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Mayor Gray Announces Joint District-Federal Study of Height Act Restrictions on District’s Buildings

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Mayor Gray Announces Joint District-Federal Study of Height Act Restrictions on District’s Buildings

Height Master Plan Study to Examine Impacts of Height on Federal & Local Interests

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Mayor Vincent C. Gray today announced a joint Height Master Plan Study with the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) that will explore the impact of strategic changes to the federal Height of Buildings Act of 1910 (the Height Act), which limits building heights in the District.

The study was requested by Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who chairs of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) after a July 19 hearing on potential changes to the Height Act. Congressman Issa and Congresswoman Norton asked the District and NCPC to determine the extent to which the Height Act continues to serve the interests of both the federal and District governments.

“I welcome this collaboration with our federal partners on an important and strategic look at height in this city – the first such look in over 100 years,” said Mayor Gray. “The Height Act laid the groundwork for the District’s iconic and globally recognizable skyline. This study will evaluate whether reconsidered and possibly different limits to building heights might affect federal and other interests, preserve the District’s characteristic skyline, and continue to give prominence to the views of stately landmarks and monuments that grace the District of Columbia.”

In response to the House Oversight Committee’s request, the District and NCPC developed a joint proposal that will be guided by the following principles:

·  Ensuring the prominence of federal landmarks and monuments by preserving their views and setting;

·  Maintaining the horizontality of the monumental city skyline; and

·  Minimizing any negative impacts to nationally significant historic resources, including the L’Enfant Plan.

In addition to these principles, careful consideration will be given to the pedestrian and human scale of taller buildings as perceived from the street level. Additionally, the District and NCPC will seek to avoid recommendations that create federal security concerns and acknowledge federal security issues may preclude changes to the Height Act in specific locations.

“We are fortunate to have the legacy of the Height Act, which has so dramatically shaped the distinctive character of our capital city,” said NCPC Chairman L. Preston Bryant, Jr. “This study is an important step in protecting this legacy while also addressing future federal and local needs. It is essential for the study to be comprehensive and to identify and consider federal interests.”

The study is expected to launch in December, 2012, and the DC Office of Planning (OP) will lead the District’s efforts on the study in partnership with NCPC. OP and NCPC plan to submit the final recommendations from the study to the House Oversight Committee by September, 2013. The District will partner with NCPC to consult with key federal agencies and the public during the study process.

Study recommendations will be presented to NCPC prior to final submission to Congress. The Commission is composed of presidential appointees and representatives from the District, federal agencies and Congress.

The Height Act is a federal law that can be modified only through congressional action. Any changes to the law proposed by Congress will not pre-empt local decisions by the District government about whether and when any changes to building heights would occur. The District would undertake amendments to its Comprehensive Plan and initiate any zoning changes deemed appropriate through its normal processes (including substantial public input) to respond to any congressional modifications to the Height Act.