“The effect [of D.C.’s zoning code] was to rank government above commerce”

March 4th, 2013

I am currently reading Amity Shales’s new book, Coolidge. It is quite enjoyable. This bit was funny:

Washington in 1921 held a higher opinion of itself than even Boston did, and found little evidence to contradict its own opinion. The architecture itself saluted the government’s grandeur. Buildings in the District of Columbia stood well below the height of the Capitol dome, the result of long-standing zoning laws; the effect was to rank government above commerce. Union Station, where the Coolidges had arrived from NEw England, had been designed “to distinctly subordinate it to the Capitol,” as one architectural journal noted.

Very appropriate.

However, the heights of buildings in D.C. are not based on the height of the Capitol. Rather, according to the Heights of Building Act, buildings in downtown D.C. cannot be more than “20 feet (6 m) higher than the width of the adjacent street.”