House subcommittee holds hearing on D.C. height limits

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Momentum appears to be building to make at least small changes to restrictions on the height of buildings in the nation's capital.

If Mayor Vincent Gray and other leaders get their way Washington's skyline will change. Those include the district's planning director and the director of the National Capital Planning Commission.

Building heights in Washington have been restricted to about 130 feet, with a few exceptions, since Congress last amended the Height Act in 1910. Preservationists say the height restrictions should remain.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has floated the idea of easing the height restrictions to allow inhabitable structures on the roofs of buildings.
Issa chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which oversees the District of Columbia.

An oversight subcommittee held a hearing Thursday on the issue, and several witnesses say in prepared testimony that they are open to incremental changes.

The mayor and his administration want to modify the century old height restrictions, allowing for taller office buildings, hotels, condos or apartment buildings to spur much needed economic development in the city.

But some residents think taller buildings would change the city’s unique image.

“I think it will take away from the character of D.C.,” says Jeremy Abrams.

“It would kind of take away from the uniqueness of Washington being one of those cities that is not upwardly mobile,” says Lois Cooper.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.