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Issa: D.C. Should Explore Possibility of Taller Buildings

WASHINGTON — House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., sent a letter to District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray, outlining a way to move forward on lifting the district’s building height restrictions.

The city’s chief financial officer, Natwar Gandhi, has said the restrictions limit growth of the district’s tax base.

Issa suggested at a July 19 subcommittee meeting that the National Capital Planning Commission could work with the district government to examine possible changes to the Height of Buildings Act of 1910, which limits the height of the city’s buildings based on a formula involving the width of the streets on which they sit.

Gandhi testified then that allowing taller buildings in the district would be a path to expanding the city’s limited property tax base, eventually driving up revenue collection and strengthening its bonding ability and overall fiscal strength.

Issa’s just-publicized letter, dated Oct. 4, expresses concern over how such a change to the law could effect the district’s historic character.

“The character of Washington’s historic L’Enfant City - particularly the monumental core - establishes the city’s iconic image as our capital,” Issa wrote. “The committee encourages the exploration of strategic changes to the law in those areas outside the L’Enfant City that support local economic development goals.”

Issa invited the city and NCPC to explore the idea, and the two entities announced this week that a study would begin next month.

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