated by the recent approval of ultra-high density 11-story buildings with little or no open space in my own neighborhood.

Perhaps DC's tax base could be increased by greater density, but the potential for increased revenue should not be driving changes to the character of the District at the expense of its beauty and inviting charm. DC is not Manhattan. While demand for commercial space in DC may well outstrip supply sometime in the future, that is demonstrably not the case today in the Southwest, Southeast, and Northeast quadrants, and I do not perceive any urgency that justifies altering the very character of the city. Today, I see vacant commercial buildings (some of which were constructed in the past 5 years); I see vacant lots; I see boarded up buildings. The problem is not lack of adequate density, the problem is lack of transportation access and/or a desire for a prestigious Northwest address. The majority of these vacant or dilapidated buildings are in areas where renewal is needed, and that need should be addressed first. That need should not be treated as an invitation to alter the general character of DC's neighborhoods.

Pierre L'Enfant's vision included a focus on vistas, which highlight Federal structures and thereby indicate the power and prestige of the national government and visible open space, which indicates room for the interaction of citizens in a democratic society. [1] The construction of ever-taller buildings, which will unavoidably block the very vistas which L'Enfant sought to preserve, will alter the very character of the District to the detriment of its residents and visitors, and to the primary benefit of developers.

DC remains very much residential and the wants and desires of its residents need to be respected. The proposed approaches FAIL to adequately address impacts on residents and visitors. I would urge OP to directly canvass residents and obtain meaningful input on the impacts of increased height and density before proceeding further.

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  —Robert Weller, Washington, DC (September 30, 2013)
One of the most beautiful and livable cities in the world is Paris. They have a height limit about like DC's. It is a city on a human scale, like DC is now. Citizens love it, tourists love it. Increasing the height limit will drown the monuments, the White House, the Congress and every other beautiful. . . building. Changing the height limit will result in wholesale demolition of the buildings that make Washington Washington. I will then be just another city with developeritis.


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  —Severne Johnson, Kingston, WA (September 12, 2013)
Please maintain the building height limits for all of Washington DC. Do not cave in to developers who want to destroy the beauty of our city.

  —Sharon Light, Unknown (October 31, 2013)
> From: SHARON LIGHT [mailto:sharonlight@me.com]
> Sent: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 8:59 AM
> To: Young, Deborah B.
Keep building height limits

Please maintain the building height limits for all of Washington DC. Do not cave in to developers who want to destroy the beauty of our city.

  —Sharon Light, Washington, DC (November 04, 2013)
ou will loose the existing character of the city if you do away with the height restriction. The existing structures will suddenly become so insignificant and many will disappear from the residents and visitors mind. On the ground, it will also become a different place all together. Be it that it may have more surprises- old. . . small buildings amount huge structures- Tokyo.

My suggestion is to select a reasonable size piece of land within the existing urban area that is not of good condition now and do away with the height restriction there. It will help to accommodate the space requirements and reduces the pressure on the other parts of the city. It will also add another layer of time and character to the city.

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  —Siah Gim Lim, Tokyo, Japan (September 29, 2013)
Please repeal height act. An abundance of European cities most beautiful buildings would have never seen the light of day if were for this regulation. I was unaware of this issue but group of young individuals were informing people outside of congress heights metro and I have been shocked since. Thanks for providing. . . Dc the opportunity to voice their opinion, via this web page.

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  —Sidney R., Congress Heights (November 26, 2013)
provided in attached Word document.

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  —Steve Schulte, Washington, DC (October 30, 2013)
Please add the attached document to the public record.


Sue Hemberger

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  —Sue Hemberger, Washington, DC (October 29, 2013)
Thank you for allowing DC residents to comment on the proposed change to the DC Height Act.

I strongly support the NCPC's recommendation not to change the provisions of the Height Act. Washington is a beautiful city in large part because of the vistas, green spaces, and scale of its buildings. . . . It holds a unique and special place among large metropolitan areas on the East Coast because it is not densely packed with tall buildings that are not welcoming and obscure views of the sky, trees, and water. Washington's special character and historic architecture would be greatly diminished if the height limit on buildings were raised. I believe the city can continue to develop without destroying its uniqueness and beauty in the process. Thank you for all the time and effort you have expended on the study regarding building heights and for your wise recommendation.

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  —Susan McCarty, Washington, DC (20015) (November 04, 2013)
Please do not support any change that loosens the Height Act outside of the Federal City. This will lead to de-stabilization of our communities and destruction of historic districts. The historic districts in DC are a unique and wonderful hybrid of a planned city and organic growth. The Height Act is an important protection against impulsive. . . development. People moving into DC are attracted by the wonderful housing stock, the trees, the light, and multimodal transportation. They are willing to pay top dollar for real neighborhoods. Loosening the Height Act in the greater city area will create an irreversible shift in policy, sending a message to DC's Office of Planning and private developers that density trumps preservation.

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  —Susan Taylor, Washington DC (November 19, 2013)
I am opposed to height limit increases. The ability to see the sky and appreciated the beautiful un-shadowed architecture of Washington, DC is one the reasons so many tourists visit each year – generating tax revenues. DC IS NOT New York and should stop trying to replicate its buildings. Maybe incentives to more. . . creative developers would encourage construction of more affordable/family based housing, since the same old ones don’t seem to be interested in solving the District’s ongoing affordable housing problem.

Suzanne Johnson, native Washingtonian and resident

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  —Suzanne Johnson, Washington, DC (October 29, 2013)
Please consider this note my support for ending all Federal regulation of heights in the District of Columbia.

While I recognize that the Federal Government has an interest in Federally owned properties as well as the view sheds in the monumental core I don’t believe either of those interests are threatened or even impacted by. . . allowing the District of Columbia self determination when it comes to what heights are appropriate for the District.

I also find it absurd that across the river in Virginia or across Western and Eastern Avenues in MD there are much taller buildings and it is illustrative that the sky has not fallen and our Nation’s Capital is in no discernible way diminished by these taller buildings located across otherwise invisible political boundaries.

While I am not sure what, if any, changes should be made to the zoning laws of the District of Columbia I strongly believe those decisions (including those concerning height limits) should be left to the residents of the District of Columbia and their elected representatives.

I appreciate the great amount of thought and time that NCPC has put into this issue but hope you will agree these decisions belong in the hands of the citizens of our Nation’s Capital.

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  —Tom Quinn, Washington DC 20015 (November 04, 2013)
I am writing in support of your recommendations to retain the Height Act.

I do NOT support development projects that do not comply with the Height Act.

  —Tony Martinez, Washington, DC (October 30, 2013)
I am writing to say that I very strongly support retaining the Height Act. I was born and raised in Washington DC and have lived the majority of my life in this city, in large part because it is one of the most beautiful, livable cities in the world, and I believe that the height. . . restrictions contribute significantly to its beauty. Washington DC is far more than just the downtown/mall area. Many many neighborhoods throughout this city are lovely and the lower density allows people to know their neighbors and build true communities.

I lived in Manhattan for a few years and found that the high rises blocked the views - other than for the wealthiest people who could live at the top of the high rises. They also blocked the sun, and caused very unpleasant wind tunnels. Furthermore, the extreme density of people living in the high rises meant that most people didn't know their neighbors.

There is plenty of under-developed land in DC, which can accommodate growth in DC for many many years. Please retain this city's phenomenal beauty and sense of community.

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  —Tory Ruttenberg, Washington DC (20016) (October 29, 2013)
If we can have what the person below me calls a La Defense across the river in Virginia why not have it across the river in SE dc. The answer is it makes no sense what so ever. Also there are 21 buildings in la defense which exceed the Roslyn height limit witch is 400 feet.

  —Trevon Agustin Johnson, Washington DC (September 15, 2013)
Please don't raise the height limit on buildings in the District. The relatively low building heights are part of the charm of the nation's capital, much as is true in another livable capital, Paris. As Paris has constructed its high rises across the river at La Defense, so let us have ours in Rosslyn, Arlington and. . . Crystal City. Adding air space to increase income is a bad idea.

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  —Unknown, Uknown (September 13, 2013)
Please raise the height in DC. I feel as though the city is due for a change and also having taller buildings would lower the rent rates for apartments and office space due to the fact that more units would be able to go into office/residential buildings. For the longest time London, England had the same. . . height restriction and now they are building skyscrapers that actually enhances cities beauty. It would also attract major company's and businesses to build in DC. We don't need New York City size skyscrapers but it wouldn't hurt to build 20 to 30 story buildings in certain parts of city. RASIE THE HEIGHT ACT!!

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  —unknown, washington dc (September 14, 2013)
Please keep the building height as it is. An increase would be disastrous for the city.

  —Unknown, Unknown (November 04, 2013)
Re: Executive Director's Recommendatio on the eNCPC Staff Height Act Study, presented on September 12, 2013,
to the NCPC Commission Meeting:
One of the advantages of individual comment is that almost necessarily it simplifies oppositions, and is very often theerefore unfair to one side of a complex argument or the other. My own reading of both. . . draft reports makes the central opoasition between OP and NCPC over-simple. 1

On the one side is OP, an agency of the government of the Federal Distric, with an agenda which postulates the desirability of autonomy for that government, and castingit therefore in terms of the fiscal resources it would have if things were different enough that an extension of height in the central business disrict (defined around the most obvious concentration of that area around K st., the new Convention Center and the Hotels and apparatus of a renewed and more elevated set of buildings in which the lobbyists and business people associated with the Board of Trade and analogous groups could so expand the tax-returns to government to make more plausible the prospect of a home-rule which could then graduate at some point in time into a genuine statehood, and free itself from the shackles (as they are often termed) of an objectionable dependence on Congressional permissions and consultations, at least for the non-Federal parts of the District.

On the other side is the agency of the NCPC which I simplify very considerably into an idealised version of an interdependent region, once oriented by the Year 2000 Plan to represent the undoubted utility of collaboration between virtually all the jurisdictions and agencies of constitutional States, and a hierarchy of cooperative things to comprehend not merely the area of the Constituional District but the variety of formerly suburban Counties in two States and asked to meter and in some sense to express the enormous variety of material and symbolic interests of rivals for significance (as surrogates for political and social power) reaching almost to Baltimore on its northern reach, to Front Royal and Charlottesville on the other, gathering the consequences of demographic change into an immense conurbation, and resulting in many forms of definition of inter-questions of population and class outside the bounds of the Federal District and interacting with it in an intimate and complicated weave of the commuter journies to work (no longer simply towards the District, but in many interwoven and cross-jurisdictional lines of traffic, both by quasi-freeway and private car, but the deviations of three airports and several mostly-suburban shopping centers (such as Tyson's Corner and Shirley Highway, Rockville Pike and 270, the north-south route of 95, and the like. There is an active competition for busines centers for new business district building, a great variety of building heights and concentrations, interacting with a complicated weave of dependency and rivalry---exemplified by the building up of Arlington just on the other side of the Potomac from Washington itself, and without some of the prohibitions on building-height and use that the city of Washington is constrained by, such as the Height Act of 1910. This is interactive with the provision of housing in the same area, increasingly by much taller apartment houses in an area which is only constrained by the necessof crossing the barrier of the Potomac by a limited number of bridges.

The suburbs of Washington were created by the social process of white-flight in the complex period which followed Brown vs. Education in 1954, and very large and scattered new centers of rather well-to do groups in suburbs, which embodied all the tensions of a both more concentrated, more similar USA now electronic and not variegaated simply by the facts of space or the difficulties of moving large elements of commuting populations by means of the private car.

The whole embodies a complicated whole of space, communication, transportation and electronics and to a certain extent, the rivalries of potential advantage for places and jurisdictions. These are not soluble by the resources of any one piece, but invoke the necessity of all of them. They do not ever achieve the ideal of mutual benefit, but they represent an ideal of collaboration to bring together the so-called stakeholders of any single problem (such as that of the Height Limitation Act in the Federal District of Washington) in an often-untidy mixture of elements and impulses, such as the allocation of a joint report to OP and to NCPC, when the basic thrust of either component is virrtually certain to reveal (and constitute) patterns of incompatibility between them.
1There are, after all, more than one form of parochialism than those of the parish-pump, since I suppose that there is also a form of it in time, the notion that our own times and those of our 'history' and our ' futures' are the only ones that exist,, have existed, and will exist. This is at least one of the things to be learned from the study of history.

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  —William Haskett, Washington, DC (November 04, 2013)
While I'm not currently a D.C. resident, I have been following the debate about the D.C. height limits for a long time. I feel the Height of Buildings Act is very outdated and harmful to both the United States and for residents of the capital. The restrictive limit makes D.C. an unnecessarily expensive place to live. . . and to work. It even makes hotel prices much higher, which restricts the accessibility for our of town visitors and tourist to enjoy the city. Having taller buildings will not diminish or denigrate the views of our public monuments. Central Park is not harmed by being surrounded by tall buildings, nor are other historic monuments and buildings. They retain their importance, and tall buildings allow even more people to enjoy those monuments.

Taller buildings will bring more jobs to D.C. and make it a more appealing place to live. It would also be likely to help the government attract better civil servants, and therefore improve our government. I am currently a law student, and I hope to live and work in D.C. soon. The city will be much more vibrant, accessible, attractive, and enjoyable to all if the outdated restrictions on heights is drastically liberalized. Thank you for your time!

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  —Zachary Ferguson, Chapel Hill, NC (September 14, 2013)

Phase 2 Comments

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Showing 68 of 68 total comments submitted

As a longtime District residents, I believe updating the height limits are in order to continue to allow for robust growth especially around transit. In order to protect historic viewsheds, some reasonable buffers (about half a mile) around the Capitol, White House, and The Mall could be put in place where the height limit will. . . remain unchanged. Raising the height limit will all for more jobs, residents, and encourage distinctive world class architecture.

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  —Alan Budde, Washington DC (July 29, 2013)
I attended the Phase Two meeting last evening (August 7, 2013) at the Mt. Pleasant library. Thank you for your thorough presentation! As a licensed Washington, DC tour guide, I especially love that so many more people will understand the true origin of the The Height Act! Maybe some day we can finally bury the myth. . . about the Washington Monument and/or the U.S. Capitol building being the catalyst for it. Thomas Franklin Schneider wanted to leave his mark on DC and he surely did with his Cairo building.

I am inclined to support your Approach 3, 3 C to be exact. I think raising the height limit in illustrative clusters in the city would be the most beneficial to both federal and local interests. I would enjoy seeing more varied architecture in the city. I would also love to see a surplus of housing options; being a person of lesser means, so to speak, I would like to be able to find a decent one bedroom apartment and not have to spend half my paycheck from my non profit job on rent. I am faced with moving out of my beloved Mt Pleasant due to sky rocketing home prices and am just devastated. I do not want to move out to the suburbs as I adore living in the District and walking pretty much everywhere. I definitely support the protecting of viewsheds around our more iconic structures so care should be taken to limit building heights within several blocks of the Capitol, the Cathedral, and the memorials. I support view corridors much like they have in Austin, TX around their capital building. Good luck with the study!

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  —Amy Kunz, Washington, DC (August 08, 2013)
Based on the earlier presentations, utilizing Approach 2 Street-to-Height Relation seems the more promising approach for certain commercial areas of the District. The most successful commercial corridors appear to be those with commercial uses lining both sides of the street or right-of-way. Each side of the street benefits from the vitality of other. . . . This relationship tends to weaken as the right-of-way widen. The “canyon” effect of significantly increasing the height along narrower rights-of-way could actual detract from that vitality. It would also be more difficult for pedestrians at street level to truly appreciate the taller structures. Instituting a street-to-height to 1:1.2 or greater along wider rights-of-way (perhaps wider than 90 feet?) would have less impact because each side of the street is less dependent on the other. It would also be important to institute a comprehensive program of streetscape improvements such as trees other street furnitures at the same time to create or reinforce the pedestrian experience at street level (i.e., below the third floor).

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  —Arthur Jackson, Silver Spring, MD (August 30, 2013)
I believe that the current Washington DC skyline regulations - keeping maximum building heights below the heights of the Capitol Building and other monuments (obviously we leave the Washington Monument out of this discussion) are the correct standards and should be maintained. I do not want my nation's capital to become a mass of coolie. . . cutter buildings all reaching the same height and destroying the uniqueness and views of the current capital city.

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  —Bill Nierstedt, Garwood, NJ 07027 (August 20, 2013)
When I was a young girl around the age of 7, my parents took my siblings and me to Washington DC for the first time on a family vacation. I fell in love with the city and decided then that I would someday move from St. Louis to live in DC. and I did.. . . I came back for another family vacation and on a high school trip and for two college internships. I returned temporarily after college, and then, more than twenty years ago, I came back for good and bought a house in the city a few years later. As a young girl, I loved the uniqueness of the city with the interesting buildings that didn't tower over me. I still do. I am horrified to think that the Height Act might be lost. The Height Act makes DC extraordinary; it gives DC a special feel that no other major city in our country has. While developers may want to get rid of the Height Act to make money, we residents love the Height Act. Do not change it!

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  —C Engelhardt, Washington, DC (August 14, 2013)
I believe my submission may not have gone through. Thus I am repeating that I believe new height limits to be a poor idea for a unique city - a city whose current empty and underused spaces and buildings have yet to be addressed adequately before I accept that there is some sort of lack. . . of space.

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  —carol c ross, Washington DC 20015 (August 01, 2013)
What a rotten idea! I wish more attention would be paid to the imaginative renovation and development of areas and buildings that are currently vacant or underused. When that space is finally utilized using current height restrictions, then that would be the time to consider new needs.

  —Carol C. Ross, Washington, DC 20015 (August 01, 2013)
We should not pit historic districts or historic preservation against height.

The presentation at the public meeting indicates that the visual modeling study excludes all historic districts from potential height increases. As the study moves forward, a more nuanced approach to both discussing and studying height in historic districts should be considered and communicated.. . . Wholesale exclusion (or even implying wholesale exclusion) may have unintended consequences, such as furthering negative perceptions of historic districts as prohibitive or static designations. This could discourage future historic districts, when the primary purpose of the designation is not to limit development or height. We do not want what would otherwise seem a sensible and feasible parameter to hinder our use of historic districts as an effective planning tool in the future.

There are many reasons why an area of the city may have historic or cultural significance, and there are aspects of architecture and planning beyond building height that are considered during design review. Currently, there are historic districts that already or could potentially accommodate tall buildings without compromising the district's integrity. If we are taking the long view, we also have to consider that we may not fully understand how the idea of historic districts or preservation will evolve in the next 100 years. We may have future districts where scale is not a significant aspect of historic character or where taller buildings themselves become historic. We should ensure that we maintain the ability to decide whether height is appropriate on a district-by-district or case-by-case basis.

I understand that the nuanced approach to height in historic districts is something that would most likely be part of a potential reworking of the comprehensive plan, not in a change to the federal law. I also understand that the study may already be taking such an approach in actuality. However, this comment is more about how we discuss historic districts and preservation during the process. The Height Study is important to the future of the city, and these public discussions could have a significant effect on the perception of preservation. Therefore, upcoming presentations and recommendations during the next phase of the study should convey a less black and white approach to height and historic.

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  —Carrie Barton (PRESERVE/scapes), Arlington, VA (August 14, 2013)
I vehemently object to an increase in DC height limits. The fact that DC is exceptionally charming, bright, cheerful, livable and attractive to foreign visitors and residents alike is precisely due to the height limitations act. Please do not ruin our national heritage. There are already enough dark and dingy centers of pollution and congestion in. . . this country. DC is unique and the will of the people indicates that it should be kept that way.

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  —cecily kohler, Washington, DC (August 06, 2013)
The low skyline contributes to the overall attractiveness of D.C.
Out of town visitors always comment on the openness of the city and how it adds to the experience.

There is more than enough undeveloped property in the District for economic growth especially in the northeast and southeast part of the city where development. . . would revitalize the neighborhoods

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  —chet hepburn, arlington,va (August 09, 2013)
I find these planning ideas strange. So is the luxury condo / high-rise office real estate market so important as to ignore how drastic this affects the core of our Nation's Capital? Is the real estate development push so important to serve as to ignore the fact that more and more people will want to. . . work in these taller buildings and will be coming by way of car, bus, and metro meaning more congestion, broken trains, and longer bus lines while these transporation services are usually on the budget cutting room floor? What about the infrastructure -- water pipes that are more than a century old used to pumping at normal levels now being required to pump even more water to higher altitudes -- won't they burst and who pays the emergency repairs? What about sun and sky -- aren't this important economical factors in developing a City? Why not more analysis of bigger buildings at the fringes of DC, why upset the monument core? This unsupported idea creates more questions than what it may deliver.

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  —Chris Otten, Adams Morgan (August 07, 2013)
As a native Washingtonian,i always felt that the height restriction, gave the city a rather Drab boring look,plus back in the day the thrill of the city was not trying to look out my window to see the monument or capitol, but to actually go down there.i believe a happy medium would be to keep the. . . mall area as is for the post card pic,expand the fringes up, at least as high as the structures in Baltimore and Richmond giving it a modern 21st century look.Friends of mine who've have visited, have always been intrigued by Rosslyn, and liked the look and feel.

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  —Dakarai, Washington, D.C. (August 12, 2013)
I grew up in Northern Virginia, and was constantly in DC, and used to wander as a youth in the corridors of the Capitol, the Smithsonian, etc. My mother was a docent at the White House. The city has great symbolic meaning for me, and that includes our view of it.

What I. . . didn't see in the comments I read is the perspective that this city, and the view of this city commonly presented, such as in photographs and on television, is almost invariably the view from heights of Virginia across the expanse of the L'Enfant grid.

It is a view of our "government." Ordered. Equivalent, with notable exceptions (The Washington Monument, Capitol Hill). It is a "beautiful" and symbolic view in its own right. Let's not forget it was modeled after Paris, at least at the macroscopic level (would that L'Enfant had included the "quiet backs" of, say, the Latin quarter. C'est dommage. . .)

To interpose tall commercial structures within that view (say by developing Chinatown, or SE, or north of H street, or east of the Supreme Court), subordinates the world's perspective of our national government, as inferior to commercial things. Sleek tall shiny glass buildings of 40, 50, 80 stories; humble government crawling about the floor at their feet. Which is important now? The answer, psychologically, is obvious. Without the commercialism, we are all humble, as we should be, in service to our larger country.

That perspective (both literally and figuratively), that commercial things are more important than our government, should never be permitted to exist in the American or World public's sense of "Washington."

It is a cost to our prestige that is unrecoverable and reduces the city to "ordinary-ness." We would do ourselves a grave disservice, and damage our "brand" in the world at a cost which could never be recovered in the short range economics of "density" and "home rule."

We're playing the Long Game here. This is about a perspective and posture that must perform on behalf of the Nation and endure, not as architectural form, but as a defining idea, for centuries. Play the Short Game to appease nattering local residents or corporate interests, or feel good planners (my profession), and we lose the ability of the city, the mission of the city, to project the idea of America, the sense of what we value in America to our ever renewing, every accreting citizenry and to those who would aspire to join us in our mission throughout the world.

Don't raise the height limit. It is a choice from which we could never recover. It would be the death knell of our deserved sense of American Exceptionalism.

Daniel Peterson, PE
formerally of McLean, Va
now South Orange, NJ

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  —Daniel Peterson, South Orange, NJ (August 15, 2013)
That height limits impact affordability of all uses, great that the District is exploring options. Good luck with your all's efforts.

  —David Cristeal, Arlington (July 30, 2013)
As Dc native I belive that 225 ft under Aproach 3c is better than our current one size fits all law. Yet I belive that a 250ft. limit should apply in the Lefant city with consideration to viewshed as previously mentioned. I belive London had done a great job in maintaing the precence of its symbolic. . . buildings and being able to buid high while ensuring this.

Outside the Lefant city as se dc native I belive that across the anacostia dc should be able to build free of height restrictions. We have to remember that zoning laws still exist regardless of what is done to the height act. So if we remove it from across the river it is the city that will have option of rasing heights higher in this area if need be. This area is has been neglected for years slowing it to build up will enable dc to generate more revenue, it will alow the city to reap the benefits that Arlington has been having with out affecting the skyline. If arlington has been able to benefit greatly economically due to no height restriction why cant dc do the same to areas of undeveloped land across the anacostia.
Please take this in into consideration and permit our city to have greater economic growth.

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  —Devin Lawrence , Washington DC (August 18, 2013)
When and where will the September 2013 public meetings be held? It's time to get the word out!

  —Eleanor Budic, Washington DC NW (August 23, 2013)
Suggestions are obviously tied to developments already contemplated - Walter Reed, Union Market, Soldiers Home, etc. Better to address individually than change the whole skyline so that developers have carte blanche. This is not planning, it is ceding to greed.
Why not look at raising the height limit in the third alphabet/ higher numbered streets,. . . all around - those would be some views, and let the sun shine in the city still. De-centralize worksites, traffic congestion, shorten commutes. Should not transit oriented development also have office/work space?

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  —Elizabeth McIntire, Washington, DC 20010 (August 04, 2013)
Having attended Phases 2 & 3 Public Meetings I am convinced that Approach 1: No height increase is the best course of action for D.C. now and for the forseeable future. Unfortunately, the Zoning Board has made many exceptions to existing height limit and they have produced a poor precedent. Even in the vicintity of Metro. . . and other transit centers height limits beyond 110 ft. and 130 ft. are unnecessary. They produce a congested city environment rather than one with open vistas and the hope of reducing population densities; they increase temperatures in summer and lower them in winter. They add to greenhouse gases that are producing a thermal blanketwith high CO2 levels in the mid-atlantic instead of reducing them and placing our efforts behind truly "going green" in deed and not just in rhetoric. Limiting the density of brick, concrete, mortar, stone and glass will help to keep Washington a model of responsible and attractive architecture long into the future.

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  —Eugene Abravanel, D.C. (September 10, 2013)
DC height limit should be modified.
One reason is that is that it makes no sense for the limit to be city wide.For instance
"There are 500 foot radio towers in tenley and these don’t seem to have ruined the views of the Capitol, Washington Monument or other important landmarks one bit. We have invested. . . billions of dollars in metro-rail—I don’t understand why we can’t have 15-20 story buildings in places like Friendship Heights, Georgia Avenue and within walking distance of some of the other more distant metro stations in DC. There are already 15-20 story buildings directly across the street on the Maryland side of Friendship Heights. The buildings on the DC side should be able to be that tall.

This would not impact views one bit but it would allow more people to live within walking distance of transit, it would encourage more economic activity, and it would expand DC’s tax-base." (Urban Turf Blog Comment)

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  —Eugenia Navaro, Washington DC (August 21, 2013)
As a DC resident, I think that that it is essential to distinguish between the historic/local DC. DC is a little more than 60 square miles. Most of this is not "historic" in the same sense that the national mall is. There are unique local neighborhoods in DC, but preservation of these neighborhoods. . . is akin to preservation of neighborhoods of similar age and historical value outside of the District. For many from outside of DC, "DC" is only this national image, and outside the historic core, the interests of the local DC economy should trump all else.

To preserve the historic core - the national mall - is imperative. At the same time, to relegate the remainder of DC to height restrictions deprives the metropolitan area, and its residents, of the many benefits derived from urban life. Protectionist measures must always be weighed against the human toll. Each protected street in DC - protection for the few, the rich and the powerful - comes at the expense of commuters who cannot afford access to the urban core that DC offers.

I moved to the DC metropolitan area in the 6th grade, a member of a middle class family who never could have dreamed of living in the downtown core. We lived over an hour outside the city. My father commuted for over 10 hours each week. Now that I am a young attorney in a 2-income marriage (with no children), I can afford to rent an apartment in NW DC - 564 sq. ft. I can walk to work in less than 10 minutes and I believe that - in this respect - I have a very good quality of life.

In renewing my lease, like so many, I had to weigh the cost of increased taxes and the cost of my apartment against the cheaper options in VA. For me, the thumb is on the scale for staying, for now. That said, imagine supporting a family in the DC area. Until we can value people over structures, we will protect existing residents over commercial apartments and other developments that offer more individuals the benefits of dense, urban life, where walkability replaces the costs and environmental toll of a daily commuter existence.

The height restrictions are about the District facing the reality that it is losing potential residents, potential tax dollars and potential human well-being for the sake of existing interests. This is the city that had over 900k residents prior to white flight and the 1968 race riots, and now only has 600k (although growing). The city needs to encourage development and population growth to make DC a model city, with the economic, environmental and social benefits that accrue to urbanites.

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  —Evan Coleman, Washington, DC (August 13, 2013)
Having looked through the information from the study, I can tell you that my wife and I would vote to approve your resolution if we were at the meeting. Similar to you, we would like to retain the neighborhoods at the density level they are now, and not see them become overdeveloped. Much of. . . what we enjoy about this area (and Washington in general) would be lost if the density of Kalorama is increased further. The high rise buildings in my mind should be kept to certain corridors (like 14th Street), and not allowed to infiltrate the other, more residential, areas.

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  —Gary Hoffman, Washington DC (August 12, 2013)
Visual Modeling Study:

The models clearly show the importance of enforcing DC view-scapes and height limits that are relatively low compared with commercially-oriented cities in the US. Do not destroy our unique skyline. The Height Act can be tweaked - but not trashed - in the L'Enfant City. Outside the . . . City, the height can be higher, but strongly protecting the Avenue and Capitol Street views. In both cases density around transit nodes must be given priority.

Occupied penthouses with setback in L'EC is fine.

Rooftop amenities and hidden mechanical systems should be encouraged.

Frontage height vs. street width of 1:1 in L'EC is human-scale, allowing air and light at street-level.

Encourage zoning changes within the present or 1:1 height limit in L'EC to encourage density around transit. There are large areas that are under-developed that would allow needed growth.

River-fronts should be recreationally oriented, not highways and high buildings.

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  —Gene Imhoff, Washington, DC (August 14, 2013)
Three comments:
1) Raising building heights may interfere with some segments of the city’s wireless infrastructure for fire/life/rescue services and telecommunications. The topographic bowl allows microwave based communication links to crisscross the city between hospitals, fire stations, police stations, downtown, and other communication nodes. Taller buildings that block the visibility of these nodes would have. . . costly impacts for either building tall-unsightly radio towers or acquiring new communication sights to re-route communications around any future obstructing building. Also, as urban canyons get deeper, there may be impacts to police and ambulance vehicle radios at street level, not to mention GPS. This is not to discourage taller buildings in general, but just to remind stakeholders that the space above some narrow point-to-point routes across the city is already heavily used today by the city and supporting federal entities.
2) The NCPC might consider amending the building codes for mechanical penthouse sizes from a direct ratio (of 1:1 height to set back distance) to a building code permitting buildable space from the building face back at 45 degrees up to a height not exceeding the current limit of 18 feet. Such a building code change would permit more buildable volume without any additional visible impact at street level. This concept could apply to either mechanical spaces and/or potential future habitable spaces on the roof level. It would also provide leeway for owners of existing buildings to add roof-top accommodations (within the 45 degree envelop) to support roof-level enjoyment areas.
3) The NCPC might consider amending the building codes for building heights to provide a waiver application process for small architecturally enhancing adornments and corner finials to be excluded from the measured building height. This would permit existing and future buildings to fully utilize their available building envelope without being forced to omit the type of architectural embellishments that are prevalent on historic structures and in architecturally rich neighborhoods.

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  —James Stevens, Alexandria, VA (August 09, 2013)
Washington is a uniquely beautiful city. The lower building heights show off our iconic monuments and give them breathing room. It would be a shame to allow it to become just-another-city, USA.

  —Jean Houghton, Southwest DC (August 06, 2013)
I don't think the height restrictions should be eased. First, it's very important to maintain the "view" which here is of our Nation's most symbolically important buildings. Second, there's already maybe too much congestion of people and vehicles on the ground level, especially outside. More is worse. Third, lower buildings are safer in emergencies. I'm sure. . . I agree heartily with many other people who've already said essentially the same things.

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  —Jean SmilingCoyote, Chicago, Illinois (August 08, 2013)
Ecologically speaking, tall buildings, and especially highrises, are not the best choice. In an age where we have become concious of our ecological footprint, skyscrapers are no longer a justifiable urban investment. If the argument for tall buildings comes from a desire to densify, then one should look more closely and learn from examples such as. . . Paris, Montreal, Brooklyn, where high densities and livable communities are created without high towers. If however, tall buildings are to be built, one can look to Vancouver for optimal design reconciliating height and human-scale streetscapes.

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  —Julia, Montreal, CA (August 08, 2013)
The skyline is all about a city's image; it is a modern American-led preoccupation based on image; it has nothing to do with the quality of urban environements. The greatest cities often have the most unimpressive skylines. It's what goes on at street level that matters (eye-level archetectural qualities, availability and quality of public space, lively. . . and animated streets, etc).
Cities should worry much more about quality of life for their residents than about their international image. And if a city is a great place to live and visit, its image will undoubtely be great, regardless of its skyline.

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  —Julia Lebedeva, Montréal, CA (August 09, 2013)
Ecologically speaking, tall buildings, and especially high-rises, are not the best choice. In an age where we have become conscious of our ecological footprint, skyscrapers are no longer a justifiable urban investment. If the argument for tall buildings comes from a desire to densify, then one should look more closely and learn from examples such as. . . Paris, Montreal, Brooklyn, where high densities and livable communities are created without high towers. If however, tall buildings are to be built, one can look to Vancouver for optimal design for height and human-scale streetscapes.

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  —Julia Lebedeva, Montreal, Canada (August 09, 2013)
The skyline is all about a city's image; it is a modern American-led preoccupation based on image; it has nothing to do with the quality of urban environments. The greatest cities often have the most unimpressive skylines. It's what goes on at street level that matters (eye-level architectural qualities, availability and quality of public space, lively. . . and animated streets, etc).
Cities should worry much more about quality of life for their residents than about their international image. And if a city is a great place to live and visit, its image will undoubtedly be great, regardless of its skyline.

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  —Julia Lebedeva, Montreal, Canada (August 09, 2013)
The Height Act has rendered the city of Washington into a prosperous and vibrant city over the last 100+ years. There remain under served areas of the city where investment and development could provide affordable housing.

My vote is Approach 1 No height increase -- maintain existing height, that is 1A.

  —Juliet G. Six, President Tenelytown Neighbors Association, Washington, DC (August 05, 2013)
One of the main reasons I chose DC as my home is because the buildings are the height that they are. Very few urban places have this unique characteristic, of enabling its residents to see the sky even while in the heart of the city. If this were to go through, I and my. . . family would move - it means that much to us.

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  —Kendra Moesle, Washington, DC (August 29, 2013)
I am a native local, I hate going to New York City and believe your proposal to raise the height to anything less than a 1:1 street ratio with step back requirements would change the character of DC. The height restrictions in place were meant to not exceed the height of trees when looking from. . . the GW parkway. The City blends in and the monuments stand out. A support the no change condition. I like the look and feel of the city the way it is, and will not frequent it if it looks like NYC.

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  —Kimberly Larkin, Alexandria, VA (August 14, 2013)
The Office of Planning had significant omissions in its final phase 2 meeting for the Height Master Plan of DC last night. These glaring omissions need to be corrected, and public comment allowed, before OP moves on to Draft Recommendations for changing the Height Act.

Although the Office of Planning was tasked. . . by Congress to take into account "compatibility to the surrounding neighborhoods, national security concerns, input from local residents...," OP did not provide a single slide in its presentation, nor could staffers direct me to a single image in its modeling study, from the ground level of a single-family residential street showing what our neighborhoods would look like if areas identified as medium or high density in the Comprehensive Plan were allowed to build up to heights allowed under the Height Act now or a more relaxed Height Act in the future. In other words, OP completely avoided showing any direct impact of height increases on single-family areas.

OP showed multiple slides of models of the city with various permutations of increased height that might possibly occur either under the existing Height Act or with a more relaxed Height Act. Attendees saw many vista-type images, eg. from Meridian Hill Park, or the Air Force Memorial. We saw also long street view images, eg. looking down PA Ave towards the Capitol. OP boasted that it had hundreds more images in its modeling study.

This glaring absence of modeling images from the residents' street-level perspective is inexcusable. I have confirmed with NCPC that the choice of images created for the modeling study was up to OP, and was not limited or dictated by NCPC. I can only conclude that either OP inadvertently left out the residents' point of view, or OP deliberately chose not to include images of the immediate impact of increased heights in residential areas. In either case, whether by an act of omission or commission, OP has shown a disregard for residents in single-family neighborhoods.

(OP might suggest that the slide from the Frederick Douglass House offers impact on a residential area. However, I would suggest that because the Frederick Douglass House is up on a hill, the modeling does not match the conditions in a residential area. The Frederick Douglass House offers more of a vista. Neighborhoods where the ground level of the new construction and existing homes are at the same levels would have a very different look.)

Before OP goes forward with the Phase 3 Draft Recommendations, it needs to provide residents the opportunity to see models of changes to current heights in streets adjacent to residential areas. The models should do what they did for vistas and long streetscapes, that is, show changes that could result from allowing maximum heights under the Height Act and from building to increased heights under a relaxed Height Act.

Here is a sampling of locations that could give Ward 3 and 4 residents a sense of what the new heights would mean to single-family homes near high or medium-density areas. I used Wards 3 and 4 only because those are the areas with which I am most familiar, having lived there for 14 years.

1. Harrison and 45th St NW
2. Harrison and 44th St NW
3. Fessenden and 43rd NW
4. 43rd St NW between Jennifer and Military
5. 42nd St between Garrison and Fessenden
6. Military and 38th St NW
7. Alton and 35th St NW
8. Van Ness and Reno Road NW
9. Cumberland and 36th St NW
10. Holly and 12th St NW
11. 9th and Hemlock NW
12. Aspen and 13th Pl NW

Other wards should also have the opportunity to suggest locations for models, so that they may have a sense of the possible changes to residential streets that are only one or two blocks off a high or medium-density designation on the Comprehensive Plan.

Please do not allow OP to go forward with its Phase 3 Draft Recommendations until it has provided such models and ample time for public presentation and comment. Otherwise, OP will be ignoring not only its citizens, but also Congress' request to take into account "compatibility to the surrounding neighborhoods...[and] input from local residents."

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  —Laura Phinizy, Chevy Chase, DC (August 15, 2013)
I think heights in DC should not be raised. The lower height limit (compared to other metropolitan areas) preserves a feeling of openness that is consistent with the natural beauty of the mall, Rock Creek Park, etc. If someone wants to live in a denser area, they can move to New York or Boston.. . .
I also think the schedule for public meetings during the summer is unacceptable. Many citizens take vacations during the summer and so are not able to attend (I am one). These presentations need to be repeated at either ANC or Citizen Association meetings during the school year to provide opportunity for citizens to be there.

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  —Laura Phinizy, Washington DC (July 29, 2013)
I attended the Phase II meeting at Catholic University, appreciate NCPC and DCOP's efforts to study this question exhaustively.

I believe some version of 3C, Illustrative Clusters, has the most promise as reason to consider legislative change.

I found it valuable to understand that Zoning/Master Planning limitations are in. . . most places more restrictive than the Congressional limitations on height. So if desired, many changes could be made without any Congressional intervention. NCPC/DCOP should only recommend legislative changes if there are planning goals they want to achieve, that they are unable to achieve within the existing Federal legislation.

As was noted at the briefing, the current height limits have served the city well by encouraging development in areas like NoMA and Mt Vernon Triangle that might not otherwise be considered. This spreads economic benefits over a larger area of the city.

If clusters were established at certain transit-friendly locations (Option 3C), to encourage further development outside the L'Enfant plan, it seems like it would minimize risk to horizontality, views, and light/airy aspects of DC, while continuing the economic and population growth trend the District appears to be on. Either the legislation or accompanying planning guidance should include:

1. No "by-rights" development in the clusters; would require approval of any proposed construction. This would ensure new structures are architecturally attractive and consistent with planning principles.

2. Developers in the clusters should (as noted in the meeting) be expected to contribute to utility/infrastructure/transportation upgrades required to support the developments, and also perhaps other amenities as appropriate (parks etc)

3. There would have to be Sector plans for the clusters, so that NCPC/DCOP could provide clear planning guidance up front for developers.

4. The clusters considered should be outside the L'Enfant plan. Preservation of the character and identity of this portion of DC is too important to take risks with it; regardless with existing height limitations the NCPC/DCOP have shown they are committed to preserving it.

As for the legislation, selection of the clusters may require some additional reporting to Congress. Recommend against including locations in the legislation, instead there would be authority to establish, with approval, x number of clusters. This will be the most difficult aspect.

As noted in my point #4 above, it seems like any legislation that affects the L'Enfant plan is not particularly needed or useful. The pictures of Pennsylvania Avenue SE looking towards the Capital highlight the risk of allowing increased heights on the geographic bowl (3B): that the vistas created by the topography are marred.

Summary: if there is any need to adjust existing legislation, 3C would be the best option of those presented.

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  —Lowell Nelson, Arlington, VA (August 11, 2013)
I would like to thank everyone in NCPC for undergoing this study, as well as all those who have voiced their opinions. To start I would like to clarify that none of the models posed by this study will make the DC skyline resemble New York or even Chicago. Chicago's skyline has over 70 buildings. . . over 500Ft. Of which 64 are over 555ft(Washington Monument), 13 over 800 ft. and 5 over 1000ft. including the sears tower at 1451 ft. and the Trump International at 1389 ft. This study only goes to model changes to the height act from 130 ft to 200 in the L'Enfant city and 130-225 in select clusters outside the L'Enfant plan. So evidently even under highest height modeled in this study our buildings would be no where near the heights of Chicago's 64 buildings that tower our monument. In fact our under this scenario the Washington monument is almost 3 times the height of the buildings within the Lefant Plan and 105 ft over twice the height of our buildings in the designated high density areas outside the plan.

I would also like to point out that there are parts of Maryland bordering dc were taller buildings than what is allowed has been built. I am referring in particular to Silver Spring and Friendship Heights were 15-25 story buildings have been built without having changed the character of our skyline. This being so it makes sense to apply this the across the dc md border south of western ave along Wisconsin ave in Friendship Heights and south of eastern ave in the Water Reed area. In doing so we will be promoting economic growth in the city with out changing the character of our skyline.

As for the L'Enfant City I do believe that we need to raise heights within the L'Enfant plan but we can not have a one size fits all approach. Approach 3c of raising the height in strategic areas is more reasonable option. I would suggest to have a general max of 225ft. with view shed analysis of the taken into consideration.

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  —Luis Alberto Sanchez Cordero, Friendship Heights DC (August 12, 2013)
The height limits should stay the same. They make DC unique, keeps tall building from looming over people on the streets, keeps sight lines clear, has symbolic value in terms of democratic respect for the nation's iconic governmental buildings, puts pressure on architects to do a better job rather than just build tall, and keeps DC. . . from being subject to the "tallest building" competition.

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  —Marc Brenman, Seattle, WA (August 09, 2013)
We recently bought at apartment in D.C. as a "second"home, and have often commented on how refreshing a contrast it offers to NYC. Its light, its air, its wonderful, old trees, its lack of congestion. As the capital, this is a city that should reflect a nation's values concerning the quality of life of. . . its urban dwellers. Increased building height may be the simplest and most obvious solution to the problem being addressed, but it is hardly creative or forward-looking or even thoughtful. Surely we deserve better; surely we can avoid repeating the disastrous errors of past city "planning."

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  —Marcia Welles, New York City and Washington D.C. (August 01, 2013)
I am strongly opposed to any changes in the Height Act, and I also have several serious concerns about the work that has been presented to the public in the Phase 1 and Phase 2 meetings.

When I first came to Washington, after having lived and worked in New York City, I was immediately struck. . . by the difference in the scale and how refreshing it was to work in downtown Washington, with its openness, light and air. The ability to see the sky as one walks through downtown, walking along streets where trees can thrive, and our iconic horizontal skyline should not sacrificed.

The October 3, 2012 letter from Chairman Issa to Mayor Gray and Chairman Bryant called for the exploration of strategic changes in the Height Act to take into account the impact on “compatibility to surrounding neighborhoods,” along with other factors. Consideration of compatibility with surrounding neighborhoods appears to have been ignored as a guiding principle. This is an important consideration and must be addressed.

I find the Economic Feasibility Study to be problematic. I can only comment on the PowerPoint presentation, since the actual study is still not available, so it is impossible to critique the assumptions or methodology. The study seems to be looking at whether increased heights in various sections of the District would be profitable. The potential for increased profits then seems to be the basis for choosing areas for increased heights and density, without consideration of the compatibility with the nearby neighborhoods, consistency with the Comprehensive Plan or whether the infrastructure can support the increased density. While it is useful to know whether developers are likely to build taller buildings in certain areas if the allowed heights were increased citywide, and that might help to ascertain the impact on development patterns in the District of a citywide change in the height limit, the potential for increased profits in the listed areas should not be the basis for determining where the height limit should be raised. The analysis only seems to take into account whether the current rents and market demand can support the increased costs associated with increased heights, and does not consider whether increased heights in those areas would have a negative impact on surrounding neighborhoods and stress an already strained infrastructure, or whether allowing increased heights in those areas might divert development from other areas which might benefit from some increased development within the current zoning and Height Act envelopes, as NoMa has benefited from the current height limits.

In the presentation, initially, it was stated that only areas designated as high density in the Comprehensive Plan land use map would be considered, but the presentation included both high density and medium density areas, a point that was made explicit later in the presentation. Yet, it is clear from the descriptions of the medium density residential and commercial Comprehensive Plan land use categories, that medium-density areas should never have been considered as candidates for increases in the allowable heights. The Comprehensive Plan describes the medium density residential areas as “neighborhoods and areas where mid-rise (4-7 stories) apartment buildings are the predominant use. Pockets of low and moderate density housing might also exist within these areas.” [225.5] The Medium Density Commercial category is described as having “buildings generally larger and/or taller than those in moderate density commercial areas, but generally do not exceed eight stories in height,” [225.11] where the height in the moderate density commercial designation is described as generally not exceeding five stories in height [225.10]. Clearly, the areas designated as Medium Density Residential and Medium Density Commercial in the Comprehensive Plan should not have been included in the analysis and, for consistency with the Comprehensive Plan, the discussion should be limited to areas designated as High Density in the Comprehensive Plan.

Further, there seems to be no substantiated justification for increasing the height limit even in those areas designated as High Density on the Comprehensive Plan land use map. There are ample development opportunities within the envelope of the current Height Act, and even with the current zoning envelope. There is no need to increase the heights allowable by the Height Act in order to accommodate anticipated growth.

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  —Marilyn Simon, Friendship Heights, DC (August 18, 2013)
Rasing the height in L'Enfant city with respects to a max of 200 ft view shed would enable us to grow while maintaining our panoramic views.

  —Martin Johnson, Fort Totten, Washington D.C (August 12, 2013)
Heights can and should be raised in DC with out hindering the character of our city. This can done even by rasing heights with in the Lefant city to 275ft. Especially is a view shed study is performed is done in addition. In add buildings have all ready tall towers have been built . . . arcross the river in Arlington and this has not changed the character of the Lefant city so why would raising heights in areas in dc that further away from the monumental core not be ok aswell.
Given that having taller buildings across the river has not changed the skyline of the Lefant city why not let dc grow east of the anacostia. Having been raised there I can say that there's undeveloped land that could be used wisely. Raising here would enable our city to have greater growth while not having our skyline of monumental dc loosing its character. Why not have tall buildings in areas such as Poplar Point and other areas south east. This would help generate revenue revenue that could be used to further improve parks, schools, transportation among other things.

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  —Martin Murphy, Washington DC (August 18, 2013)
DC is a city with a beautiful view, especially from the elevation of SE. Why make the skyline like such as NYC, Houston, Chicago, Hong Kong - all which are just dreadful! I want to see the city when I fly in; I don't want tall buildings hovering over me when I walk downtown and since. . . 9/11, I certainly don't want to live or work in a high rise building. Who in DC proposed this outlandish idea! I've attended 2 meetings and hope this idea is dropped.

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  —Mary Buckley, Washington, DC - SE (August 12, 2013)
See letter attached

View attachment

  —Meg Maguire, Washington, DC (August 29, 2013)
No height increase.

  —Megan, Washington, DC (August 06, 2013)
Can it be in a zone, like Philadelphia?

  —Michael Hirsch, |Newtown, PA (August 10, 2013)
Well, based on the existing Height of Buildings Act and the presentation, which is quite informative, I have the following thought:

Residential Streets:
Width of street = Building height
Maximum height = 100'
Penthouse (habitable) = 20% of max height with min 10' setback

. . . Commercial Streets
Width of street = Building height + 20'
Max height = 160'
Penthouse (habitable) = 40' max with min 10' setback

Pennsylvania Ave
Max height = 160'
Penthouse (habitable) = 20' max with min 20' setback

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  —Mitchell Austin, AICP, Punta Gorda, Florida (August 09, 2013)
I have yet to review the proposal(s) therefore I will
not comment at this time.
I will advise you that I am very uncomfortable with our
D.C. height restriction being challenged.
More as I learn more and seriously thing about the
many aspects of such a proposal.

  —natalie marra, Kalorama Triangle (August 13, 2013)
I welcome this study and the resulting conversation. I strongly believe that the federal height limit should be modified. It should not be eliminated entirely, because DC is the nation's capital and it is fair for the federal government to establish some parameters to guide the city's growth (that is why NCPC exists). However, DC deserves. . . to have more flexibility and autonomy to create a built environment that meets the needs of the people who live and work here.

It is very important to understand that changing the height limit would not automatically change DC. Development is guided by the city's zoning and comprehensive plan; it would be necessary to change these before any taller buildings are permitted, and changing those local policies would require extensive public debate and approval from elected officials.

There are three main reasons why I believe we should allow taller buildings in DC. First, limiting building heights limits housing supply, and limiting housing supply increases housing prices. DC desperately needs affordable housing; not just units that are explicitly subsidized (such as inclusionary zoning units) but affordable market rate units. Second, cities are one of the keys to preventing climate change. Living in an urban area is less energy intensive than living in far flung suburbs. Increasing housing opportunities in DC would reduce per capita greenhouse gas emissions. Third, providing more housing (and more commercial space) in DC would enable economic growth. Some of this would be displaced from other cities, but some of it would be the result of increased efficiency and economies of scale that result from the concentration of economic activity.

There are two commonly cited reasons not to increase the height limit: concerns about congestion and aesthetic concerns about viewsheds and the appearance of tall buildings. People are entitled to their opinions on these matters, but I think it is extremely selfish and superficial to place these concerns above concerns about housing affordability, economic growth, and environmental sustainability.

Regarding the specific plans under consideration: I don't feel strongly, but I believe the best approach would be to allow clusters of taller buildings (approach 3) similar to what has been done in London, Paris, and Berlin. Identifying the specific areas would be difficult and would require public debate. I believe areas outside the topographic bowl (such as Tenleytown) would be good candidates. Some closer areas, such as Waterfront Station, or Columbia Heights, or along New York Avenue, would also be good candidates.

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  —Paul Joice, Washington, DC, Southwest quadrant (August 13, 2013)
The Tenleytown session is timed so that the loudest critics of raising the heights limit are out of town on vacation. Doesn't inspite confidence in the process.

  —Peter Gosselin , Chevy Chase D.C. (August 02, 2013)
Thank you for the presentation.

My immediate concern is that the presentation does not show how the view from the George Washington Memorial Highway will be affected. The George Washington Memorial Highway frames the view of Washington for millions of drivers approaching the city. The George Washington Memorial Highway commemorates the nation’s first president,. . . it preserves a natural setting, and it provides a scenic entryway for visitors to the nation's capital. The proposed height changes will affect the current view that is enjoyed by all who drive on the George Washington Memorial Highway. Therefore, the presentation should include the effects on the view shed as seen from the George Washington Memorial Highway.

Poul Hertel

PS. Also include the effects on the LBJ memorial views. The memorial marks the spot where the former president would stop to look at Washington D.C. before driving home to Texas with his wife.

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  —Poul Hertel, Alexandria va 22314 (August 03, 2013)
The current Height Limit should be retained as is with no changes. The city will look like Rosslyn and worse if there is a break in the tradition and the city will be much less livable if there is a change.

  —R Palmer, DC (August 15, 2013)
Let's face it, DC is not just another city, and therefore it shouldn't be treated as just another city. Allowing commercial interests to overshadow the government seat just does not seem right to me, not from a design point of view, but from an emotional POV. There is something very stirring about viewing DC from across. . . the river, or from the air, that would be irretrievably lost if you have to search among 10-16 story buildings to find the White House or the monuments. Let Arlington continue it upwards growth, and leave DC alone.

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  —Rich Roedner, Lewiston/Auburn, Maine (August 13, 2013)
I agree with Royce that it depends on the overall vision of DC. I'm not familiar with DC planning principles, goals or visions related to planning, so take my thoughts with a grain of salt. In a general sense, allowing for taller or high rise buildings can both have negative and positive effects. If DC is. . . continually growing, building up, not out, is a good way to alleviate too much sprawl. I would be more concerned with how high rises (or taller building) could affect social class distribution. Typically, and I would assume, taller buildings (ie. apartments, condos) would cater to the wealthier portion of the DC population and, as such, could gentrify certain areas or push out the "middle class." Assuming there would be zones allowing taller buildings, there's the potential that those would be the areas that could draw higher classes of people which may segregate areas of the city that otherwise may not have been. For example, in San Francisco, most high rise residential buildings are out of reach for the 99 percenters and as a result there's social separation in those neighborhoods. Then, there's the safety issue. Would police and fire protection services be able to accommodate taller buildings? Would emergency staff need to be trained to perform high rise emergency services for example. It might be worth investing in various photo simulations in different areas that would be suitable for taller buildings and make determinations from there.

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  —Ricky Caperton, San Francisco, CA (August 10, 2013)
My wife Joy, and I understand that Congress has asked the National Capitol Planning Commission to take a re-look at the 1910 Height of Building Act. This worries me enormously. I was thirteen years old when I first visited Washington DC as one of about 25,000 Boy Scouts attending the First National Jamboree. . . . One of the most lasting memories was that wonderful feeling of openness and straight-away views of that most impressive city, our nation's Capitol. Since that time I have visited or worked in Washington DC at least a hundred times: from 1946 as a university undergrad doing research, introducing small sons to its historic and architectural glory, and will at the close of my 89th year, as a surviving WWII combat trooper of the 10th Mountain Division, attend the Oct 11-14th National Reunion of the 10th.

Our Capitol's preservation from the terrible damage which will occur, should the 1910 law be relaxed, is so important to not only those of us now alive but to all of our children and grandchildren. I know that development projects are needed but those needs can be fully met just over the line in Virginia and Maryland. In fact those areas would welcome new buildings. Please act on behalf of ALL of us to preserve the wonderful openness of our National Capitol - and receive the gratitude of this old wartime soldier and patriot.

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  —Robert E. Jones, Colorado Springs, CO (August 06, 2013)
I'm all for increasing the heights in D.C.

For any city to thrive it must grow it's population.

More people equates to more jobs and a more more diversified economy.
An increased population leads to more demand for housing. To make it reasonably affordable we must add housing units.

Going higher is. . . more efficient by doing more with what we already have. It's a great sustainable practice!

Changing technologies leads to changing space needs.

Lifting the height restrictions will make the city stronger in the future.

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  —Robert Tack, Tenleytown DC (August 03, 2013)
The heighth limit should not be changed as there is no benefit to the city just the developers who want to make more money selling a larger office building or condo. If you raise the heighth limit DC could look and feel like NY with buildings blocking out the sun and creating caverns of windy. . . and dark streets. If you raise the limit even a small amount developers will use this as an opening to get more for there greedy selves. This does not benefit those living and working in the city. It could block the monuments that make DC the capitol and a special city. The focus would be on office buildings and that is simply the wrong direction. Use existing land to its max and try to improve current space with something attractive.

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  —Roberta Carroll, Washington, DC (July 30, 2013)
It depends on the vision for DC, its growth management strategy and whether a balance can be struck. Maybe DC already has this but perhaps the preservation of view corridors to buildings of interest from strategic locations can help dictate height maximums. This would allow other areas to infill more economically (read: higher). Ottawa and Vancouver. . . use view sheds to preserve points of interest rather than a absolute max height everywhere approach.

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  —Royce Fu, Ottawa, Canada (August 09, 2013)
The highest building in Cologne is in North City, and following is the Date of the Building.

Ort: Neustadt-Nord, Köln
Bauzeit: 01.06.1999–21.11.2001
Eröffnung: 21. November 2001
Status: fertiggestellt
Architekten: Jean Nouvel, Paris
Kohl & Kohl Architekten, Essen
Nutzung:. . . Bürogebäude, Restaurants, Konferenzräume, Radiostation
Hauptmieter: DekaBank
Bauherr: Hypothekenbank, Essen
Technische Daten
Höhe: 148,1[1] m
Höhe bis zur Spitze: 165,5[2] m
Etagen: 43
Aufzüge: 6 Stück (3x à 5 m/s, 3x à 6 m/s) mit Schindler Zielrufsteuerung
Geschossfläche: 36.430 m²
Umbauter Raum: 131.700 m³
Baustoff: Stahlbeton, Stahl, Glas
Konstruktion: Rahmenkonstruktion
Köln: 1. (Liste)
Deutschland: 14. (Liste)
Stadt: Köln
Land: Deutschland

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  —Salah S., Cologne, Germany (August 09, 2013)
I would like to say that I believe the height city's areas should have their own restrictions but that this should not be through a federal law that applies city wide. I believe that this should be addressed by the people of DC. Like it is in other capitals around the world. This way. . . we would determine what heights specific areas should have because not every part of the city is the same. London has done good job in that each district has different zoning laws for each of its 32 districts. For intance in westmister (where big ben is heights are relatively low where as near st pauls cathedral there are taaller bulidings but this is in way that the views of St pauls are protected. Also there beutifull buidings along hyde park that are taller than what is permited by our height and yet this dosent make London feel like new York. Also it sis important to note that even if this act where to be removed the citys heights would depend on a particular neighboorhods zonning laws and desires. Which has been the case even under this act in many areas buildings have remained lower than the allowable height limit due to zonning laws take m street in goergetown the current zooning laws are what govern here. So it is safe to say what ever happens to the height act this dosent mean that georgetown will have a burj kahalifa for aesthetic reason as well as economic and it does not mean that the city will have a skysline will turn into new york. I believe if analyse this carefully we can find ways to allow the city to raise heights in particular areas thus having an increment in anual tax revenue with out hindering the city sklyine.

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  —Stephen Rivers, Congress Heights (August 20, 2013)
The comments below were copied off the Urban Turf blog and express my views about the blandness of commercial architecture in DC as a result of the height limit.

"When you don't have the height issue, it's much easier to make a building that has different forms," architect Eric Colbert, who has designed dozens of. . . multifamily buildings throughout the District, told UrbanTurf.

The problem, explained Colbert, is related not just to the height restriction, but also the floor area ratio (FAR). Because the cost of the land is based on the amount of square footage that one is allowed to build, developers feel compelled to build to the full FAR, which often means building out to the property line and up to the maximum height. This creates the box effect that is so common in new DC buildings.

"There is an incredible amount of pressure on the architect to design something that maximizes the salable or leasable square footage," shared Colbert. "If you were to raise the height but not change FAR, it would allow more sculpting in the facade."

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  —Steve Strauss, Washington, DC (August 20, 2013)
1. The full Economic Feasibility Study (“coming soon”) never made it online in time for the public to see and comment upon its methodology. But even the information contained in the presentation slides makes it clear that raising heights raises building costs and is economically viable only in areas that already command high rents.. . . So much for the affordability argument.

2. In her public presentation, Harriet Tregoning claimed that DC would be fully built out in 20 years. When asked how she reached that conclusion and where the analysis backing it up could be found, Tregoning was evasive. The Office of Planning doesn’t appear to have done any such study and the claim itself is not credible. DC has a number of large, undeveloped tracts and, even in developed areas, most buildings haven’t been built out to the limits of the zoning code, plus the zoning code itself doesn’t exploit the full envelope available to it under the current Height Act limits. There’s plenty of room to grow. DC government’s push for a relaxation of the Height Act isn't rooted in necessity -- it's more of a vanity project for the government (and a potential windfall for a handful of developers).

3. Tregoning has also repeatedly claimed in these public meetings that changing the Height Act would have no immediate effect on what could be built in DC because it would take a major revision of the zoning code to allow the new limits to take effect. But DC’s zoning code is currently being revised (the full text of the revision is already before the Zoning Commission) and the proposal is to tie building heights in most zones downtown (which would be expanded to include NOMA, SW, the area near the Nats stadium) to Height Act limits, and to allow unlimited FAR within those limits. And no on-site parking would be required in these zones either. I'd hate to see an expanded downtown replicating the pattern seen in so many US cities where a few tall buildings are surrounded by above-ground parking facilities.

The bottom line: DC government has been unable to offer any compelling reason for easing existing height restrictions and it has relied on misrepresentations in what appears to have been a largely unsuccessful attempt to garner support for the project.

Please leave the Height Act as it is.

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  —Sue Hemberger, Washington, DC (August 13, 2013)
The only reason that cost per SF for residential construction seems to decrease when heights go above 200' is that the Ec Feasibility Study has assumed that garage size will be held constant even as height (SF/# of units) increases.

Take parking out of the equation entirely (or scale it to reflecting increases. . . in SF) and cost per SF increases with height -- and the increase is significantly more than the chart on the fourth page of the Ec Feasibility Presentation pdf indicates. Using the consultants' numbers, raising building heights from 130' to 250' would raise the construction costs of office space by $15/SF and the construction cost of residential space by $14/SF.

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  —Sue Hemberger, Friendship Heights (DC) (August 05, 2013)
DC is my second home and although I am a lover of modern skyscrapers, I do NOT want to see them in the nation's capitol. The beauty of the nation's architecture would be overwhelmed by the introduction of taller buildings.

Keep the height restrictions as they are. The people of this country want. . . the emphasis to be on the beauty and elegance of the original buildings. It makes the city unique and stunning.

Susan Kossiakoff

Susan Kossiakoff

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  —Susan Kossiakoff, Chicago, IL (August 03, 2013)
I do not think the DC height limit question is a purely local issue.

The entire nation would be affected by the damage done in relaxing the height limit restrictions, as its capital city would be irrevocably marred. I would think the entire nation would be interested in preserving the architectural integrity of. . . the nation's capital.

There is plenty of room just over the line in MD and VA for tall buildings. And there is zoning for them.

Do US citizens really want their leading city to be compromised, with the national monuments and the capitol building smothered and dwarfed by high-rise development projects?

I think it would be a shame for our nation's capital city to be permanently visually compromised just so a few people can enjoy a short-term gain.

I would think members of congress would also want the city's structural heritage preserved.

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  —Susan Lowell, washington, dc (July 30, 2013)
Revising the Height Act of 1910

WHEREAS the Height Act of 1910 is a federal statute governing the District of Columbia, which restricts residential buildings to 90 feet and business to a height equal to the width of the adjacent street plus 20 feet (generally totaling 130 feet), plus some heights are. . . extended to 160 feet along portions of Pennsylvania Avenue.

WHEREAS reviewing the Height Act to determine whether any revisions are desirable or necessary is understandable but that does not automatically mean amendments are necessary.

WHEREAS Washington is a city of monuments that should continue to be showcased through zoning and height restrictions.

WHEREAS in the areas around the White House, Capitol and federal agencies, height restrictions have been praised as enhancing security for the federal government.

WHEREAS Washington is one of the most attractive and lovely cities in America not only because of its monuments but also because of its tree canopy and open spaces and because pedestrians can see the sun, the sky and the stars.
WHEREAS some have proposed increasing heights from “L’Enfant to Tenleytown”, which would include neighborhoods across the entire spectrum of density and existing height.

WHEREAS Washington is a city of neighborhoods and each neighborhood has different and, in many instances, very desirable characteristics, which should be recognized and preserved in any consideration of amendments to the Height Act.

WHEREAS proposals to increase height along the main Avenues, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Georgia, New York, and others would dwarf residences abutting the avenues that are two story single family detached in some areas but might be harmonious with multi-story office buildings and warehouses in others.

WHEREAS any increase in height for buildings does not solely increase tax revenue it also would result in new infrastructure demands on services, such as schools, public transit, sewer, and water.

WHEREAS incentives through increased heights everywhere would not result in encouraging development in any particular area but rather would merely allow taller buildings wherever a greater profit might be realized in already flourishing areas.

WHEREAS increased heights may result in a few very tall buildings with large capacity absorbing such a large percent of the demand that development would be deterred across the rest of the city, which has benefited from a dispersal of development activity throughout the city.

WHEREAS there is unused potential available now that can accommodate new growth without any amendments to the Act or to DC zoning because current height restrictions allow more development in many areas.

Be it RESOLVED that the Tenleytown Neighbors Association supports preserving the overall building limits established in the Height Act because of the extraordinary contributions these restrictions have made to the distinctive character of the city of Washington.
TNA Sept. 17, 2012

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  —TENLEYTOWN NEIGHBORS ASSOCIATION, Tenleytown, Washington, DC (August 30, 2013)
Please do not raise the height limit on building within the District. DC is beautiful and distinct. Raising the height limit would drastically alter the cities character, and is unnecessary. We are not yet utilizing well the PAC we already have available.

  —Topaz Terry, Washington, DC (August 13, 2013)
Who in Congress has come up with this lamebrain idea of changing the height restrictions in Washington,DC? Who is trying to despoil one of the most beautiful "horizontal" cities in the world? Did this come from lobbyists supporting the construction industry or what? There is plenty of room to grow without this move. I. . . love the beauty of our nation's capitol. Don't let the politicians -whomsoever they may be - ruin it! Virgil Miedema

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  —Virgil Miedema, Hanover, New Hampshire (August 20, 2013)
Several comments from the Phase 2 presentation:
1) Approach 1B penthouse occupancy is probably a false option. Penthouse floors of large commercial or residential properties are mostly occupied by elevator over-rides, stairs, and a lot of noisy mechanical equipment - it offers limited area and you would have to extend the elevator shaft to serve. . . it, thereby creating a height increase.
2) I think you should add corridors to the clusters that you have selected for possible height increases. There would seem to be a strong urban design correlation between the avenues of the L'Enfant plan and building height - think of the clear identity of Connecticut Ave. vs the fractured form of some other major avenues. Height increases could be used to reinforce the urban form of the L'Enfant plan.
3) Ultimately I think your study will require a very subjective interpretation of where height could be permitted based on proximity to landmarks, historic sites, avenues, etc. Height per se is not the only issue, it is a question of how it is done and its affect on adjacent properties. That will probably get you into very site specific issues and even some form of design review - similar to what Zoning Board, Historic Pres. Rev. Board, and Fine arts do now. I understand that your study must deal with the broad brush at this point, but any implementation will need to be a lot more refined.

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  —W. Etienne, Woodley Park, DC (August 12, 2013)

Phase 1 Comments

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Showing 88 of 88 total comments submitted

I strongly support significant relaxation of the height limit in all of Washington, DC, with a total repeal in strategic locations near Metro stations outside of the historic L'Enfant city.

The height limit combines with the city's wide thoroughfares to severely limit density and drives up prices for housing and commercial space, particularly downtown, where. . . office rents are the highest in the country. Because we cannot change the street grid, and because it would be truly horrific to bulldoze the city's low-rise rowhouse neighborhoods, increasing the height of buildings is one of the only tools available to allow for greater supply of residential and office space in the city's core and so reduce price pressure on local residents and businesses.

I understand the various interests involved with the possibility of changing the character of the historic center of the capital city, but allowing for a few extra stories in new developments downtown will do nothing to detract from - indeed, it would enhance - the experience of living in and visiting Washington. For these reasons, I believe residents can accept federal oversight of building height within the L'Enfant city. (Even if that federal oversight comes from Congress, where District residents remain unrepresented.)

Outside of the historic core - below Florida Avenue and between Rock Creek Park and the Anacostia River - however, these concerns do not deserve the same precedence when weighed against the need to accommodate new residents and to provide needed and desired services and employment in a quickly growing city. In these areas, the federal height limit should be repealed in its entirety and District officials should be free to adopt their own more tailored limits (e.g. via zoning rules, which already exist and which are currently being rewritten). At the very least, within specified distances of MetroRail stations, high-service bus routes and (in the future) streetcar routes, the federal height limit should be relaxed to the point that city officials can approve over-height buildings that meet particular needs or wants of the city, such as affordable housing, needed services such as grocery/retail in food desert areas, etc.

I appreciate the chance to provide my input to this important proceeding, and as a resident of the District of Columbia, I strongly encourage you to relax the height limit throughout the city and to consider outright repeal of the limit beyond the monumental core.

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  —Adam Taylor, Washington, DC (March 13, 2013)
I very much look forward to this study. However, if the presumption from the start is that the height limits in the L'Enfant City should not be touched, I would argue that the study is not thorough enough.

Currently, the L'Enfant city has all of the elements to accommodate more density. It is the. . . location of most of our transit stations. It is the location of our most dense buildings right now. It is the area with the greatest market demand.

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  —Alex Block, Washington, DC (March 07, 2013)
I am glad to see this is being looked at. I feel strongly that the height limits need to be eased both for economic reasons and to enhance the architectural esthetic of the city. Our downtown buildings are boring boxes.

  —Alice, Takoma, dc (April 11, 2013)
Which problem will modifying/eliminating the height limit solve? It won't reduce the cost of housing. DC is a desirable area, and developerswill continue to build expensive housing. It won't fix the boxy architecture either. It'll just make taller boxy buildings (this is a zoning/style problem, not a height problem). The proposed changes to the law are. . . a solution in search of a problem.

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  —Amber, Washington, DC (May 13, 2013)
It would be a tragedy if this height limit was changed.The wonderful thing about great cities such as St. Petersburg,Russia is that there IS a height limit. People try and tamper with it all the time, but the fact is that the citizens want the view and vistas to be kept as an important part. . . of the historic significance of the city.

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  —Amy Ballard, Washington DC (July 08, 2013)
"Relaxing" the height restriction seems unlikely to provide many of the benefits claimed. It is more important that we plan better for the land buildings occupy than it is to assume that height equals right (one can look to other cities to prove this is not the case). A thoughtful planning process should identify what we. . . want DC to be in the future and determine whether it really is the case that we must fundamentally change our urban form to get there. Further, we must be clear in assessing economic, quality-of-life, and aesthetic motives behind such decisions.

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  —Brad Gudzinas, Washington, DC (April 17, 2013)
I oppose any change in the present height regulations, as such an action would be at the expense of the prominence and dignity of the United States Capitol, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial.

  —Carlton Fletcher, Glover Park, Washington DC (July 09, 2013)
This resident says NO! If I wanted to live in shady cold canyons surrounded by tall glass towers, I'd live in Chicago or NY. I live in DC because it's unlike any other city in the U.S. The character of this city is unique and is one of the things that brings people here. . . . It is built on a more human scale. I've been here for 25 years and still love the park-like and open, bright design of this low-slung city.

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  —Carmen Gilotte, Washington, DC (March 07, 2013)
Residents East of the River are concerned about their view being blocked by buildings, bridges, etc. that are built between them and the downtown and mall areas.

  —Carol Casperson, Fairlawn neighborhood (Washington East) (May 13, 2013)
I strongly oppose altering the height limits to allow taller buildings in Washington, DC. Taller buildings would greatly diminish the city's unique historic character and have a tremendously negate impact on its appeal and special charm. More density also would make the city a far less attractive and comfortable place to live and work (I. . . work in the city). Please do not allow development pressures to ruin our magnificent, historic city. It is easy to observe the detrimental effects of new high rise, high density development in many once special cities around the world. Please don't let it happen here.

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  —Carol Shull, Arlington, VA (July 08, 2013)
The current height limit in the nation's capitol preserves the desirable uncluttered high density that now exists. This positive limitation should continue.

  —Charles I. Cassell, Washington, D.C. (July 08, 2013)
The current framework for discussing any needs for changes to the DC Height Act pits a badly misinformed “bigger is better” understanding of “smart growth” against subjective aesthetic views and opinions. This false bias predetermines the wrong policy outcomes and serves the financial interests only of large, world-wide construction, law and banking firms while ignoring the. . . substantive interests of DC, its residents, businesses and other US citizens who value a stable capital city.
A few people have transformed and seemingly trademarked the term “smart growth,” from its original focus under Maryland’s Governor Schaefer in the late 1980s of restricting suburban sprawl and moving over-crowded growth away from the highly congested Interstate 95 corridor from the southern DC suburbs to Boston. The new, de-regulated, bigger-is-better focus is quite profitable for a very few but certainly is not “smart.” Infrastructure costs skyrocket and stability plunges in highly congested areas such as DC and the DC region.
Any smart discussion of growth in DC should start with the fact that (according to the BLS) we have about 740,000 jobs in DC but only 340,000 employed residents. This more than two-to-one imbalance is the root cause of many of our unique city’s financial, congestion, infrastructure, lack of affordable housing, pollution and other problems. It is simply not possible to have a smart discussion of DC’s economic growth without addressing the half-million daily in-and-out commuters and the urgent need for policies to reduce this gross imbalance.
Properly framed to face DC’s shortage of housing and excess of commercial building, supposed substantive reasons behind the mostly commercial interests questioning the Height Act disappear.
Truly smart growth requires DC policy to encourage residential restoration and building, including of residential public amenities (like play grounds, schools, swimming pools, tennis courts, community gardens and parks…) while discouraging additional commercial building until the ratio of residential to commercial is much more nearly one-to-one.
DC should also work with states and metropolitan areas from Virginia to Massachusetts to decongest the over-crowded North/South I-95 corridor and repopulate towns and cities to the west with rapid rail links. DC already has a resident population density of 10,298 per square mile and it is roughly double that during work days; Montgomery County Maryland has a density of 1,959 residents per square mile and Fairfax County has a density of 2,738 residents per square mile. At the same time, struggling Garrett County Maryland – including the once prosperous Cumberland -- has a density of only 49 residents per square mile and Page County Virginia – and the once prosperous Luray – has a resident density of only 75 per square mile.
I hope NCPC and the Office of Planning will reconsider the way that it and one anti-Washington Congressman from California have approached this vital issue of irreversibly re-shaping the profile of the nation’s capital.
I would be most happy to discuss.
Charles W. McMillion
223 F Street, NE

I was the executive director of the bi-partisan, bi-cameral “Competitive Caucus” in the US Congress during the 1980s and helped run the policy center at Johns Hopkins University when “Smart Growth” was conceived.

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  —Charles McMillion, Capitol Hill, DC (July 17, 2013)
I really think that the height limit should be maintained, it is the defining feature of our city that makes it livable and a distinct environment. One major concern I have is the lack of affordable housing, which many have commented would be at least somewhat alleviated with a lifting of the height restrictions. . . . I disagree unless there are also policies that force development at below market rate, which of course means subsidies. Just allowing developers to build higher will only increase the inventory of market-rate housing, and will not address other issues.

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  —Christine, LeDroit Park, DC (July 09, 2013)
I have lived here for almost 40 years and strongly support maintaining the current limitations under the Height Act. The low-lying character of the city gives Washington a distinctive feel befitting the Nation's Capital. I do not believe that things would be improved if we were to encourage Rosslyn-like development, even if it is. . . removed from the Monumental Core. Washington is a city that belongs to all Americans, and busting the Height Act limitations would benefit the few at the expense of the many. Thank you.

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  —Cornish F Hitchcock, Washington, DC (July 08, 2013)
no changes to the height limit until the build out of NOMA and near Southeast and Mt Vernon Triangle. If the height limit is raised we will have fewer but taller buildings and the continuation of surface parking lots.

  —dan maceda, 475 K st NW DC (May 19, 2013)
The DC height limit harms the city, making it more expensive and less vibrant. And while it does preserve certain view sheds, it also deadens and destroys architecture in the nation's capital -- compare DC's skyline to the work of art that is Chicago's. Tall buildings are fully compatible with a beautiful city. The height limit. . . should be repealed.

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  —Dan Miller (March 08, 2013)
Washington's character is unique because of the height limit. Please don't allow it to be changed.

  —Dave Johnson (March 07, 2013)
retain the height limitations!

  —David Marlin, Washington, DC (June 19, 2013)
I have lived in the city of Washington DC for more than 30 years. I have raised my family here. My daughter attended DC public schools. I have been active in my community. We frequently host guests at our house in Friendship Heights, DC from Europe and from other parts of the. . . USA.

I write to express my strong opposition to efforts to raise DC's building height limit. Washington DC's building height limit makes it unique among major American cities. This uniqueness provides a more serene and livable feel to our city. It is something that every guest who has ever stayed with us has commented on – always in a positive light. Guests tell us that they love to visit Manhattan but if they had to choose a place to live, they would choose Washington, DC over Manhattan any time. Having grown up just a few miles from Manhattan, I agree with their assessment. Cities with skyscrapers have their own advantages but they lack the charm we retain in our nation’s capital by keeping our skyline open.

Again, I urge the National Capital Planning Commission to reject plans to increase Washington, DC’s building height limit.

Thank you.

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  —David P. Frankel, Washington, DC (July 10, 2013)
Please do not raise the height limit. DC has a unique skyline that should not be threatened by high-rises and other eyesores.

  —Eden burgess , Washington, D.C. (July 08, 2013)
Focus on context-appropriate building height guidelines to improve housing affordability while maintaining District character. (Via Twitter)

  —Eli Glazier , Los Angles, CA (May 21, 2013)
The height limits make a Washington DC a very special place. It makes the city have a human element to it when there are not canyons of streets and buildings.
Residents and visitors realize DC is an unusual place because of the height limits and understand the city and the architecture in a way that is. . . not possible with very high buildings. It is essential to keep the height limits in place.

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  —Elizabeth F. Jones, Alexandria, VA (July 08, 2013)
I am opposed to any changes to the Height Act. If a person wants to live in a city that is very dense and vertical, without height limits, (s)he has many options including Chicago and New York City. It seems fair to allow those of us who prefer a less-dense environment with abundant light and. . . air to have this one city to suit our preferred style of living. It's the Nation's Capital; it ought to feel different and special. It's a world-class city with plenty of amenities, culture, commerce, entertainment,and housing yet it retains a human scale. Developers have plenty of opportunities to build tall building elsewhere - let them go elsewhere to do it.

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  —Elizabeth Nelson, Washington DC (June 21, 2013)
The current height limitations for buildings in D.C. should be maintained and we should avoid elevating or making exceptions to those limitations. D.C. should strive to be a model of a livable, low density city with medium sized structures and attractive neighborhoods where the air is clean and where there is minimal adverse impact on the. . . environment. Encouraging low density neighborhoods with well-maintained homes and where both pollution and C02 emissions are held to a minimum is a goal we should strive to achieve. Tall buildings will not encourage fulfillment of such a goal and will not even prove to be in the interests of long-term economic success. Visitors from around the country and world will be eager to visit an attractive capital that has resisted the tall building fad that is choking many American (and foreign) cities. The citizens deserve and want more for their capital city.

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  —Eugene Abravanel, Washington,. D.C. (April 23, 2013)
There's nothing unique about a lack of skyscrapers. Many small towns lack them too. But DC is a world-class city, and in order to compete with other world-class cities, or even compete with DC's own suburbs, it must allow building heights to rise.

  —Feval, Washington, DC (April 17, 2013)
This article identifies the impact of building high in terms of construction expenditures, construction jobs, construction salaries, and, once the building is finished, annual operating cash flow, employment, and salaries/earnings. In addition there are tax implications for the city and state for both the construction and the year to year operations. Finally, any building has an. . . impact on the existing commercial and residential real estate market, and that is discussed as well.
the article ends with a discussion of Berlin and Paris, and the implications for Washington, DC.
in going through the data, i note one slight correction. On page 6, the last paragraph beginning "More recently,..." the second line should read "2008, has generated $2.028B in total construction expenditures, including $1.26B in Philadelphia, resulting in 17,293 construction-related jobs...etc. " just a small change.
I hope the partners find these analyses helpful. I have enjoyed working on them, and it is something i really believe in.

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  —Frederic Harwood, Washington, DC (Shaw) (May 21, 2013)
(From Attachment)The District of Columbia’s commercial real estate is more expensive per square foot than Manhattan’s financial district. The area’s traffic is the worst in the country, with ever-expanding sprawl adding to the nation’s longest commuting times. Only 11% of the metropolitan area’s 5.7 million residents live in the District of Columbia, among the lowest percentage. . . in the US and well behind New York City’s 43%, Los Angeles’ 30%, and Chicago’s 28%. We rank well below

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  —Frederic Harwood , Washington, DC (Shaw) (May 21, 2013)
Thank you for the opportunity to participate. Although I have tremendous respect for both Harriet Tregoning's office and NCPC, I found the format of the meeting somewhat puzzling and frustrating. As I understood our task, it was to think about the link between the federal interest in DC and the height limit, and how. . . changing or maintaining the height limit might impact the federal interest, favorably or unfavorably.

But this very abstract concept was communicated somewhat clumsily by the speakers who introduced the meeting, and also the various boards around the room seemed to raise a different question, somehting like "how would we like the city to change?"

As a first step in the process, I would have found a different meeting more useful--a brainstorming session or a focus group around the question "what is the federal interest in DC?" To me, the answer is not all obvious,and I found it impossible to think usefully about the height limit without better understanding the federal interest. Also, I think it would be a very intriguing idea to having the residents of DC speak to congress about their ideas of what the federal interest in DC might be.

I understand process comments are not what you're looking for at this point. Good luck!

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  —Gary McNeil, Washington, DC (June 05, 2013)
Alarming tall building being built on North Capitol Street out of scale with the US Capitol viewshed at end of N Capitol St. Maze of high rises being built near Union Station
will mar the residential character of Capitol Hill.
Height limit must be maintained! Maintain th low scale beauty of the city

  —Gary Scott, 445 11th St NE (July 08, 2013)
I have lived in DC for over 30 years and been a property owner in DC for 25 years.

Do not change the federal Height of Buildings Act of 1910 in any way.

In areas outside the L’Enfant City, the local economic development goals, federal interests, national security concerns, and compatibility to. . . surrounding neighborhoods, local residents input and other related factors are currently well served - and will continue to be well served in the future - by the existing legislation. This includes the federal and District governments.

Do not alter the federal Height of Buildings Act of 1910.

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  —J Doebuget, Washington DC (July 08, 2013)
Good morning NCPC,

I was not able to make my comments through the online portal; so please find below my comments from the event last night:

Name: Jacinda
City/Neighborhood: DC/Dupont Circle
I accept that my comments, will be published online and in print as part of the public record. . . . And I am on email list.

Station 2:
What approach might we follow?
Of the case studies exhibited, London is the best model. This approach would provide many developing areas of the city the chance to create something unique, while still protecting the prominence of the National Mall.

Station 3:
Principle 1 -
What landmarks and monuments should be prominent?
The Washington Monument and the Capitol Building should become the benchmarks for potential sightlines as they are currently the only prominent structures under the current height restrictions. With many of the buildings around the National Mall all being built to the same height, there are few views available of these two structures currently.

Is it important for civic structures to define Washington’s future skyline?
If polled, you will find that the DC’s skyline consists of the Washington Monument, Capitol Building, and the Lincoln Memorial. The horizontal DC skyline has already hindered the views of most notable civic structures. Thus, the current height restrictions have already diminished the participation in a general DC skyline.

Should private buildings become prominent landmarks in Washington’s skyline?
Regardless of height, private buildings have become landmarks. Private developers can easily create unique critically acclaimed taller buildings that can become the next generation of DC landmarks.

Principle 2-
Can new taller buildings coexist with our skyline?
As I mentioned the current horizontal skyline only allows 2 structures to ultimately define DC’s skyline. The addition of taller buildings with proper zoning and sightlines can create a more dynamic DC skyline.

What does a “horizontal skyline” mean to you?
As a fan of architecture and a traveler I will say that the current horizontal skyline of DC is not appealing. If every other building on the street was a historic structure with varying forms of architecture, then the horizontal skyline may not be that bad. However, the current DC height restrictions have created near identical boxes that make me feel that DC architects and planners are forced to adhere to limited model of conformity. This makes the non-National Mall portions of DC feel devoid of an identity. And if parts of the city cannot find an identity, then it will become very hard to bring people to work or live in other areas. As an outsider coming into the city, I will say that DC’s neighbor Arlington is doing a great job in creating multiple prominent areas within the city that are attracting businesses and residents.

Principle 4
How should building heights relate to: Major parks and natural features?
To me, parks and public spaces are more defined by their landscaping, accessibility, and features rather than the structures around them. Well placed and thought-out trees and artwork will make you forget that there is a 20 story building across the street.

Other Considerations
No one will deny that some height restrictions will remain in place for those high-security areas.

Traffic is a problem that all densely populated cities. Rush hour and event traffic in DC could benefit from other programs such as timing street lights for cars, more Metro stops, and other DC/VA/MD mass transportation projects.

Regardless of building height, the city will have to be the champion for low income housing and work with the private sector to push this initiative forward.

Many federal agencies have already moved and are planning to move to Virginia and Maryland. The FBI is the latest high profile agency that will leave DC in the near future. The agencies are not moving to skyscrapers; however they are moving to dynamic structures that make their employees feel better about coming to work. The new generation of federal buildings in Virginia and Maryland are green, have unique architecture, and have higher floor to ceiling heights that appeal to open workspaces and flexible floor plans.

Tourism can only be enhanced with the addition of zones of taller buildings. Foremost there would be opportunities for more hotel rooms which would help drive down some of the DC hotel costs, thus making vacations, conventions, sporting events, and concerts more appealing.

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  —Jacinda L. Collins, PE, LEED Green Associate, Washington, DC (June 05, 2013)
I am opposed to increasing the height limits in DC. We are a beautiful city, and any proposal to increase height limits will be a detriment to our environment. This city caters to developers already. Green space is being taken over by apartment buildings. We don't need or want our air space and. . . sky views also taken over.

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  —Jackie Young, Washington, DC Ward 5 (May 08, 2013)
Instead of extending height limits in this distinct capital city, the District would be wise to support improvements in neglected neighborhoods. Rather than recreating Crystal City on iconic K Street, commit to revitalizing gateway avenues, as former Mayor Williams promised. New residents are settling in still fairly affordable neighborhoods near gateway avenues. Rhode Island Avenue, near. . . where I live, presents many economically viable opportunities to serve old and new. We're hungry for vibrant neighborhoods.

The erstwhile NCRC was charged with revitalization of underserved neighborhoods. Now that the task is in DMPED and OP, we urge you to steer development investments away from taller, bigger buildings, maintain height limits in the Nation's Capital, and invest in stabilizing and reenergizing neighborhoods.

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  —Jane Huntington, Washington, DC (July 10, 2013)
Very impressed with the quality and content of the English and German speakers at the Archives, creating a good international context from which Washington can move forward. Before the presentations, I felt Washington's beauty and uniqueness was primarily due to its horizontal skyline. I now am more open to a sensitive exploration to varying. . . heights.

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  —Jeffrey Levine, Washington, DC (March 19, 2013)
As a resident of DC I urge the study to recommend that the height limits remain in place. The lack of skyscrapers gives DC a distinctive feel which is beloved by the residents and remembered fondly by tourists. Removing these limits would change the characters of neighborhoods and put more stress on our transit. . . systems.

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  —Jennifer Henderson, Washington, DC (May 09, 2013)
As an architect and student of urban design worldwide, I support the preservation of Washington as a horizontally oriented city, with the current height limit or only minor revision.

Washington is unique in the United States - and uniquely wonderful - because of the height limit. We are only now seeing the benefits of that. . . limit as it encourages redevelopment in new corners of the city, rather than isolated in particular areas.

From an aesthetic standpoint, one only need look across the river to Rosslyn to see how taller heights have yielded unattractive, disconnected development lacking urban cohesion. Similarly, in Paris, La Defense is a cacophony of inhumanity, adjacent to the beloved lower-scale neighborhoods of Paris. In Berlin -- another excellent city for comparison -- the taller developments at Potsdamer Platz are more humane than La Defense, but still lack the connectedness and walkable appeal of Berlin's more uniformly scaled urban fabric. As you have identified, Barcelona is a superb example of a continuous horizontal city, with important civic and cultural facilities serving as exclamation points piercing the skyline.

Finally, I offer a more technical word of caution: in considering the height, be aware of how the allowable height interrelates with building codes and construction economics. There are thresholds at which buildings somewhat "automatically" change in character due to the construction technologies and market economics of the materials and methods which work at a given size.

In sum, please do not feel obligated to pander to short term financial interests--or any short term interests--but rather the long-term development and maintenance our our beautiful national capital.

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  —Jeremy Fretts, Alexandria, VA (July 23, 2013)
Washington is such a lovely city, I do not understand why we would want to change it for some canyons of concrete and glass. Once this has started here is no turning back.

  —John Bergin, Capital Hill (April 12, 2013)
We need to preserve the height act in Washington. All one needs to do is compare our city to Paris, where height restrictions are in force, and realize that scale and cross city monument views are worth preserving here too. Keeping business and residential heights as they are today preserves the views of our cities landmarks,. . . not just from the windows of the best hotels, but from apartments and schools across the city. It isn't just a question of preserving sight lines down our beautifully designed avenues its also about preserving sight lines from one neighborhood to another. From the Soldiers Home to National Cathedral to Healey Tower to the Islamic Center of Washington, our city has monumental landmarks that have been enjoyed by all for over a century. These monumental views for all citizens are a benefit of the popular democracy that our national monuments celebrate. It is the greed of a few that will be satisfied by altering our height restrictions here. And it will be a blow to the egalitarian spirit of our national city if developers are able to block out the views of less advantaged residents in order to provide ever higher, broader and, eventually,cramped views of our monumental core.

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  —John Feeley, Brookland (July 08, 2013)
I live in NW DC near Logan Circle. I would not be opposed to easing height restriction East of the Anacostia River. The "Anacostia" area has a lot of natural advantages--mainly spectacular views from many neighborhoods of the monumental core of DC. Imagine if developers could build taller buildings -- there would be. . . some highly prized views which would enhance the value of development in that area.

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  —John Hines, Washington, DC (March 10, 2013)
Please see the attached comments.

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  —Judy Scott Feldman, Rockville, Maryland (July 12, 2013)
The Urban Land Institute recently wrote an eloquent piece on the proposal to change the Height Act, a copy of which is attached. They state and I agree that we should “build better, not just bigger” the success of the character of our city, as it is today, should dictate any change rather than a plan. . . to increase density which may or may not increase the supply of affordable housing.
The character of the nation’s capital should indeed shape all new development. The “better” should include parking near all means of mass transit. The statistics show that our intermodal population tends to drive to their preferred means of transportation and those who walk must have a place to park their cars.
The Zoning Rewrite not only does not take into consideration the intermodal nature of the residents. In a transit zone such as Tenleytown all alternative parking minimums for the future have been eliminated.

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  —Juliet Six, Tenleytown (July 08, 2013)
As frequent visitors to our nation's capital city we are most concerned about the proposed abandonment of the long-standing height limits in DC. We have always admired the sense of open-ness and grandeur that is produced by the lower-profile mandated in the City and are horrified that this may change. PLEASE DON'T DO. . . THIS!

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  —Karen Votava, Wakefield RI (July 07, 2013)
The low-rise scale of DC's skyline has created beautiful open streetscapes; wide, sunny parks; and a walkable and vibrant city. Taller buildings will require more complex energy and transportation infrastructure that the city isn't ready for, and I want see DC kept the way it is. Isn't anybody thinking about sustainability?

  —Kelsey S, Sydney, Australia (July 23, 2013)
All of us want neighborhoods where we can raise our children and feel a sense of community. I support 5-6 story row homes in neighborhoods regardless of the width of the street in front of the building. This would allow homes (for example a row home divided into 2 units--a 3 level and 2. . . level, or moderate size condo buildings) with ample space for those who would otherwise move their families to, e.g., Arlington or Silver Spring, while also allowing a decent increase in the density of the neighborhood (which would, in turn, support more local businesses and services, increasing the quality of life for all).

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  —Kevin, Washington, DC (June 27, 2013)
If you are against altering the height limit then you are basically saying that it's ok that DC's rents are so egregiously high and that the traffic is terrible. I'm sorry, no skyline or community character is worth such costs. It's completely unfair for people who have lived here longer to shut the door on newcomers. . . who can barely afford the prices in DC and are sick of the traffic.

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  —Kevin Waskelis, Washington, DC (May 14, 2013)
There is PLENTY of room for development and population growth in DC without raising the height limit. Compare density in Adams Morgan or U St/Columbia Heights with places like Historic Anacostia and Minnesota Ave. Look at the empty real estate in Brentwood, Edgewood, Brookland and Fort Totten. Midrise development near these and other stations east of. . . North Capitol could accommodate tens of thousands of housing units.

With the limit in place, this city previously housed over 800,000 people - nearly 30% more people than live here now. And there is potential for more than that within existing building codes. Further, we're already about to see a glut of apartments coming on the market in the next year. Let's see what impact that has on housing affordability before we rush to become New York (which, in case you hadn't noticed, isn't exactly affordable).

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  —Kristen, Washington, DC (May 02, 2013)
I support higher rise buildings especially near metrostops. maybe it will bring down the cost of housing slightly, and it makes a lot of sense to creat density near metro. P.S. I live in a single family rowhouse - but not everyone can afford that or should want that.

  —Lasse van Essen, U street, NW DC (May 14, 2013)
Paris has always made a point of protecting its core historic corridor by directing height increases outside of the central business district. This creates a beautiful viewshed along the Champs-Elysees and preserves the symbolic character of the city while allowing for skyscrapers and economic vitality. DC can certainly model itself in a similar manner, and I. . . think it should in order to remain competitive with the surrounding suburbs.

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  —Lea Cavat, Paris, France (July 23, 2013)

I am unable to make one of the public meetings, but wanted to submit feedback on the study. Please do not change the height act limits. I think that the current limits promote redevelopment in the city by pushing real estate development into underutilized areas. For example, redevelopment of the St. Elizabeth's Campus. . . would likely be halted if developers could build 100 story skyscrapers on K st. Leaving the height limits as is will ensure the city continues to grow and expand into new areas.

I love this city and think the height act positively contributes to our city's image and broad appeal. Please do not change it!

Thank you!

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  —Lilly Shoup, Washington DC (July 19, 2013)
I strongly object to raising the height limits in Washington DC. 1. It destroys the vista of the city. I have visited Philadelphia a number of times. Even though one view shed up the avenue was preserved, the Penn building is now diminished by the new buildings towering around it. And. . . the enjoyable pedestrian scale has been altered for the worse. The whole view shed needs to be preserved.
2. it destroys the historic nature of DC. DC has always been a more low rise residential city than industrial. Early maps show small townhouses downtown. Whether new buildings are residential or commercial, the character of the city will be changed if higher buildings are allowed.

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  —Linda Lawson, Washington DC (July 10, 2013)

As you and your colleagues move forward on the Height Act study, I’d ask —
• Can NCPC/OP produce a diagram of widths of rights of way?
o If so, can that “width” be associated with every property shape that it abuts, thereby allowing a determination and visualization of what the Height Act would. . . allow (from the most permissive frontage)? IF so, then a diagram of Height Act can be produced and even overlaid with limitations that zoning now imposes, often less but sometimes more (see below) that is ”lost” to the greater restriction of the Act of 1910.
o At the same time, where rights of way are less than 90 feet, the Act limits building heights to the width of the right of way. What rights of way are less than 90 feet? Maybe this should be in increasingly restrictive decrements: 90-80, 70s, 60s, 50s, 40s, under 40?
• Where In DC is the Height Act’s limit more restrictive than that allowed in Zoning (classic example being where height limit is stated as the same, but parapets height is counted in Height Act but not in zoning (up to 4 feet)? What about differences in the point from which “height” is measured?
• Should there be a relief provision from Height Act limitations as a kind of variance?
• In what areas of the District is Height Act the sole limitation (many receiving zones, perhaps elsewhere)?
Going beyond these, the question of right of way widths is one that also informs where visualizations should occur. Remarks noted that this would include such icons as Pennsylvania Avenue. I would look for this along all rights of way that are 110 feet or more, these being where Height Act allows (if commercial) 130. I would particularly think that visualizations along K Street from Mt. Vernon square to Rock creek (148’) would be important, as well as other 160’ rights of way such as Maryland and nearly all of Virginia Avenue (both of which feature railroad tracks, often elevated, in portions of the r.o.w. at this time). Widths can be unsettled where multiple rights of way abut, as they do where freeway slices thru the area with flanking service lanes or sections of older L’Enfant streets; South Capitol where the interstate ramps exist is another that is particularly wide, wider than it is from about I Street south to the bridge. Finally, other than L’Enfant plaza and the SW Urban renewal plan, are there other areas where there is a “special” measuring point? Returning to visualizations, I would think some should be along particularly narrow rights of way as well, of which there are many in Adams Morgan and pockets of other often historic locations around the District.

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  —Lindsley Williams, Washington, DC (June 07, 2013)
Please keep the height limitations as they are because we have a unique beautiful city. DO NOT RAISE THE HEIGHT!!!!

  —Lisa Dunner, Bethesda (July 09, 2013)
I'm pro height rise building. It would make the city look more attractive, and a city of the 21 century. DC height rise restriction makes the city look antique and boring.

  —Manuel Casas, Washington, DC (May 30, 2013)
I wish to ask that you hold the line on the present height limits. In the first place, the lower limits on height give DC a lovely skyline – and in the second place, the limits actually allow us citizens of Washington, Dc to see the sky! Already in my small neighborhood – near a Metrorail. . . station in which there is much development going on – some of our iconic neighborhood views have been destroyed – obliterated by the proliferation of tall, ugly buildings. I know the value of being able to actually see the sky and enjoy a reasonable vista – I am from Manhattan – New York city – I love DC because it is not filled with skyscrapers and because one can actually see the horizon, at least from certain vantage points. In this highly automated culture, it is important to connect with Nature – the view of the sky – dawn, sunset – stars and moon – are a gift to us all – they help bring peace and healing to our often troubled minds and spirits. Bricks and concrete do not. Less height is a small step in the right direction.

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  —Mary Elizabeth Kenel, Washington, DC (Brookland/Michigan Park/Catholic University) (May 10, 2013)
The Height Act restrictions on heights of buildings in Washington, D.C. should remain as stated in the Act not because change is unwanted but because this restriction of long ago has created a city of human scale which is beloved by the nation. This is not just for the downtown or the monumental core. This. . . restriction should remain for all of Washington, D.C. because it preserves the views and vistas which are cherished and sorely lacking in other big cities.
This horizontal city of great buildings and great vistas is an American treasure.

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  —mary pat rowan, Washington, DC (July 08, 2013)
The current height restrictions are terrible for our city. Additional height should be allowed on major arteries (Wisconsin Ave, 16th Street, Connecticut Ave, etc) and specifically around metro stations. Further, any height restriction outside the immediate vicinity of the monuments makes no sense.

  —Matt Sloan, Washington DC (U Street Coridor) (May 13, 2013)
(Via Twitter) @NCPCgov @OPinDC at 103 yrs old I'd say its about time for DCHoBA to grow up and start taking some responsibility for its actions! #heightdc

  —Matthew Steenhoek , Washignton, DC (June 03, 2013)
Get rid of the height limit and allow developers to build as tall as possible. We need more density and more housing.

  —Max Bergmann, Washington DC (May 14, 2013)
I am opposed to any change in the Height Act. It has served DC well to create a beautiful and distinctive city with sufficient density and diversity to sustain a high level of economic development and an exceptional quality of community and civic life.

Developers want to raise the limit and are. . . putting great pressure on Congress, NCPC and OP to relentt. But if the Act is modified, it will open a floodgate of new developer demands that neither NCPC, OP nor the Zoning Commission can possibly control.

Experts on urban development -- Larry Beasley, Kaid Benfield, Ed McMahon and others -- have warned the city not to go down this road. Surely the leaders of NCPC and OP will not wish their legacy to be a city whose skyline was punctured and irreparably altered on their watch.

You are the stewards, not the executioners, of the goose that has laid a very precious golden egg!!

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  —Meg Maguire, Washington, DC (July 03, 2013)
NCPC and OP: "Best practices" need to address more than just economics. As Michael Mehaffy, a Portland, OR resident, points out in the attached article (http://bettercities.net/news-opinion/blogs/michael-mehaffy/14138/more-low-down-tall-buildings), "More Low Down on Tall Buildings:"

"The research shows that negative effects of tall buildings include:

Increasingly high embodied energy of steel and. . . concrete per floor area, with increasing height;

Relatively inefficient floorplates due to additional egress requirement;

Less efficient ratios of common walls and ceilings to exposed walls/ceilings (compared to a more low-rise, "boxier" multi-family form — as in, say, central Paris);

Significantly higher exterior exposure to wind and sun, with higher resulting heat gain/loss;

Challenges of operable windows and ventilation effects above about 30 stories
Diseconomies of vertical construction systems, resulting in higher cost per usable area (not necessarily offset by other economies — these must be examined carefully);

Limitations of typical lightweight curtain wall assemblies (there are efforts to address this, but many are unproven);

Challenge of maintenance and repair (in some cases these require high energy and cost);

Psychological effects on residents — evidence shows there is reason for concern, especially for families with children;

Effects on adjoining properties:
Ground wind effects
Shading issues (especially for other buildings)
Heat island effects — trapping air and heating it, placing increased demand on cooling equipment
"Canyon effects" — trapping pollutants, reducing air quality at the street
Social effects — "vertical gated community" syndrome, social exclusion, lack of activation of the street
Psychological effects for pedestrians and nearby residents. This depends greatly on the aesthetics of the building, but there is research to show that a novel design that falls out of fashion (which history shows is difficult to predict) can significantly degrade the experience of the public realm and quality of place. This in turn has a major effect on sustainability."

Everyone concerned about the Height of Buildings Act should read this article in its entirety and then judge the work of NCPC and OP against well-regarded research findings summarized by the author.

Meg Maguire

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  —Meg Maguire, Washington, DC (July 08, 2013)
It saddens me to think that our lovely city may one day look like New York City and we will not be abe to see the sight of day. If someone likes the idea of sky scrapers he/she should consider moving elsewhere. Or stick to Arlington or Silver Spring. Look at Philadelphia and while once. . . they had a lovely skyline but it was destroyed when sky scrapers started over shadowing their lovely historical buildings. I hope this never happens to our nations capital which was so expertly planned and which visitors from around the world flock to enjoy because of its lovely buildings and monuments.

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  —Michelle Green, Washington, DC (April 17, 2013)
I grew up here and chose to move back to DC because of the human scale of the buildings and the character of the city that is created by the longlasting preservation of height and scale. Washington , DC is moving in the wrong direction with easing the height restrictions and over-developing this city beyond. . . what the infrastructure and the human psyche can handle. I echo other's comments that if I wanted no sunlight, wind tunnels for sidewalks, and an impersonal feeling city, I would live somewhere else like New York City so I could feel stressed out everyday like a New Yorker. I don't understand why people first move here because of the character and liveability and then want to change it.

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  —Michelle J, Washington, DC (April 17, 2013)
Low lying areas east of and below the Anacostia Ridge should be examined, especially around the Southern Ave Metro. Views from the western ridge of Rock Creek Park should be respected.

  —Mike Jelen (March 19, 2013)
One of my favorite things about Washington is the open skyline character. Not having a lot of tall buildings lets the city feel more open and less congested. The lower buildings also make it possible to see the monuments from different points in the city. Both of these aspects enhance the appeal of the. . . city and people do notice.

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  —moogmar, Washington, DC (May 13, 2013)
The characteristic of DC as compared with most other cities that you can't tell the difference from one to the other is the lack of skyscraper buildings. This is noticeable when you fly into Reagan National Airport or when you are standing downtown in the middle of the city. This city is beautiful in its simplicity. . . and is unique in the country.
Please do not think of caving in to developers who are only interested in money and profit from change- nothing else!

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  —Nancy C Wischnowski, Chevy Chase, DC (May 09, 2013)
As long as there are blighted areas and vacant lots, as well as flat parking lots, how can we justify obscuring and/or diminuizing the capitol building and the Federal areas with taller buildings? And as far as afforable housing goes, Washington, D.C. is not an affordable city. There will never be affordable housing for people. Raising. . . the height requirement will only pave the way for the demolition of more older buildings (of greater construction quality) and the creation of larger condo and office buildings. Yes, perhaps the government will build taller buildings for public housing, etc., but what good will that do? Public and affordable housing should be smaller scale and mixed into areas rather than being in one massive complex (i.e. the poor section/the affordable section). NO.

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  —Oscar Beisert, Washington, D.C. (July 09, 2013)
The record should reveal insights from Federal capitals, including Ottawa, Canberra, and Brazilia; and major cities in the U.S. (Chicago, Denver, Houston, Baltimore and Philadelphia); and beyond (Shanghai, the "Houston of Heights" -- no restrictions, total central control, no citizen input, no ANCs, no City Council that is not within Party control, etc.) In effect,. . . a summary not only of "Practices" but analysis and conclusions against the core principles to lay-out potential "Best Practices to Support the Core Principles."

It is important to review the context in which the Height Act of 1910 was adopted, shortly after elevators were common -- and when most aerial views would have been from natural promontories or hot air balloon.

The threat to which the 1910 Act responded was unchecked verticality that would, over time, block the views of (and from) significant federal places: Congress, Washington Monument, etc. The Act imposed a 130 ft limit, less where streets were narrower. The Act did not contemplate setbacks (other than roof structures) for allowing tiers of additional height -- something taller buildings in would come to utilize (notably the Empire State building). Tiered height can allow views that are meaningful and respectful that would not be the same if there were an extensive visual barrier brought about by flanking buildings of essentially the same height from one to another and occupying most of all of their parcel.

The Lewis plan of the 1950's introduced not only the concept of bulk (reflected as floor area ratio, among other things.) The Lewis Plan also articulated "Federal Interest" whose thoughts remain timely. For one, Lewis noted the value of the Commission on Fine Arts as a way in which to promote overall design of federal projects.
The Lewis plan proposed controls on density that were adopted and proposed taller buildings in various zones - limited to not unduly obstruct light from reaching the areas around them, with controls on something the plan called "angle of light obstruction." This part of the plan was rejected when most other parts were adopted. This lesson is more relevant to District as they consider respective amendments to the Comp Plan and zoning.

The study should make explicit the vast increase in human occupancy of roofs. Roofs were an attractive and economical place to toss utilities, and the views from rooftops of the past looking over American cities, including Washington, was filled with mechanical clutter. Now, such areas are limited in total area (percent), setbacks, and typically screened. But, increasingly roof amenities create and exploit value that was ignored in the past, particularly when blended with green features. Revisions to the 1910 Act, (as well as, eventually, the Comp Plan and zoning), should identify unintended barriers to such benefits.

The most ambitious part of the effort is the pace proposed -- delivering recommendations to Congress this Fall.

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  —P. P. Campbell, Jr., Washington, DC (May 17, 2013)
The vast preponderance of regulations have rules that are more or less clear and, importantly, a relief valve. In zoning and building codes, there is a process to seek a "variance" of some kind from a body (BZA) or ranking official ("code official"). For the Height Act, there is none.

What if. . . — at least outside the L'Enfant area an authority were created to allow variances from the Act, be it otherwise left as is or as modified. This would be in keeping with the functions of the Zoning Commission (created 10 years after the Height Act) as it is now constituted, with hefty Federal representation and input. Height Act variance cases could be heard by the ZC (as it does with campus plans, and there could be a mandatory referral of any Height Act valance to not only NCPC (as with Foreign Missions) but also the Commission on Fine Arts (at least where it has jurisdiction).

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  —P. P. Campbell, Jr., Washington, DC (May 17, 2013)
As to terms and provisions, I would also like to see how seemingly similar provisions of the Height Act and the present Zoning and other development codes can trip up expectations of developers and residents alike. For example, the height of a parapet counts under Height Act and doesn't (if four feet or less). . . in zoning. What are allowed roof structures under both? Etc. This is a question the Senate's sitting representative to NCPC asked when the Height Act study was introduced earlier this year; it's worth addressing in the present endeavors.

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  —P. P. Campbell, Jr., Washington, DC (May 17, 2013)
I just wanted to compliment you on your site, "Height Master Plan for Washington, DC." It is well designed. But, most important, it has given space to very thoughtful and articulate discussion of the topic. I'm looking at you from the Virginia side of the Potomac, and I'm very proud of both your. . . facilitation of this discussion and the content of the contributing public. Thank you.

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  —Patricia Duecy, McLean, VA (April 19, 2013)
I am a landscape architect and city planner, and former program director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The argument that the city of Washington needs to compete with the suburbs by lifting the height limit is illogical. Washington's population is growing and current trends (not just here but nationally) show a return. . . to urban centers by youth. The intense construction currently underway in the city does not suggest a liability caused by the height limit. The view of "us vs. them" in terms of competition with the suburbs is a parochial--we are a single capital region (as well articulated when the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission was established in 1927). Builders and developers will always want more, and will always place immediate goals and personal gain over the long term dignity and beauty of our unique capital. A CITY SKYLINE CLUTTERED WITH CRANES and a rising population is a POOR ARGUMENT for hardship and need for a change in height--in fact it is the opposite. Maintain the historic height limits--the law has created a desirable environment that is good for building.

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  —Paul Daniel Marriott, Washington, DC (July 08, 2013)
I fully support increasing the height limit in DC to the maximal extent possible. A more dense city will Increase affordability for the many people who want to live in DC and those who already do, make better use of our strong mass transit system and make that system more productive, and allow for more efficient. . . development plans. DC is one of the great cities in the country, and should build so that more people can live here, to limit the sprawl that will occur if we don't build denser, and, as a great city, we deserve buildings that are taller than those found in even modest-sized towns in the Midwest.

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  —Peter Gehred, Washington, DC (July 20, 2013)
I'm often in DC on business. One of the things I love about DC is its relatively human scale--no ridiculously tall and overpowering buildings so that the true and human scale of the people's capital is always apparent. The last thing anyone needs to do with DC is turn it into just another city riddled with. . . tall buildings. That would destroy the lovely landscape that is there now.

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  —Peter Hugill, College Station TX (July 04, 2013)
Please don't change the height limitations! We have an incredibly beautiful city precisely BECAUSE of the height limitations. Let's keep it that way. DON'T RAISE THE HEIGHT!!!

  —Rhegina Sinozich, Silver Spring, MD (July 09, 2013)
Following are talking points that I developed for a meeting on the Height Master Plan scheduled for Tuesday, July 9,at 5:30 p.m. at the National Trust Headquarters here in DC. My personal impression is that this Height Master Plan is on a fast track given the fact that NCPC and DCOP plan to have legislation. . . ready to forward to Congress this fall. Also, absent a position that rejects any change at all, it's difficult to make other recommendations until the various height options are ready for review at the end of July or the first of August.

• During the past 200-plus years the growth and development of the District of Columbia, our nation’s capital, has been guided by the 1791 L’Enfant Plan for the City of Washington as executed by Andrew Ellicott; the 1901 McMillan Plan, which reinvigorated the L’Enfant Plan; and the 1993 Extending the Legacy Plan for the nation’s capital developed by the National Capital Planning Commission. Since 1910, the height of buildings in Washington, DC, has been guided by a formula of street width to building height.
• These plans are symbolic of not only our national life, but of how the federal government is supposed to function.
• As a result of the above, but especially the federally-enacted 1910 Height of Buildings Act, Washington has developed into a horizontal city unlike any other in the United States. That horizontality is broken by such significant federal structures as the US Capitol and its dome and the Washington Monument. Thus, the Washington skyline is unique, iconic, and recognizable throughout the world.
• Both the DC Comprehensive Plan and the Federal element of ithave design elements that emphasize the horizontal character of the city.
• NCPC, now tasked with reviewing the 1910 Height of Buildings Act(along with DC’s Office of Planning) by Congressman Darrell Issa , Chair of the House of Representatives’ Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is the drafter of that Federal element of the DC Comprehensive Plan.
• Washington as a future city began its existence in a topographic bowl. During the past 100 years the existing federal height legislation served to retain unimpeded views to and from the upper edge of the geographic formation.
• Because of this legacy and because Washington is the capital of the United States it does not have to look like every other city in the land with a skyline punctuated w by skyscrapers.
• Mayor Gray and Rep. Darrell Issa have talked about Washington’s building height limit restrictions as early as April 2012, per a Washington Post article by Tim Craig, entitled “The District’s political odd couple: Vincent Gray and Darrell Issa,” dated April 19, 2012.

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  —Richard Byusch, District of Columbia (July 08, 2013)
In studying the Height Act, an open process and intellectual honesty are needed. Rather, developers, politicians, the same outspoken density advocates, and the Office of Planning are dominating the process. They all say that density and height are the key to a “more vibrant” city. Skidmore, Owings, an architecture firm that designs. . . skyscrapers worldwide and has DC developer clients, has been hired to opine that material modifications to the Height Act will result in a better city. The conflicts of interest are astounding.
Regardless of why the Height Act was originally implemented, the impact has been a very airy, light-filled Washington that is quite unique versus other cities. The entire development pattern of DC was dictated by the Height Act, not just the areas near the memorials and downtown but everywhere across the city. In lower density wards, homes were built in very close proximity to limited height apartment buildings while still maintaining light and air. That adds charm and livability to many neighborhoods across the city that contrasts sharply with other cities. Raising heights in parts of the city even far from the core downtown can have disastrous impacts on the character of those areas.
The Height Act has already been chipped away over time via dishonest interpretation and enforcement of the Height Act that is contrary to the intent and literal language of the Act. So now 90-foot height limited residential neighborhoods, many newer buildings actually stand 100-120 feet tall from the widest street plus an 18.5 foot penthouse. Extra height means extra shadows for adjacent buildings. Even in peak sunlight hours during winter, a 90 foot building casts a shadow many times that far. Additional height would have significant impact on surrounding streets, buildings, and neighborhoods.

There are very limited, disciplined ways to modify the Height Act that wouldn't adversely affect the city, but broadly raising the height limits could have a grave, irreversible effect on DC. Do we really believe our local politicians and planners have the wisdom and discipline to resist further calls for height once the flood gates are open? Changes to the Height Act in any parts of the city should be studied long and hard with substantial resident input and opportunity for comment. Past generations’ wisdom gave DC its unique character. Let’s not ruin it in the blink of an eye.

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  —Richard Graham, Chevy Chase, DC (June 06, 2013)
Development in DC is out of control. Stop trying to turn this beautiful city into an eyesore like Crystal City. The Nation's Capital should be a shining example to others, not one more ugly temple of rampant greed. Keep the Height Limit!

  —Richard Senerchia, Washington DC (July 08, 2013)
The building height limit is an integral aspect of the District’s ambience and its real estate market. There is substantial demand for living and working space in and around the District. The height limit constrains development. Thus, the price for office and residential space is higher than it otherwise would be. . . because the height limit restricts the size of buildings.

At the same time, the height limit has reduced land values to the extent that a market exists for development in excess of what the height limit allows. In other words, there might be demand for office space to fill a 20-story office building near Metro Center. But no developer will pay a price for land near Metro Center based on the income from a 20-story office building because such a building is not permitted. Therefore, developers will only pay for land based on the income that could be derived from an office building allowed by current height law and zoning. (Demand for office or residential space that cannot be accommodated in the Downtown fuels land price increases and development in suburban areas such as Bethesda, Arlington and Tysons Corner.)

If the District relaxed the height limit in any part of the District where the market demand for space exceeded the supply allowed under the existing height limit, two things would happen:
1. The price of land would increase because potential development (and therefore the potential income) for each piece of land would increase. (In fact, land prices might even rise in anticipation of this change.) Thus, this publicly-created land value could result in a tremendous windfall to private landowners – many of whom are very affluent and absentee.
2. Some properties would be redeveloped to take advantage of the new height limits and this would increase the supply of built space. This would tend to reduce rents but higher land values would also be factored into the rents. Therefore, it is unlikely that residential or commercial prices or rents would decline, unless a “value capture” strategy was pursued simultaneously to relaxing the height limit.

A value capture strategy would entail reducing the property tax rate on building values while increasing the tax rate on land values. The lower rate on buildings would make them cheaper to build, improve and maintain. The higher tax rate on land values would return publicly-created land values to the public and help keep land prices down by reducing the speculative demand for land.

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  —Rick Rybeck, Washington, DC (May 08, 2013)
My initial reaction to any proposal to relax DC's building height limits is that this would be a very bad idea which, sooner or later and regardless of any safeguards that may be included, will lead to the destruction of what is arguably a unique cityscape in the United States, for a city of comparable. . . size. One only needs to look across the river to the urban disaster that is Rosslyn (or indeed, any other city in Virginia--a state which apparently eschews urban planning) to understand what the possibilities might be.
Thoughtful commentators like Roger Lewis have recently argued in favor of some relaxation of the rules, clearly envisaging some strategic intensification of development around metro stops. But it is almost certain that high rise development, once allowed to get its foot in the door, in the longer term, will inexorably spread and progressively destroy what is unique about the city.
This is a city with a long history of corruption and incompetence. The more freedom city managers and elected representatives are given to influence the look and fabric of the city, the worse it will get.
Finally, one cannot help wondering what has prompted Congressman Issa, a man not entirely free from shadows of his own, to initiate these inquiries. I have carefully reviewed the background materials provided but can find no explanation. It would seem to me that, at the very least, Congressman Issa should explain himself. This is a man of limited experience as an elected representative who, as far as I am aware, has never served in state or local government and has no apparent record of published opinion on matters related to city planning either in this city or in his constituency near San Diego. Nevertheless, he seems to have experienced some kind of conversion on the road to Damascus that has prompted him to launch ostensibly detailed and no doubt expensive inquiries into a question that has not been of any obvious contention in the 25 years I have been resident in this city and which, indeed, has served the city well for 200 years.
I think that the congressman, at the very least, owes everybody concerned a detailed explanation.

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  —Robert Crooks, Washington, DC (May 09, 2013)
It was nice meeting at the DC Height Master Plan public meeting. It was great to learn more about the National Capital Planning Commission's and the D.C. Office of Planning's joint effort to study the impacts of the D.C. Height Law.

I also enjoyed how interactive the meeting was and having the chance. . . to offer some input as a long-time D.C. resident and an Urban Planner. As I mentioned yesterday, at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University I wrote a term paper on the D.C. Height Act for my Planning Law class. That paper is attached.

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  —Sarah Gutschow, Washington, DC (May 21, 2013)
Just look across the river to VA and see why we do not want to spoil our city scape with tall buildings. It will become just like any other big city with less green space, not view of the sky and our wonderful monuments, more traffic etc. No to any change in the current. . . law.

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  —Sharon Bernier, Washington, DC (July 10, 2013)
Here in Philly, we used to impose a height rule, but relaxing that rule has contributed greatly to our skyline. It's important to respect the history of the city, but as other commentators have noted, taller buildings would create more cost-effective living.

  —Stefanie Y. , Philadelphia, PA (July 23, 2013)
In order to remain competitive with adjacent jurisdictions, the District of Columbia should judiciously select portions of the District outside the historic L'Enfant plan to raise the height limitations. The high-rise buildings in Rosslyn negate any argument that higher limits would contribute to the degradation of the Federal presence in the center of the city.. . . Outside the L'Enfant plan and historic districts are several nodes or corridors that would benefit from high rise structures. As a corridor example: all of the south side of New York Avenue from the Amtrak rail crossing to the Arboretum. As a node example, a new Metro Green Line infill station at St. Elizabeth's campus.

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  —Thomas Taylor, Judiciary Square (May 16, 2013)
The strength and quality of our character is
one of our greatest assets as individuals and as a country.
Our Capital in Washington is unique in its planning and architectural
character. Even as change is both inevitable and valuable, in such circumstances it must be done with extreme care.
As we consider our future we. . . must strive to intensify our best qualities. In the case of Washington DC first and foremost is the way by which
air or by foot, the great institutions that define our country, define our skyline. No other city of stature can lay claim
to such an ideal.

We must respect standards that have withstood such tests of time.
Respectfully submitted,

Tod Williams Billie Tsien

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  —Tod Williams , New York City (July 03, 2013)
We should follow Paris’s lead. L’Enfant used Paris as a principal inspiration in designing Washington, of course, so why not follow them in this endeavor as well, especially since (1) they’ve long had height restrictions similar to ours, and (2) they’ve recently (about three years ago) modified their own restrictions to allow for much higher. . . rooflines in certain arrondisements. See here: http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-product-design/newly-freed-from-height-limits-paris-skyline-ready-to-rise.html

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  —Tony Varona, Chevy Chase, MD (May 10, 2013)
Washington, D.C. should not look like New York City or any other city with skyscrapers. It should maintain its character with building below the height of the U.S. Capitol. Increasing the density and height of buildings only serves to increase social and economic impacts associated with more buildings and structures. Further, as the. . . nation's corner stone of democracy, it was well planned to support clear thinking without added congestion and security issues to the nation's governance.

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  —Veronica Raglin, Washington, D.C. (April 21, 2013)
Comments provided on behalf of the Association of the Oldest Inhabitants of the District Columbia by William N. Brown, President:

The 1910 Height Act has guaranteed the low-profile cityscape of the District of Columbia for over 100 years and has made the District of Columbia unique among the major cities of the world with its. . . distinctive skyline.

The 1910 Height Act has been called the Third Dimension of the L’Enfant Plan. President George Washington issued the first building height regulations for the city on Oct 17, 1791, concerned as much about structural and fire safety as about urban design. While Washington’s regulations were suspended from June 25, 1796 until 1800, Thomas Jefferson extended the suspension until 1904 but personally hoped the new capital would emulate Paris with buildings “low & convenient, and the streets light and airy.”

There is a sense that development pressures are fostering modifications to the Act; however, the District has just recently achieved its short-term goal of a resident population of 600,000 but it is nowhere near the all-time high of 899,000 in 1946. Let us encourage reasonable development within the current limits of the Height Act in blighted, underutilized areas of the city before we tamper with something that will forever change the character of the District of Columbia.

As Vancouver, B.C. Planner Larry Beasley warned in his presentation to the NCPC in 2010: “Take care not to open things up too casually. I dare say, those height limits may be the single most powerful thing that has made this city so amazingly fulfilling.”

As Washington’s oldest civic organization, the Association of the Oldest Inhabitants is dedicated to preserving the District’s heritage through member reminiscences as well as preserving and promoting both the L’Enfant and McMillan Plans.

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  —William Brown, Washington, DC (July 10, 2013)
I am a strong advocate for easily but selectively granting major exemptions to the DC height limit--especially downtown or at the tops of hills where no other buildings would be disturbed. Check out any major world city--Paris is the best example: a uniform height limit with selective monumental structures here and there. Our. . . best example of a B- project and major lost opportunity is the collection of nice but unremarkable new buildings going up on the old Convention Center site.

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  —William Cline, 801 Pennsylvania Ave NW (July 19, 2013)