Federal government to study height restrictions on D.C. buildings

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A powerful member of Congress has authorized a study of the long-standing law that restricts the height of buildings in the District.

Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican and chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said the National Capital Planning Commission should team up with D.C. leaders to determine whether the Height Act of 1910 is still in the best interests of the federal and city governments. The act restricts city buildings — based on the width of the street they face — to a maximum height of 90 feet in residential areas and 130 feet in commercial zones, with a few exceptions. The law is frequently credited with preserving the distinctive charm of the nation’s capital and its sweeping vistas of memorials and monuments.

The study will get under way in December and report its findings to Mr. Issa’s committee by September.

Officials discussed possible changes during a hearing on Capitol Hill in July. Testimony focused on the best way to build out existing roof space for work and play and the potential financial benefit of a vertical expansion in the city’s real estate.

“This study will evaluate whether reconsidered and possible 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 monument that grace the District of Columbia,” Mayor Vincent C. Gray said Thursday.

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