Height Restrictions

The New York Times recently had a pretty good article about the height limit debate in DC. It's worth a read.

(from Mdrewe on Flickr)

In general, I think the height restriction is a pretty terrible policy. Unlike some who share this sentiment, I'm not convinced that overturning it will suddenly fix all of the problems it's created. Similarly, the idea that reversal of the height limit will radically change DC's skyline overnight seems overblown as well.

Could a few extra stories be added to the top of downtown buildings? Probably... Would skyscrapers pop up where modest buildings currently exist? Not in the short-term. That sort of transformation would take years or decades to happen.

Ultimately though, I have a difficult time taking the preservationist arguments seriously. If you stand down on the waterfront in Georgetown and look across the river, you see what looks like a downtown. Of course, that's Rosslyn, and the reason it is allowed to exist is because a state border just happens to fall in-between.

Reversing the height limit now could make DC look like few other American cities. Instead of a few skyscrapers downtown, you'd probably see dense development occur around Metro stations, not unlike what's happened along the orange line in Arlington. It's hard to roll-back development that's already occurred; and that development has happened under a pretty strict height limit.


    On November 08, 2010 Peter Smith said...

    The arguments of tall buildings proponents cannot be taken seriously.

    Taller buildings need:
    - Heavier foundations.
    - Extra wind bracing.
    - More space for elevators.
    - More and larger mechanical systems for ventilation and heating.

    In other words, taller buildings are less efficient than shorter/regular buildings. Tall buildings are not 'smart growth' -- they are dumb growth, as they are inherently unsustainable.

    And that says nothing of their ill consequences for the people who live in/on/under/around them.

    And I love the huge tax revenue numbers the developers have been trotting out. One would think every city with massive amounts of skyscrapers was rich, but if we look around at all of those 'rich' cities, it seems they too are at least as poor as DC. So, will DC become budget-rich if we start buildings skyscrapers, or is that just a fantastic fantasy?


    Peter, I'm not arguing for which type of building is more or less energy efficient. By your interpretation, almost most buildings are inherently unsustainable.

    On November 15, 2010 ZZinDC said...

    Were the height restriciton lifted, I would expect a lot of redevelopment in downtown DC. In the last few years I have seen many smaller older office buildings in the K Street corridor torn down and replaced with new more dense buldings - not taller but filling every square inch of available space with building. I don't think this would be a widespread occurance, but I would expect to see it the premium locations - K St, Connecticut Ave, maybe the old downtown F St, maybe NoMa, which would provide great views of the Capitol. Would it ruin the city? Probably not, but I also don't think it would make it rich either. I just don't think there's any compelling reason to rush into a change.