April 26, 2006

The Sky's The Limit! Not Here.

Standing on the mall, looking at the Rossyln skyline, we always found the Rosslyn skyline to be perplexing. Why there, not here? If low buildings make us special, how am I supposed to feel special when standing by the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument or the waterfront looking at the U.S.A. Today building?

First the facts as originally articulated here. Contrary to what some believe, the height limit is not set by the Washington Monument or the dome of the U.S. Capitol. A revised height law in 1910 did away with the fixed maximum. That legislation, still in effect, states that no new building may be more than 20 feet taller than the width of the street in front of it.

For example, the height limit for buildings fronting a 110-foot-wide stretch of Connecticut Avenue NW is 130 feet, while the limit for buildings facing 60-foot-wide residential streets in Cleveland Park would be 80 feet. At some parts of Pennsylvania Avenue, however, a height limit of 160 feet is permitted.

As suggested here, maybe the height limit should be done away with to encourage low-income housing. Does the height limit help D.C. or collar its economic growth? Certainly there are places where there is no place for tall buildings, i.e. Capitol Hill, Georgetown and Pennsylvania Ave.

But what about New York Ave. or upper Wisconsin, Connecticut or Georgia Aves? What about Anacostia? Wouldn't skyscrapers in Anacostia be equi-distant to the mall to Rosslyn?

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