How D.C.'s Height Limit Has Shaped The Capital

Existing conditions along North Capitol Street looking towards the U.S. Capitol Building.  (Background modeling images prepared by the District of Columbia Office of Planning)

One of Washington, D.C.’s signatures is its low buildings and wide, sunny streets. It’s one of the things many residents love about the city, and that often strikes first-time visitors.

There’s a popular conception about why the buildings are so low: that a law says they either can’t be taller than the Capitol or the Washington Monument.

But that’s a myth. In reality, the height limit has to do with the building height-street width relationship.

Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson talks to Lucy Kempf of the National Capital Planning Commission about the history of the building height limit, and how it’s shaped the look and feel of the city.


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