Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 20, 2014

House Clears Modest Changes to D.C. Height Act, Measure Heads to Senate

holder hearing014 062012 440x292 House Clears Modest Changes to D.C. Height Act, Measure Heads to Senate

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House approved on Monday night the first change to the law governing building heights in Washington, D.C., in more than a century.

A largely noncontroversial amendment to the 1910 Height of Buildings Act was approved, 367-16, sending to the Senate what House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., called “the best-vetted piece of legislation the Congress could pass in cooperation with the city” during his tenure.

If the bill becomes law, developers in the District could install rooftop pools, gardens, balconies or eateries extending up to 20 feet above current height limits. Current law bars human occupancy of such “mechanical penthouses.”

Issa requested a yearlong study of the future of the Height Act in 2012. That produced controversial models of skyscrapers rising along the city’s unique, horizontal skyline. Competing proposals pitted local preservation advocates and the D.C. Council against Mayor Vincent Gray and planning officials, who argued the city should be allowed more of a say in how its buildings are shaped.

“The vast majority of homes and buildings in the District of Columbia are far lower than the Height Act,” Issa said Monday, pointing out that D.C.’s comprehensive plan and zoning restrictions keep most areas below the limit — generally 130 feet or 160 feet. He hopes the penthouse amendment will enhance properties along K Street and other densely populated parts of the city ”while still continuing to induce people to make reasonable changes in outlying areas, if in fact additional capacity is needed either for residents of this city, or in fact, the thriving businesses of this city.”

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., said she was pleased with the agreement because it would not dislodge the “residential quality” of her hometown. “This bill is not a mandate directing the city to make any changes to penthouses or to its existing comprehensive plan,” she said.

Although the changes won approval from even the most adamant opponents to raising building heights, there was one vocal opponent during debate of the bill.

Texas Republican Louie Gohmert  thought his colleagues were treading into dangerous territory, like the ”camel’s nose going under the tent,” he warned. As property values continue to increase in the prosperous city, Gohmert fears more exceptions will be made to the Height Act and soon limits will be lifted around the city as part of real estate deals that are “too much for either party to turn down.”

Gohmert said he was grateful Issa’s amendment wouldn’t change the limit “by one inch,” but said he felt “very concerned about beginning to make these exceptions.”

The Senate Committee with jurisdiction over D.C. has not yet scheduled any action on the Height Act bill.

  • Jose Rodriguez

    Centralized bureaucratic socialism began to grow more prevalent in the United States after Stuart Chase imported 18 collectivist tendencies.

    • Frederick Stelter

      Rubbish.

  • Forest Black

    Since liberty unleashes the knowledge of millions of free people, free countries are able to use far more knowledge than socialist systems.

  • Plutark Heavensbee

    Many once poor countries have dramatically improved living standards by unleashing the natural competitive tendencies of their citizens.

  • Yonatan YONATAN

    Those people who think that the unemployed are “lazy”, and prefer collecting unemployment benefits, have no clue of the reality facing these families. Most of these people had long term employment, and had families to support. The majority of them are “older” Americans, who had worked for many years, paying into the system, should they become unemployed, and needed financial assistance. These workers through no fault of their own, found themselves victims of corporate downsizing, and were laid off from their jobs. Given the current economic recession, they have had a particularly difficult time finding employment. Also, many companies are not motivated to hire “older” workers, due in part of the higher cost of health care insurance for older workers. Older workers, just on the basis of their age, would be placed in a “higher risk” group, which would affect the potential employer’s bottom line cost. As we all know, it’s all about profit and “the bottom line”. Since last December, more than 2.6 million workers have been without unemployment benefits. The republican senate has held the extension bill “HOSTAGE”, in the hopes of getting the XL Oil Pipeline passed by the president. This has NEVER been about these unfortunate families, but only about pleasing the lobbyist for whom they truly serve. While the republicans continue playing “party politics”, and using these families for political leverage, and as bargaining chips, these families have had to face evictions, home foreclosures, personal bankruptcy, and homelessness. Most of them have watched their credit being destroyed, because of lack of money to pay their bills on time, or at all. How many more families have to become homeless and destitute before the senate finally PASSES the extension bill? This truly is a national crime against the American family. While the politicians live their affluent and privileged lifestyles, with all the perks of office, these families continue to suffer and struggle to eat and to live

Sign In

Forgot password?

Or

Subscribe

Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...