Greater Greater Washington

Topic of the week: DC's height limit

As part of a new weekly series on Greater Greater Washington, we'll take a topic that is relevant in the week's news and allow our contributors to briefly weigh in on it. This week: proposed changes to DC's height limit.


Photo by NCinDC on Flickr.

Dan Malouff had a great post on the topic and there have been several stories featured in the Breakfast Links recently on the subject. Should DC keep its height limit, tweak it, or get rid of it all together? Are there possible consequences people aren't considering? Two of our contributors weigh in:

Canaan Merchant: I think the original reasons for it are outdated and the current arguments insufficient. That doesn't mean I think we will start digging foundations for skyscrapers on the Mall anytime soon. I think we can protect the things we like about the height limit by changing the argument from "why should we let this building be tall?" to "why shouldn't we let this building be tall?"

In his original post, Dan Malouff compares DC's height limit debate to Paris'. I would like to point out the lessons we can learn from London. London has a special neighborhood for high-rises at Canary Wharf, similar to Paris' La Defense or our own Rosslyn. But it has started building very tall buildings in central London as well because there is still a lot of demand there. In DC, demand will remain high for downtown office space as well, even if we do allow much taller buildings in areas like Friendship Heights or Poplar Point.

London hasn't stopped protecting its views either, like King Henry's Mound, a hill that is 10 miles away from St. Paul's Cathedral. In DC, we can do the same thing from some of our most famous viewing points while still allowing taller buildings in many other places as well.

Eric Fidler: One point that was largely absent from last Monday's DC Council hearing is that new housing exceeding the 130-foot height limit will produce more affordable housing thanks to DC's Inclusionary Zoning laws.

Critics often refute the supply-and-demand argument for greater heights by noting that all the new tall apartment buildings are expensive. That is true because new apartment buildings, like new clothes and new cars, can command a price premium over their older counterparts. Today's pricey, new buildings become tomorrow's discounted, "lived-in" buildings.

However, DC's Inclusionary Zoning law requires that new residential projects with more than 9 units set aside 8% or 10% of units for affordable housing.

Assuming Congress relaxes the Height Act, then DC amends the Comprehensive Plan, then the Zoning Commission amends the zoning text and map to create taller zones with higher height and FAR limits, these new, taller buildings will produce more Inclusionary Units. Think of it another way: 10% of a 22-story building is greater than 10% of a 13-story building.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Support us: Monthly   Yearly   One time
Greatest supporter—$250/year
Greater supporter—$100/year
Great supporter—$50/year
Or pick your own amount: $/year
Greatest supporter—$250
Greater supporter—$100
Great supporter—$50
Supporter—$20
Or pick your own amount: $
Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

Steven Yates grew up in Indiana before moving to DC in 2002 to attend college at American University. He currently lives in Southwest DC.  

Comments

Add a comment »

I agree with Dan Malouff's great post and development vision (e.g., target development only where we want it, incentivize residential building downtown and office building uptown, require good architecture, preserve historic facades, etc.). The fallacy in his post is that changing the Height Act is not what's needed to accomplish these things. We have the tools to accomplish these things now, just not the city-wide political will.

by Caroline Petti on Nov 4, 2013 11:26 am • linkreport

Caroline Petti +1

by Thayer-D on Nov 4, 2013 11:33 am • linkreport

One thing I've never seen mentioned in this discussion is what the actual result would be if we raised the height limit by x ft (one floor, five floors, ten floors, etc). Has there been any kind of survey of current property owners in the Downtown/NOMA area, or in Friendship Hts/Tenleytown, Columbia Hts, etc, of their likely plans if the zoning on their properties suddenly allowed taller buildings?

It's not as if each owner would instantly tear down their structures and put in a taller one. That costs a lot of money and lost revenue during construction. Adding one floor might not be worth the time, but allowing five/ten floors might. I imagine that many owners in DC's Downton would not change a thing, due to the extreme expense of building when there is already a perfectly serviceable building on the property, along with the enormous amount of headache-inducing public attention/controversy/scrutiny that DC's "first skyscraper" would attract.

Friendship Hts/Tenleytown and Columbia Hts would be interesting as well, given their growing retail/business, and as transportation hubs. I bet a lot of property owners would be more keen to sell if the potential for new buildings included higher floors.

Are there buildings in the city, where merely stacking additional floors on top is already a possibility?

It'd be useful to have any kind of data on how height limits would actually manifest in the bah iron and future choices current commercial property owners.

by Adam on Nov 4, 2013 12:14 pm • linkreport

A lot of buildings could stack 1-2 more floors on without much trouble. Rooftop porches and mechanical spaces could be expanded, the structure likely can take it.

by Richard on Nov 4, 2013 12:18 pm • linkreport

Adam makes a great point. In the downtown core where buildings are already at the current height limits, I don't see them rushing to knock them down and add 1-2 floors. Maybe some will if they're in prime locations and the views would be great from the extra height. Otherwise I think a lot of downtown buildings would remain at their current heights until the buildings become outmoded and replaced 20-40 years in the future. Then the heights downtown would creep up 1-2+ floors to whatever the limit it. In the non-core areas like Adam mentioned, I can see a lot of owners being interested in replacing buildings below the current height limit with buildings at a new max limit, especially in new retail and transit hub areas. I really think any new height limit will be felt in the periphery before it's really felt in the core (*minus a few 1-2 stories added to some buildings, but in that case the effect would not be uniform and thus not so observable).

by JDC Esq on Nov 4, 2013 12:50 pm • linkreport

Yup good points all around especially on gradual change. I'm sure there are examples, in nearby cities. Mega projects (or just probably larger ones in the DC context) are somewhat one off. You can't predict exactly where and when the various factors such as land ownership, demand, financing, and general business climate etc are going to come together. And then there is the public side even beyond zoning. Obviously new/extended metro lines will have complex results. Silver is already pulling more growth west and a separated Blue would pull more along a new alignment. There would probably be some lag for a few years because no one wants to be the guinea pig. There is a good chunk of aging office property in the Farragut/Dupont area and still enough developable land in the inner SW and SE area and around the eastern branch of the red line. Probably over the course of 30 years you'd end up with multiple nodes in those areas if the economy is supportive.

by BTA on Nov 4, 2013 1:07 pm • linkreport

I don't see them rushing to knock them down and add 1-2 floors.

I'm curious why not? We've seen quite a few buildings knocked down to just build a newer, nicer building of the same size. There's one currently underway at 9th and G; there was a prime building like this at 17th and K a few years ago.

We've also seen several buildings completely gutted and re-built, which is essentially a tear-down, except that if the actual structure is fine and there's no extra space to be gained, you can just upgrade the finishes without a full tear-down.

by Alex B. on Nov 4, 2013 1:07 pm • linkreport

"I would like to point out the lessons we can learn from London. London has a special neighborhood for high-rises at Canary Wharf, similar to Paris' La Defense or our own Rosslyn."

Not quite accurate. London's first commercial skyscrapers, the Empress State Building and Shell Centre, and its tallest building the Shard, are NOT found in Canary Wharf. Canary Wharf is London's second financial centre, not some exclusive skyscraper district. Skyscrapers are found all across Greater London.

Paris also has dozens of tall buildings (over 300 feet) in city limits that are NOT in La Defense, which is out of city limits.

by Burd on Nov 4, 2013 1:38 pm • linkreport

I'd put the shard in line with 30 St. Mary's axe and other central London skyscrapers. But my point wasn't that there are no exceptions (even in Paris) but we should move away from a model where we justify individual projects but rather examine why we should restrict height in any given parcel.

by Canaan on Nov 4, 2013 1:46 pm • linkreport

London's Canary Wharf has some of the worst rail transit in entire metropolitan region. Towers there were built big has more to do with large lot ownership and byzantine complexity of feudal law where ennobled Feudal land owners don't sell land, so building owners must lease the land for 99 years, build the buildings, and loose the building to the feudal land owner, every 100 years or so. London's street layout in the traditional financial simply can't be changed because of how complex that feudal pattern of land ownership is. Ignoring that relevant history, and the massive opportunity cost of building a second further financial center on the docks east of the traditional financial center, is simply not an honest argument.

DC needs to focus on building towers like Midtown Manhattan in New York City, London's square mile financial district (north of Waterloo Station to Liverpool Street station area), downtown San Francisco, downtown Boston, all built towers where the rail system does the most good, maximizing city and regional population access, maximized rail access and walkability, minimizing commute times, because the is maximizes opportunity by minimizing opportunity costs, and commute times are the biggest single opportunity cost of commuting to expert labor is the time used to reach that many people to make the best market, not as much the energy used, but makes rail to tallest skyscrapers is the best of all worlds.

by Nathaniel Pendleton on Nov 4, 2013 2:18 pm • linkreport

I don't see them rushing to knock them down and add 1-2 floors.

Which is why raising the height limit by 1 or 2 floors would be a mistake. We should go up to 300 feet at least.

by David C on Nov 4, 2013 2:58 pm • linkreport

Following up on Eric Fidler's comment:

Of course height restrictions hurt opportunities for he poor. Even if there are only a limited number of apartments are allocated towards affordable housing, apartments in alternative buildings will be less exclusive and warrant lower rents.

by Geof Gee on Nov 4, 2013 3:12 pm • linkreport

Some examples of extensive building retrofits in recent years:

500 North Capitol: http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/print-edition/2013/04/26/rehabreuse-runner-up-500-n-capitol.html

815 Connecticut: http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/breaking_ground/2013/01/with-overhaul-completed-815.html?page=all

1801 K: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/03/business/03facade.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

In each of these cases, the owners opted for extensive renovations in order to reposition their buildings to capture top-end rents similar to what a newly constructed building could get. They're chasing that part of the market. If they were allowed to build higher, they likely would opt for new construction.

Does this mean there would be a rush to construct new, taller buildings? I don't think so - but there clearly is (and historically has been) a market for that kind of space.

by Alex B. on Nov 4, 2013 3:16 pm • linkreport

I agree, I think the point is that some people seem to have adopted this absurd idea that every building is going to be torn down overnight and 20 storey buildings will pop up in their place which isn't even logistically possible. Even if everyone was gung ho there would at least be some logistic/regulatory/supply pipeline issues that slowed down the process.

by BTA on Nov 4, 2013 4:34 pm • linkreport

Something that bothered me, and I believe is not addressed enough, is the money DC is losing by NOT raising height limits. Canaan refers to "our own Rosslyn", well it's not "ours". Sure, revenue spills over, and many people who work in Rosslyn are DC residents, but it is still very much part of Virginia, contributing to Virginia's tax revenue. Every time a company decides to put up shop in Rosslyn (or Arlington, Alexandria, etc.), because there's more commercial space and therefore often cheaper commercial rents, how do we quantify what we lost? That whole section of Virginia bugs me every time I look at because all I can think is what a drain it is. Shops, restaurants, businesses, and residents all sitting right on the other side of the river because they had more space.

I certainly don't want skyscrapers, but DC is growing and it's time we capitalized on it.

by KAH on Nov 4, 2013 5:23 pm • linkreport

I mentioned canary wharf and rosslyn to make the point that it's not enough to designate an area away from the greater demand as the high rise area that will handle the growth.

There is still demand for space in central London despite canary wharf just like there is still demand for central DC despite rosslyn or a re zoning of poplar point or somewhere else.

by Canaan on Nov 4, 2013 6:23 pm • linkreport

All this talk about how 'inclusionary zoning' will produce affordable housing is pretty naive. Anyone who followed the saga of Giant-cum-Cathedral Commons in NW will realize how an evasive developer and a slick zoning lawyer will gut affordable housing requirements (i.e., trying to get credit for them as a PUD "amenity" while getting bonus density based on the same units, all the while the DC statute required them anyway. The result = minimal affordable units. And neither the Zoning Bd, OP, nor the Mayor's office care that much.

by Sarah on Nov 4, 2013 8:48 pm • linkreport

I love how people are constantly citing London and Paris when talking about raising the height limits. Most people do realize that Londoners hate the skyscrapers being built outside Canary Wharf right? They think that it is ruining their low lying city just so city council member can make more money. Paris, has La Defense, which isn't actually in Paris. However Paris has recently approved some skyscrapers in city limits that is meeting rough backlash from the citizens who don't want taller buildings. The argument about raising height limits raises the amount of affordable housing could be accomplished without raising the height limits. All you do is raise the percentage of affordable units in a building.

by TyGr on Nov 5, 2013 8:27 am • linkreport

TyGr,
I think you're assuming that a city ought to stand for something besides maximun profit. How childish that you would think the "market" isn't king. You should know that it performs magically without the slightest constraints.

by Thayer-D on Nov 5, 2013 8:36 am • linkreport

People find ways to hate new skyscrapers in NYC as well. Personally, I thought it was cool to be in the Tower of London and see tons of different types of buildings.

But there is usually backlash against any new building in DC as well and that's with the height limit we have.

by Canaan on Nov 5, 2013 8:47 am • linkreport

This argument is still way to tilted towards allowing for skyscrapers rather than building up density with-in the city. And clearly people will differ, but it's also clear that a human scaled environment feels better. Unfortunatly, politicians tend to listen to developers who insist they can't make money anyother way than to build a taller building, yet when employers threaten to build outside of DC if they don't get certain breaks somehow they still manage to make their money in Tysons or Bethesda.

by Thayer-D on Nov 5, 2013 8:56 am • linkreport

On the procedural side, the federal government should absolutely repeal the law and let the hashed out in our existing hybrid federal/local planning process. Repeal of the law at least gives us the opportunity to discuss it in more detail.

Alternatively, Congress could alter the Home Rule act to allow the District to change the law; as the Home Rule act allows DC to change many other federal laws that applied (prior to home rule) only to DC - they were (and still are), in effect, local laws. The Height Act should be no different.

by Alex B. on Nov 5, 2013 8:58 am • linkreport

What constitutes a skyscraper here? 20 stories? 30 stories? More?

by Geof Gee on Nov 5, 2013 9:05 am • linkreport

I don't know, that's a good question. 100 years ago 10 stories was a skyscraper like the first generation of Chicago School buildings in the 1880's.

by Thayer-D on Nov 5, 2013 9:29 am • linkreport

A skyscraper is commonly described in NYC as 600 feet tall (182.88 meters), of which NYC has about 100 such office towers and a handful of residential towers, but numbers of both are growing.

This 600 feet tall tower definition starts is 45 feet (13.72 meters) taller than the Washington Monument.

NYC build skyscrapers at rail hubs, to maximize the efficiency, scale, and value to employees and employers of their best expert labor market, and use the massive wealth such well designed expert markets labor markets, focused on scale, density of opportunity, and efficiency of commute (minimizing time and energy needed to reach said market), to pay for the best infrastructure and education of any city in the US.

Duplicating NYC's success with tallest height towers in DC is essential for making the DC as successful as possible, as measured by education level of region's citizens, and how efficient (time and energy) the commute is to the rail hubs.

by Nathaniel Pendleton on Nov 5, 2013 9:47 am • linkreport

Most people do realize that Londoners hate the skyscrapers being built outside Canary Wharf right?

I do not. Perhaps you could point me to a poll showing that Londoners hate the skyscrapers.

The argument about raising height limits raises the amount of affordable housing could be accomplished without raising the height limits. All you do is raise the percentage of affordable units in a building.

Who is going to build new buildings when you limit their profit by increasing the percentage of affordable units? This will lead to less housing and higher costs.

by David C on Nov 5, 2013 9:51 am • linkreport

Well, whatever people mean by "skyscraper" it appears to me that there is quite a bit of wiggle room between the height restrictions today and the tall buildings of NYC.

I don't think urban design and planning is easy/simple. But I am fairly certain that unless the supply of housing is substantially increased along with all of the associated services that individuals and families demand -- see what it's like signing up for youth swim classes, day care, or similar in NYC -- that those of modest income will be pushed out.

by Geof Gee on Nov 5, 2013 9:58 am • linkreport

Affordable housing requirements are a cludgy fix for a problem exacerbated by the very restrictions imposed by zoning. They're hard to enforce (and required more bureaucracy to do so), they typically deliver only a fraction of the housing needed and, as David C poitns out, they increase the price of the other housing being constructed, as those units now need to subsidize the affordable housing component. But to boil it down, my biggest issue with them is that they really don't make an appreciable difference in the shortage.

by Crickey7 on Nov 5, 2013 10:01 am • linkreport

I'm Ok with raising the height limit to some height that still precludes skyscrapers.

But, I was just in Austin, TX this past weekend and since I last lived there, they have build several skyscrapers downtown. In fact the six tallest buildings were all built since I left town. At the same time I think the city has become much more dynamic and liveable. I ate dinner across the street from one and did not feel like I was overwhelmed. In fact, the Rainey Street Historic District, which has replaced 6th Street as the hippest part of town, backs up to a tall building on Red River Street. It doesn't detract from Rainey one bit. All of which is to say that you can obviously build a great city - a beautiful and historic city - that also has skyscrapers. So lets stop being afraid of tall buildings.

by David C on Nov 5, 2013 10:02 am • linkreport

@Thayer, what does this mean "building up density with-in the city"?

Do you propose we bulldoze all two story and stand alone houses in DC and build only slightly taller buildings, perhaps less dense than even 7 story Paris style apartment buildings with shared/adjoining walls?

In some cases, (selected) increases to moderate density across the city might be an excellent idea, but skyscraper office towers (to the maximum safe height e.g. above 800 feet tall) at the 2 best downtown rail hubs of L'Enfant Plaza and DC Union Station/NOMA, with Amtrak, Metro Rail, VRE and MARC commuter rail, the new K Street & H Street streetcar line, possible BWI and Washington Dulles IAD Airport premium airport express trains services, is by far the best way to maximize the potential of DC economy long term, and preserve the bulk of the urban fabric of DC in the short to moderate term.

This focused density of opportunity only possible with skyscrapers would have the least destructive impact on the DC urban fabric short to moderate term, preserving that which is valuable, and would naturally encourage much highest and simply slightly higher density projects in the long term, with the least cost.

Incrementally destroying most DC region buildings to only add a few floors is extremely expensive, especially when the alternative is using the rail hubs, combined with building the tallest buildings from the start, is clearly the best strategy to effectively and quickly build up expert labor markets in downtown building structures and markets built to last.

by Nathaniel Pendleton on Nov 5, 2013 10:22 am • linkreport

In fact, the Rainey Street Historic District, which has replaced 6th Street as the hippest part of town, backs up to a tall building on Red River Street. It doesn't detract from Rainey one bit.

Is that becasue they aren't actally in the hip and historic Rainey street district?

Nathaniel,
The best way to answer your question is to re-post something on another post.

What makes a neighborhood walkable? Density is certainly a key component, but just as important is creating a network of dependable transit on which to spread density through-out DC, making many more close in neighborhoods viable candidates for developers to build in rather than just relying on the existing metro system we have.
For starters, the city needs to enforcing the existing by-right regulations and streamline plan review instead of dragging every project through a time consuming process fraught with unknowns. In short, make working with-in the existing regulations faster and more dependable. Walkability also relies transit, yet the streetcar network seem to be going at a glacial pace. The city should plan for density through out an expanded transit network, not just the existing system. Take NYC with its almost ubiquitous subway, the whole city is littered with walkable neighborhoods of all income levels. And the city needs to draw some clear and compelling massing diagrams of what this growth will look like throughout an expanded transit system, not just in the existing downtown. Planning for more density requires a clear and rational campaign on the city's part to demonstrate why this is necessary and how they plan on accomplishing it.

So wether we end up with five more floors in the current downtown or not, the real work of adding density will have to come from the city's leadership. They need to explain how we are all in this together while respecting the democratic process. And while they have taken many steps to improve DC in the last 20 years, it will take even more vision and courage on thier part to move us towards a more sustainable future, where walkability isn't seen simply as a ammenity, but as viable option for all of its citizens.

But

by Thayer-D on Nov 5, 2013 2:29 pm • linkreport

Is that becasue they aren't actally in the hip and historic Rainey street district?

It's only one building, but no. The building is visible from almost anywhere on Rainey Street. So while it isn't "in" the district, it's near enough that if tall buildings were destructive, this one would destroy. But it doesn't.

by David C on Nov 5, 2013 2:40 pm • linkreport

@KAH

That whole section of Virginia bugs me every time I look at because all I can think is what a drain it is. Shops, restaurants, businesses, and residents all sitting right on the other side of the river because they had more space.

People don't locate in Arlington solely because it's an also-ran to DC. It helps that the Pentagon and National Airport are there as well. Companies also may have first located there for the improved highway access (in the event you ever want to leave) and accessibility to employees who live further out. But as Rosslyn (and the entire Rosslyn-Ballston corridor) grew up, that location became desirable in its own right.

While some of the growth in Rosslyn may be spillover/pent-up demand from DC, I think it's worth recognizing that removing the height limit won't automatically mean all of the growth floods back into the District. Some people/shops/businesses/etc. actually don't want to be in DC and will remain in Maryland or Virginia, though we'll probably see additional clustering in places like Rosslyn.

by dan reed! on Nov 5, 2013 2:41 pm • linkreport

Does anyone in this discussion actually like the Rosslyn skyline?

by Chris on Nov 5, 2013 2:53 pm • linkreport

@ dan reed!

"People don't locate in Arlington solely because it's an also-ran to DC"

Well people and businesses also locate in Arlington for safer streets, lower tax rates, business tax incentives, etc.

But, would projects like the Turnberry have been built in Rosslyn if DC didn't have stricter height limits? Doubtful.

I also doubt Rosslyn, Crystal City, Ballston, etc. would ever have grown as tall as they have if DC allowed equally tall buildings.

@ Chris

"Does anyone in this discussion actually like the Rosslyn skyline?"

It's getting better. I do like 1812 N. Moore, the Turnberry, and Waterview.

by Burd on Nov 5, 2013 3:06 pm • linkreport

Personally I think Rosslyn looks best from the Georgetown waterfront. The buildings there (particular the northrop grumman one) really show their best towards the bend in the river there. It's street level needs a lot of love but that would be true no matter the height.

by Canaan on Nov 5, 2013 3:16 pm • linkreport

I agree with Canaan that distance is the best view for a forest of glass towers, especially at night. I remember as a student in NYC, biking to the twin towers as if going to mecca, but as soon as I got there, my friend and I would hight tale it to Soho or some other funky neighborhood with attractive buildings that didn't over power you. It didn't help that many of those glass towers, like in Roslyn where built in the "flee the city" 70's.

by Thayer-D on Nov 5, 2013 3:38 pm • linkreport

"Does anyone in this discussion actually like the Rosslyn skyline?"

I do, and based on Flickr, it appears I'm not alone.

http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=Rosslyn%20skyline

by David C on Nov 5, 2013 3:38 pm • linkreport

I love the varied skylines. Probably the only feature of the Potomac River that I love is that is creates some great panoramas.

by BTA on Nov 5, 2013 3:45 pm • linkreport

Many people love those varied skylines, the variation unfortunatly stops when you get closer and the scale changes. That's why many people are resistant to alter one of the most cherished characteristics of DC, becasue they've been to Roslyn. That's why hip neighborhoods tend to be historic and low scale, becasue that's what people tend to like. If we don't have enough of them, why don't we focus on building more rather than building skyscrapers?

by Thayer-D on Nov 5, 2013 3:55 pm • linkreport

If we don't have enough of them, why don't we focus on building more rather than building skyscrapers?

Because we can recognize a false choice when we see one?

by Alex B. on Nov 5, 2013 3:58 pm • linkreport

I think we can do both? Why is it a choice?

by Canaan on Nov 5, 2013 3:59 pm • linkreport

when I am in rosslyn up close my biggest problems are the streets - too wide, to auto centric - and the paucity of street level retail in most of the office buildings.

As for the buildings themselves, the older six story buildings (there are still a few left in Rosslyn) are no better than the tall ones.

When I was growing up in NYC, the Upper West side was pretty hip - if its not hip now, its because its so well loved that its too expensive. IIUC it has lots of buildings that exceed DC's height limit.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 5, 2013 4:10 pm • linkreport

The only reason I think it's a choice is because if there are many way's to skin a cat, why wouldn't you pick the one that bestows other benefits? Afterall, if we are trying to respond to the market's desire for more housing, why wouldn't we more fully explore providing the kind the market seems to prefer?

by Thayer-D on Nov 5, 2013 9:07 pm • linkreport

Good satire that ridicules the Height Limit - and many of the arguments in favor of it.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-washington-went-topless/2013/09/27/c807e8e0-26e2-11e3-ad0d-b7c8d2a594b9_story.html

by ceefer66 on Nov 6, 2013 2:53 pm • linkreport

Why are we handicapping a world-class city such as Washington, DC? Why would you have a height restriction in the Nations Capital? Sure, I would not have tall buildings in the monumental core that is inclusive of the National Mall. But, why would you handicap an entire city??? Because of this terrible idea of having a height restriction from over a 100 years ago is the very reason why DC has not maximized its full potential as it regards to affordable housing; population growth; local business and corporation attraction; increased city profit revenue, lowered city taxes and the true diversity that a Nation's Capital should truly claim.

Please loosen the constraints that makes Washington,DC less than the stellar capital as it compares to other world capitals.

Build high and Build a lot!!!! (Which includes a New Washington Redskins Stadium).

by Ice Mann on Nov 6, 2013 4:24 pm • linkreport

@Thayer-D, (focusing only our two person thread) I have no idea what you are saying, nor do I think do you, which is odd, because I would like to agree, and build a coalition for smart growth. Replacing all low density buildings in the city first as you suggest, is very bad strategy. Building big in the center, first, is best, and not as expensive and delaying "incremental-ism" many minor zoning height increases to existing and historic homes, incremental laws designed to make it even more difficult to replace buildings with taller ones every several decades, as your deceptive proposal seems to be designed to do.

Do you support still disenfranchising DC in Congress and leaving an unelected US Congress in charge of DC zoning height restrictions? It is simply impossible to be "respecting the democratic process" while being disenfranchised in the very legislature that sets the height limit, as you propose to get the greatest opportunity improvement in DC. Our actual leaders on this issue are the unelected members of the US Congress.

How would you fund new Metro lines and streetcar lines in DC without downtown maximum height skyscrapers at best rail hubs?

How much longer would it take to build these transportation services under your mediocre incremental zoning height increase proposal?

Stream lining legal process issues are irrelevant if no one would remove a 2 story home to add a 3rd story, when the cost of destroying the old 2 story home, not costing legal approval, is so high.

What is the yearly and on-going opportunity cost low opportunity density short office buildings, or rather not having the tax base that 2 maximum height skyscraper zones, one at each of the two best rail hubs, in lower and slower economic growth, and less tax base for new and improved transportation and public education Pre-K through Grad School?

Walkable city comes from several factors, such as the DC street grid of 1801, combined with tall narrow and deep row houses, copied by NYC in 1811 with obvious benefits. It is strongly supported by trees. This organically produces taller buildings, if they were even legal, which they are currently not under the laws of the DC disenfranchising US Congress, and that increase in density strongly incentivizes subway development and subway and similar rail expansion.

Congress opposed the streetcar and had it removed in 1955 to 1962, helping trigger the massive population decline in DC. Congress never built enough Metro lines, and should have kept the streetcar system, but that would not forced the disenfranchised in DC out to the full voting congressional districts of suburbs in Maryland and Virgina.

Two major Metro corridors, were built in ways that primarily benefit full voting suburbs, not DC citizens.

Example 1) the Orange/Blue lines crossing the Federal offices downtown, requiring most DC citizens live on other Metro lines, and transfer twice, every day, at either Metro Center, or L'Enfant Plaza, adding many minutes to every commute every day. If a minimum of 6 minutes per DC commuter per day is wasted by forced Metro line transfers instead of single seat commutes, multiplied by 250 work days per year, suggests a minimum of 25 hours wasted per year, or almost two 15 hour useful days per year wasted by forced transfer for Federal employees.

Example 2) The streetcar to Silver Spring, Maryland, went up Georgia Ave, before it ripped out post World War II, and all the walkable neighborhoods were built there. The new Red line does not run under Georgia Ave from Union Station, instead running on the old intercity rail viaduct to Silver Spring, away from as many walkable dense neighborhoods in DC as possible. Further this line is above ground, making it unreliable in many weather conditions such as snow and high wind.

To fix both of these, I would strongly suggest skyscrapers to use the tax base to fix the Georgia Ave line problem, and create a single seat commute from much of northern portions of DC to most offices, adding many of the existing apartment buildings to downtown.

I made a dream map for a new DC focused Metro line, I call "Skyline" (Cyan Blue) Metro dream map. This expensive project would greatly help the city, and open the many rail transit under served but walkable areas of the city. Downtown this line would serve many areas I would upzone to the maximum safe height skyscrapers, for offices, and slightly further walking distance, lower internal people density per square foot residential towers of similar heights.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/65540798@N08/6603236315/

by Nathaniel Pendleton on Nov 6, 2013 6:27 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.

or