Obama signs (very) minor change to D.C. Height of Buildings Act

Last Friday, President Obama signed a bill to “amend” (in the absolute slightest sense of the word) the Height of Buildings Act of 1910.

The century-old law dictates that all buildings in the District must be no taller than the width of the adjacent street, plus another 20 feet. This has established a 130-foot maximum height limit for buildings on commercial streets and a 90-foot limit for those on residential streets—basically to ensure that no edifice in the city is taller than the Washington Monument.

These height restrictions will still remain in tact with the passage of this amendment. The only minor change is that human occupancy of rooftop penthouse structures is now permitted where previously only mechanical equipment could be housed. The amendment also caps the height of penthouses at one story and a maximum of 20 feet above the building’s roof.

Although Congress explored the possibility of allowing for more significant changes to the Height Act, city leaders were unable to agree on whether or not taller buildings should be permitted. While Mayor Vincent Gray‘s administration supported easing the height restrictions in order to accommodate future growth in the city, the D.C. Council sided with preservationists in arguing that the Height Act should remain unchanged.

Unfortunately for Vox, this amendment will not help fulfill her D.C. dream of living in the Western Hemisphere’s next tallest penthouse–but at least now she can take the place of water boilers.

Photo: ctj71081 via flickr

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