The Purpose Built Capital City
The National Capital Planning Commission has released for public comments the recommendation of Marcel Acosta, its executive director, on the Height Act, http://tinyurl.com/pdvut7h. Contrary to the fears of most residents and the hopes of Greater Greater Washington and the developers they represent, these recommendations do not scrap the Height Act restrictions on downtown buildings and lead to building DC into a city of skyscrapers. Instead they open with a recognition of the value that the Height Act has contributed to planning of the city of Washington: "For more than a century, the federal Height of Buildings Act of 1910 (‘Height Act’) has shaped Washington’s unmistakable skyline. It is a skyline not dominated by corporate towers, but a cityscape that reinforces symbolic civic spaces and structures. The physical urban form of this purpose-built capital city reflects many democratic ideals. The Height Act has protected the setting and views to and from the National Mall, the institutions of our democracy, and our national memorials and parks. It also contributes to a street-level urban design character that includes broad sunlit streets, well-defined, consistent street walls, and carefully framed parks and memorials.
"The law is simple, equitable, and has distributed development to all parts of the city rather than concentrating growth to a single high-rise cluster. It contributes to a stable and predictable real estate development climate. While the Height Act provides a maximum cap on building height in Washington, the District of Columbia establishes local requirements that further control height and design. Local zoning is often more restrictive than the Height Act."
The recommendation does leave room for some tweaking, or twerking, of height restrictions, particularly with regard to the definition and uses of penthouses. You can comment on the recommendation at http://npc.gov/heightstudy.
The National Review has published an article by Jonah Goldberg, http://tinyurl.com/p8qn92r, that takes off on the DC Department of Health’s 66-page proposal of new rules for tattooing and body piercing. Goldberg thinks the rules’ restrictions, including a twenty-four-hour waiting period before having a tattoo, don’t conflict with modern liberalism, but grow directly out of liberalism: "Social liberalism is the foremost, predominant, and in many instances sole impulse for zealous regulation in this country, particularly in big cities. . . . Seriously, who else do people think are behind efforts to ban big sodas or sue hairdressers for charging women more than men? Who harasses little kids for making toy guns out of sticks, Pop Tarts, or their own fingers? Who wants to regulate the air you breathe, the food you eat, and the beverages you drink? Who wants to control your thermostat? Take your guns? Your cigarettes? Heck, your candy cigarettes? Who’s in favor of speech codes on campuses and ‘hate crime’ laws everywhere? Who’s in favor of free speech when it comes to taxpayer-subsidized ‘art’ and pornography (so long as you use a condom, if liberals get their way) but then bang their spoons on their high chairs for strict regulations when it comes to political speech? Who loves meddling, finger-wagging billionaires like Michael Bloomberg when they use state power and taxpayer money to herd, bully, and nudge people but thinks billionaires like the Koch brothers who want to shrink government are the root of all tyranny?" Is he right? In DC, is it the liberal politicians or conservatives who want more bans and regulations?
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