Credit: Flickr user Steelman204


Last week, President Obama signed a bill to amend the Height Act of 1910, which restricts the heights of Washington, D.C., buildings. The amendment permits the human occupancy of rooftop penthouse structures that previously could only house mechanical equipment. The amendment also caps the height of penthouses at one story and a maximum of 20 feet above the building’s roof.

In March, House Oversight and Government Reform chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) introduced the legislation, which maintains that buildings be no taller than the width of the streets they face.

In 2012, Issa asked the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) and the D.C. Office of Planning to review the century-old law and each present a proposal to the House of Representatives. The NCPC recommended only amending the human occupancy of penthouses, while the Office of Planning endorsed significant reform to accommodate the city’s future growth. The local AIA chapter sided with the District and wrote the NCPC a letter expressing dissatisfaction with its proposal.

Congress discussed more substantial changes to the law, but could not come to an agreement on whether to allow taller buildings in the city.

Image used via a Creative Commons license with Flickr user Steelman204.