Greater Greater Washington

Development


Changing Height Act not biggest priority, speakers argue

Does the 1910 Height Act enhance or detract from Washington's livability? This debate goes to the heart of the tension between the nation's desire for an attractive and symbolic capital and the interests of those who call the city home, now and in the future.


The Cairo, DC's tallest residential building and an impetus for the Height Act. Photo by voteprime.

The District's 1972 Home Rule Charter lists building height amongst ten issue areas that the District government has no power to regulate, leaving the power to amend or make exemptions to the law entirely in the hands of Congress.

Last night, speakers explored the Height Act at a Committee of 100 forum marking the law's centennial.

Aside from the hundredth anniversary, the proposed Burnham Place development of buildings atop the Union Station railroad tracks is pushing an examination of the Height Act's purpose. While the act limits heights, it leaves ambiguity about where to measure the height from.

If these building count from the sidewalk on the bridge as opposed to from the ground below the tracks, they could rise above surrounding structures. Some consider this a problem. On the other hand, since the buildings won't be able to use the track level and can't build below grade like most buildings, the development including the cost of decking the tracks might not be feasible otherwise.

Bradley Truding, a senior legislative aide to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), examined the legislative record surrounding the Height Act's passage at a time when the technology to erect very tall buildings had just been developed. The stated reasoning at the time (based on then-existing laws in Boston and Chicago) was to ensure fire safety and building integrity, though the height limits have nothing to do with how high firefighters' ladders or hoses could reach at the time.

Though there is no definitive answer, newspaper articles of the time support the conclusion that the law was enacted primarily for aesthetic reasons. They invoke George Washington and Thomas Jefferson's stated desire that Washington be modeled on European capitals, in particular Paris, which is mostly devoid of skyscrapers (but is still much denser than DC.)

Some have argued that the city is missing out on the tax revenue that could be generated by additional property built higher than the Act allows. However, Truding cited a Government Accountability Office report that blames the District's inability to tax non-resident income or to levy property taxes on federal buildings for the lion's share of the local government's "structural imbalance."

Smart growth proponents needn't get worked up about changing the Height Act, as there are many opportunities for new development in the District that would not require a change to the law. Attorney and panelist Steven Sher, citing NoMa and and Navy Yard as areas that Metro stations have transformed, rightly called on the Zoning Commission to rethink existing zoning-imposed height regulations around Metro stations.


An empty lot on Sherman Ave. NE. Photo by Wayan Vota on Flickr.
It is eminently possible to accommodate a growing population, while maintaining the city's unique character, with well-designed and well-located new developments and by restoring and enhancing existing buildings. Before we consider making downtown buildings taller, why not move forward with redeveloping the city's copious acres of empty lots and unused federal property?

In the longer term, a good way to balance preservationists' valid aesthetic concerns with the need for more compact development, particularly around transit, is for Congress to amend the Height Act to give the DC Zoning Commissionin consultation with affected stakeholders and planning bodiesthe power to make exemptions based on the unique character and needs of individual neighborhoods.

Since the human scale of its built environment is part of what attracts so many to live in the capital city, it is unlikely that greater local control over building height, if exercised democratically, would degrade those qualities which give Washington its sense of self.

Malcolm Kenton lives in the DC neighborhood of Bloomingdale. Hailing from Greensboro, NC and a graduate of Guilford College, he is a passionate advocate for world-class passenger rail and other forms of sustainable transportation, and for incorporating nature and low-impact design into the urban fabric. The views he expresses on GGW are his own. 

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Eliminate the Height Act, legislatively or judicially if necessary, but eliminate it NOW.

Bring down housing prices for federal workers.

by Redline SOS on Oct 20, 2010 12:56 pm • linkreport

@Redline SOS

Elimination of Height Act = stupendous rise in property value as a result of speculation thereby canceling out any proposed savings from additional housing supply.

There is, in fact, plenty of housing available in the District, but many people want to live in a few choice areas. More housing is great but greater supply doesn't essentially mean less cost.

by Adam L on Oct 20, 2010 1:03 pm • linkreport

The human scale of the built environment attracts a lot of people to DC, but even with no height limit or an amended one, you'd still have areas that are human scaled. I'm actually in favor of height limits in places like NoMa, Navy Yard and Anacostia so that human scaled development would be a higher priority. Ditto for McMillan and Walter Reed. But there are areas like Farragut Square, Gallery Place, McPherson Square and Metro Center that are dense, built out, and have the layout to support taller buildings and are generally more desirable. I don't think anybody wants high-rises in Georgetown, Dupont Circle or Capitol Hill. I do agree overall with the idea that we should generally cluster development around metro stops but I just wonder how much downtown sprawl we want or is practical/realistic.

by Vik on Oct 20, 2010 1:27 pm • linkreport

There is, in fact, plenty of housing available in the District, but many people want to live in a few choice areas.
This is correct. The height act is a problem, and stupid, but a bigger priority should be shifting the zoning in DC that has created large residential-only areas with just a few viable commercial areas where shopping and dining is even allowed. The height act would be a non-factor if more development was allowed elsewhere.

I have a feeling, though, that people who say, "don't concentrate on the height act" are going to turn around and say, "don't allow any more commercial, retail, and mixed-use development elsewhere in the district, either."

by JustMe on Oct 20, 2010 1:28 pm • linkreport

The "inhuman" scale of places like Rosslyn is not because of the height of the buildings, which no one cares about or notices, but because the ground-level frontage of the buildings are not designed with pedestrian use and access in mind.
I just wonder how much downtown sprawl we want or is practical/realistic.
I love this new Orwellian term that the NIMBYs seem to have come up with: "downtown sprawl."

by JustMe on Oct 20, 2010 1:31 pm • linkreport

I agree with Adam L that there are plenty of residential units in the district. The problem I have with most of them is that they're impossible to get to and impossible to get out of. Surrounding them is a sprawling mass of tiny streets with no job center within walking distance and no means of transit other than stopping every 200 yards for another ill-timed traffic light (whether in a car or a bus). Can we instead reduce travel times?

by Paul on Oct 20, 2010 1:31 pm • linkreport

There's plenty of empty or unused space in DC. Let the developers use that space before we let them start building upward.

by Alan on Oct 20, 2010 1:35 pm • linkreport

Re the picture caption: There's a Sherman Avenue in Northeast?

by pagodat on Oct 20, 2010 1:39 pm • linkreport

Agreed. The problems with DC's pricing stem from height and purpose zoning from the DC government, not from the height limits act. Parisian buildings are 60 to 66 feet in the central city - that's about a third the maximum height of DC buildings according to the Act, if my memory serves. However, Paris lacks the suburban development we see in places like Foxhall and Congress Heights and the medium density construction in much of the city. It also lacks the purpose-built zones of only residential or only office that one sees everywhere in DC.

If the city would allow buildings to reach maximum height in metro accessible areas, we'd be well on our way to easing the crunch.

by OctaviusIII on Oct 20, 2010 1:42 pm • linkreport

What exactly is downtown sprawl again? Is it high density buildings inside of a city? Think of all the poor parking lots and abandoned lots that would be torn up to create new centers of employment, housing, and retail!

No one is proposing replacing Rock Creek Park with another Rosslyn, but having higher density instead of higher buildings would certainly be beneficial in "spreading the wealth" around the city.

I would be interested to know if there are numbers relating to the percentage of buildings in DC that are at the height limit for their street. I imagine that the percentage is pretty low, indicating plenty of growth potential remains, but I could be wrong.

by Teyo on Oct 20, 2010 1:44 pm • linkreport

@JustMe

You're mistaken if you're suggesting that I'm a NIMBY. I apologize for not buying into the logic that Good Hope Rd. or Benning Rd. are going to develop into vibrant communities of midrises because of our height limit, which people would object to anyway. And I don't see how that term is Orwellian, which I used b/c of "urban sprawl" b/c a place can be low-rise and relatively quaint while still being urban.

by Vik on Oct 20, 2010 1:47 pm • linkreport

@JustMe Some kind of traffic-beating Georgia Avenue streetcar would be a great idea to help connect a lot of the existing residential stock in upper NW/NE to shopping/job centers more easily too. Bustling job centers in Petworth, Brightwood, and Shepherd Park leading up to Silver Spring would change the equation pretty quickly for people whose reason for living in the District has more to do with street life and job proximity and not just having a 202 area code on their home phone. But of course any such transit addition would have to be faster and easier to use than the current stuck-in-traffic buses along that route.

This wouldn't be wildly different from how those neighborhoods developed in the first place in the 1880s and 1890s, when that part of the District was mostly rich people's country estates ("the city" ended at Florida Avenue back then, Gov. Shepherd still lived in Shepherd Park, and Petworth was the name of an estate rather than the neighborhood that was built on it). The two routes out to Silver Spring from downtown then were (1) the B&O Railroad Metropolitan Branch route that is now used by the Red Line and MARC Brunswick Line, with Red Line stations in roughly the same places the old stations were back then, and (2) the "Silver Spring Line" streetcars running on what is now Georgia Avenue, which have been replaced by nothing nearly as useful.

by pagodat on Oct 20, 2010 1:52 pm • linkreport

I was typing too fast, I meant to write "instead", not b/c. It's also possible that we have different time horizons. I'm thinking like 50 or 100 years down the road. A lot is possible in that time, whether we decide to concentrate growth where it is or distribute it more evenly, we need a lot of infrastructure and transit upgrades.

by Vik on Oct 20, 2010 2:02 pm • linkreport

I agree with the comments that most limits on density are a result of the Zoning Code, and have little to do with the Height of Buildings Act. Generally, the height act limits are well above what's allowed under the zoning code, outside of the central core. The limit in C-2-A, for example is 50 feet, while the height act is based on the width of the right-of-way of the street. It should be noted, however, that the DC government does not wholly control the Zoning Code either, due to the number of federal appointees on the Zoning Commission. Many Metro stations areas inside the District could be built much denser, with taller buildings, either by changing the Zoning Code or allowing more height under the PUD process.

by Paul on Oct 20, 2010 2:33 pm • linkreport

@Paul

While that is true, we're talking about office space and office rents here - the note of how DC's rents have matched the whole of NYC's is notable, since most of DC's office space is in the core and is built out at pretty much max height and max density.

by Alex B. on Oct 20, 2010 2:51 pm • linkreport

Downtown DC, even with its Height Act and zoning codes, is easily the densest concentration of jobs and housing in the metro region. High-density spots in Maryland and Virginia, with no Height Act, are not nearly as dense as downtown DC.

In fact, many high-density spots in Maryland and Virgina, like Crystal City and Ballston, aren't even as dense as the historic Dupont Circle neighborhood in DC. And the supposedly unlimited Tysons Corner is less dense than Georgetown or Alexandria.

See more numbers and discussion here: The Density of Traditional Urbanism.

The debate over the Height Act is sort of a red herring. There's little evidence that building taller, by itself, increases areawide density. The important factors are urban design factors: small, walkable blocks; short or zero building setbacks; complete streets that aren't excessively wide; pedestrian-friendly building frontages at street level. Get the urban design right, and density is achievable with little need for tall buildings.

by Laurence Aurbach on Oct 20, 2010 3:07 pm • linkreport

I agree that the Height Act isn't the only deterrent to density, but we're not going to simply remake entire non-dense neighborhoods in DC by tearing down, say, mansions in Cleveland Park or somehow turning 5 story buildings into 8 story buildings. There are only so undeveloped Metro-accessible parcels of land, and in many places (e.g. Navy Yard) the Height limit is preventing DC from making the highest and best use of them.

by L on Oct 20, 2010 3:12 pm • linkreport

@Laurence,

There's little evidence that building taller, by itself, increases areawide density. The important factors are urban design factors: small, walkable blocks; short or zero building setbacks; complete streets that aren't excessively wide; pedestrian-friendly building frontages at street level. Get the urban design right, and density is achievable with little need for tall buildings.

I think this is all spot-on - but I would make one comment. As you note, there is probably little need for 'tall' buildings (which I will define here as buildings taller than the Height Act allows) so long as you have appropriately dense zoning, good urban design, lot coverage, transit provision and access, etc.

The key word is 'little' need. As the office rent data suggests, there are some areas where more density would be appropriate, and the combination of current height limits and near 100% lot coverage in downtown areas means that the height limit is indeed a significant restriction. This would be one of those 'little' areas.

As Ryan Avent's follow-up post notes:
http://www.ryanavent.com/blog/?p=2347

Frankly, IÂ’m less concerned about what buildings are allowed where than about getting urbanists and preservationists to understand the simple point that the limits theyÂ’d like to impose have real costs. If youÂ’re making policy recommendations and adopting policy positions without rigorous consideration of these costs, youÂ’re behaving irresponsibly.

...

The height limit, in my view, is bad for DC. Other might disagree with me, but IÂ’m going to have a hard time taking their view seriously until they honestly grapple with the trade-offs the limit involves. ItÂ’s not a free lunch.

This trade-off is what needs more discussion. It's not just height, but also zoning, historic preservation, open space, etc. All of these considerations have significant trade-offs that are often misunderstood or misrepresented. What frustrates me about these discussions from groups like the Committee of 100 is that there's no talk of these trade-offs. Speakers can say that the height limit shouldn't be a top priority - OK, then what about upzoning? What about relaxing historic preservation rules to allow for added density? Where's the discussion of all of these trade-offs together as part of a coherent narrative?

by Alex B. on Oct 20, 2010 3:19 pm • linkreport

Maybe instead of increasing the density of buildings around current Metro stations we should be encouraging the density of Metro stations in the city with added lines and infill stations to areas that are currently under-served or completely removed from Metrorail service. The slice of DC north of the Blue/Orange and east of the Red comes to mind.

Also, here are a few more questions that I have:

Does the NYC number include all 5 boroughs?
How many square feet of office space does Washington, DC have?
How many square feet of office space does New York City have?

I'm assuming that NYC has a larger amount of office space and that the prices of office space in places like Staten Island, Queens, and Bronx is probably bringing down the average while areas of Manhattan are likely bringing it up. Washington, DC also has areas like Northeast and Southeast that are less economically developed than the downtown area (which I would define roughly as west of Capitol Hill, south-east of Rock Creek, and north-east of the Potomac). However, I would guess that DC's economically developed area is a larger percentage of its total available office space when compared to NYC's ratio and that would certainly drive DC's average rate higher.

by Teyo on Oct 20, 2010 3:20 pm • linkreport

Maybe instead of increasing the density of buildings around current Metro stations we should be encouraging the density of Metro stations in the city with added lines and infill stations
Or maybe we should be increasing the density of buildings around metro stations. Because increasing the number of metro stations won't do much for density and activity in a city that doesn't want more density and activity in the first place. First things first: make the area around existing metro stations more useful, THEN talk about adding new infill stations. Otherwise it's a wasted expense.

by JustMe on Oct 20, 2010 3:50 pm • linkreport

The District's 1972 Home Rule Charter lists building height amongst ten issue areas that the District government has no power to regulate, leaving the power to amend or make exemptions to the law entirely in the hands of Congress.
Whether you think we should change the Height Act or not, this is stupid and anti-democratic. There's no local control of a 100-year-old law that regulates how tall buildings can be. That's farcical.

The authority should be transferred to DC. The strong federal presence that remains (NCPC, Congressional approval of Council legislation) should be enough to ensure federal interests are preserved.

If you can't get behind transferring authority for the whole city, at least restrict federal control to the L'Enfant City.

by Gavin on Oct 20, 2010 4:16 pm • linkreport

@Alex B.

But downtown isn't "maxed out". While some buildings are at the magically 10% vacancy rate, in some of the areas around NoMa, Navy Yard, and portions of eastern downtown buildings are at 25% office vacancy rates. Those rates are much higher than the vacancy rates found everywhere else in the country except Detroit. Space isn't the problem; market speculation is. Like I said in another post, what happens when DHS vacates all their current downtown office space to move over to their new consolidated St. Elizabeth's campus? By my count, they occupy three downtown office buildings just by themselves. Effects of the federal government holding onto all of these properties may be creating a very problematic office rent bubble with disastrous consequences.

by Adam L on Oct 20, 2010 4:18 pm • linkreport

@Gavin

But the old L'Enfant City encompasses all of downtown DC... exactly the area where people propose to alter building heights.

by Adam L on Oct 20, 2010 4:19 pm • linkreport

It is a facile and common misconception about DC development to claim that there's plenty of land for continued building. But this just isn't the case.

After NoMa and the Riverfront area (aka the near Southeast) are built out in the next 10 years, there's precious few locations for further development. Other than the areas in and around RFK Stadium and across the Anacostia along the riverfront, where else is there to build? As it now stands virtually every speck of land in DC with development potential is already spoken for. Moreover, land is so valuable that the tearing down of older downtown structures to build a newer and slightly bigger building (i.e. the massive project at K Street and Connecticut) is commonplace. Yes, I afraid, downtown DC is indeed maxed out.

What's needed is a reasonable adjustment of the height limit, say, an increase of 25% over today's limits. This modest increase wouldn't change the feel of the city, and DC's warm ambience would remain much as it today. The current height limits, however, should be maintained around certain important iconic structures--the White House, the U.S. Treasury Building, the Capitol, Union Station, and so on--as well as along certain major streets, such as 16th St., NW, Massachusetts Ave., NW (which serves to divide business DC from residential DC), Pennsylvania Ave., NW, and other select streets, perhaps even K Street.

The key is finding the proper balance between an increase in structural heights and ensuring DC pretty much stays the same in terms of its special human-scale relationship between its structures, streets and people. But if carefully planned and implemented, a modest rise in the height limit and the accompanying increase in density may very well help DC become the world city it wants to be.

by InsidetheBeltway on Oct 20, 2010 9:37 pm • linkreport

@InsidetheBeltway

The definition of "maxed out" doesn't revolve around the total number of spare acres to build on, but the total square footage of office space available to potential renters. If you think that in 10 years D.C. will have rented out all of its available office space, then I know of a few commercial real estate developers who would be happy to give you a reality check.

I would also recommend reading Dr. Beasley's talk, if you have not done so already, describing the deleterious effects of executing the sort of piecemeal exemptions to the Height Act that you are advocating. To do so opens an entire Pandora's box of problems not least of which is land speculation and a stall in new construction as developers wait to see when and where exemptions might be made. It's easy to imagine a scenario in which developments stall as the financiers try to guess when they will get a height exemption for their particular property.

In addition, after you're done excluding all the various areas you've mentioned above there are few precious areas left where developers would actually care to build Class A office space. Sure, we might be able to get higher buildings in Cleveland Park or Georgetown, but that is not where development is needed or wanted. I also reject the argument that the building heights keep down density or prevent Washington from being a world-class city; those problems are completely the result of our current land-use policies.

The reason Washington is thought of as "lame" in comparison to other major world cities is because we continue (to use your language) to "divide business DC from residential DC". I can think of nowhere else in the world that spends vast amounts of money to maintain an entire city infrastructure that is only used efficiently 40 hours in a week. We have hundreds of acres of downtown real estate, an entire transportation infrastructure complete with rapid transit, and hundreds of shops and cafes that essentially shut down at the end of the work day. If there is anything that prevents Washington from being a world-class city, that is it. Unless the policies that have created that imbalance change, the current height limit won't matter a bit.

by Adam L on Oct 20, 2010 10:31 pm • linkreport

Br. Beasley's talk was quite interesting - except that he completely glossed over the economics of density and didn't even mention the benefits of urban agglomeration economies.

That said, I think this approach to changing the height limit is a good one - keep the current design parti (added height downtown must be set back, for example), ensure new height areas are 'designed' as part of a plan, etc. I was rather disappointed to see him lay out this thoughtful plan of action and then conclude by saying 'don't change' with no real justification to back it up. I mean, I realize who invited him to talk, but I thought it was a rather weak end to an interesting presentation.

by Alex B. on Oct 20, 2010 11:09 pm • linkreport

I agree with Alex L on this. We could easily fit more people into Downtown if we removed the government from much of it. Ever gotten off at Federal Center SW on a weekend? It's dead. If Paris has ever done anything right, it's moving the government's workplaces to the suburbs so as to keep the central city vibrant. Best part about it is that all that disgusting brutalism can get torn down if those offices move slightly farther out, or are at least dispersed.

by Phil on Oct 20, 2010 11:31 pm • linkreport

re: Laurence Aurbach

Get the urban design right, and density is achievable with little need for tall buildings.

Totally true, but what if one likes tall buildings? Get the urban design right, and vibrancy is achievable with any height of buildings, including tall ones. In fact, one could have just the "right" amount of density (whatever that means) with shorter or taller buildings by balancing open space and mixed building designs.

Selectively and intelligently allowing for architecturally interesting, appropriately placed, well designed, well purposed taller buildings can enhance everything: aesthetics, skyline, vibrancy, tax revenues and quality of life. The height act is an artificiality in the 21st century and should be rethought.

by Steve O on Oct 21, 2010 12:12 am • linkreport

If Paris has ever done anything right, it's moving the government's workplaces to the suburbs so as to keep the central city vibrant.

DC has neither the population, nor the alternative industries to replace federal offices. Who and what would exactly fill in to downtown when there was nothing there?

by MPC on Oct 21, 2010 12:18 am • linkreport

While everyone is debating density vs height, let me speak for the Amtrak traveler regarding the planned Burnham Place. That's going to turn today's mostly-sunny platform area into a dark rat hole, an oppressive way to begin/end one's train trip, by adding a superfluous modern carbuncle to a spectacular example of neoclassical architecture. Who would have thought the GSA owned "air rights" above the train yard? They did, and have sold them to a developer with a plan to build a monster on the back of the station. One wonders what Daniel Burnham (Union Station's architect), slyly quoted on the developer's Web site ("Make no little plans"), would think of this corruption tacked onto his masterpiece? If you thought it was peculiar when the French government hired I.M. Pei to build those glass pyramids in front of the Louvre, wait'll you see Burnham Place. Imagine Scarlett Johansson in a sombrero.

by John Fuller on Oct 21, 2010 11:52 am • linkreport

The pyramid at the Louvre is beautiful and thinking of Scarlett Johansson wearing nothing but a sombrero is pretty hot. Hopefully part of the plans for the new building would include better lighting for the platforms.

by Teyo on Oct 21, 2010 11:57 am • linkreport

I could describe Union Station's platform areas in many ways - but I'm not sure I'd use glowing prose.

Burnham Place will be an improvement.

Also, if you don't like that kind of development, this is exactly the kind of project that the height limit creates.

by Alex B. on Oct 21, 2010 12:00 pm • linkreport

@Adam L on Oct 20, 2010 10:31 pm "The definition of "maxed out" doesn't revolve around the total number of spare acres to build on, but the total square footage of office space available to potential renters."

That's exactly correct. And because of the height limit, there is a finite number of square feet that can be built and then utilized. As DC is rapidly approaching the limit on what can be developed, this becomes a crucial factor if the city is to continue growing. A real estate market with 10% vacancy rate, as DC's has hovered around, give a take a percent or two, is considered healthy. Anything less than 10% is considered tight. Just this week, it was reported that DC commercial rental rates have passed those of NYC to become the highest in the country. That in itself says volumes.

It is possible to modify the height limit without a complete overhaul. Will there be winners and losers in the process? Of course. Will it be challenging to implement? Maybe. I'm not suggesting a piecemeal approach, but a general 25% increase, with the exclusion of certain specific delineated areas and streets. This solution is workable. It is doable. And it should be done.

As I noted in my initial post (and which you noted in your response), DC will pretty much be built out in 10 years or so. I stand by that. Yes, it might be 15 or 20 years, but, nevertheless, the time is drawing near.

Again, what I am suggesting is a modest increase in the height limit, not an overhaul or the discarding of regulations that have served DC well for 100 years. That were actively debating this issue repeatedly is telling. While it is not yet pressing that change be forthcoming, it is not too far off.

by InsidetheBeltway on Oct 21, 2010 12:52 pm • linkreport

To add to InsidetheBeltway's comment above, if some of the brand-new buildings aren't filled yet it's because of the search friction involved with landlords and tenants matching up with one another that those 2 guys who just won the Nobel Prize talked about. It's not like there's a lack demand. It just takes time. Overall the vacancy rate for office space in the District is very low.

by Lauren on Oct 21, 2010 1:44 pm • linkreport

This issue seems really clear to me. Growth is going to happen. Whether there is space remaining or not isn't really relevant -- even if there is space now, it will fill up, whether that's one year from now or twenty years from now. So sooner or later, we'll face a very simple choice:
1) Remove the height limit and build up.
2) Have the growth happen in the suburbs.

So it's simple: do you want to remove the height limit or do you want to encourage more sprawl? Because ultimately that's the choice.

by Rob on Oct 21, 2010 4:19 pm • linkreport

@Rob,

Tell you what: when it becomes cheaper to build a new office building in Rosslyn or Crystal City than it is to build in Anacostia or near the Armory we can start talking about raising the height limit. Until then, it's not sprawl, it's developing parts of the city that are underdeveloped.

by Teyo on Oct 21, 2010 4:21 pm • linkreport

@Teyo

Building in Anacostia (or areas like it) isn't the answer. If you do that, you'll displace the existing residents, who will then move to the suburbs (a large share of the residents displaced by gentrification wind up in PG County). So you're still promoting sprawl.

by Rob on Oct 21, 2010 4:31 pm • linkreport

Not only would you displace residents but it's a bit misguided IMO to even envision Anacostia and the Armory as dense job centers. Those places, along with McMillan, Walter Reed, Benning Road, etc. could be very nice mixed-use, lower-rise (5 stories and below or so) urban areas. I guess I don't see why the height limit debate should be dictated by development taking place in areas that don't have demand for tall buildings. That's why I'm not really in favor of getting rid of the height limit in places like the Navy Yard because I'd prefer an area to grow a bit more organically, which downtown is better prepared to do as far as height is concerned. The infrastructure and transit is better prepared for that kind of density. People seem to approach this issue from various directions but I agree with most of the zoning concerns and recommendations, but I really disagree with the implication that there's essentially no limit as far as how far office sprawl can go.

by Vik on Oct 21, 2010 10:26 pm • linkreport

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