National Capital Planning Commission
Newsletter — May 2014

President Signs Minor Height Act Changes Into Law

On May 16, a bill to amend the Height Act, which sets a maximum limit on Washington, DC’s building heights, was signed into law by President Obama. The bill amends the federal Height Act to allow human occupancy in rooftop penthouse structures, while maintaining the current 1:1 setback. The bill caps penthouse height at one story and a maximum of 20 feet. These minor amendments are consistent with NCPC’s recommendations prepared as part of the Height Master Plan. The year-long joint study was conducted by NCPC and the DC Office of Planning in 2013, at the request of U.S. Representative Darrell Issa.

Read full text of the amendment

Next Commission Meeting
June 5, 2014 | 1:00PM

Live video from Commission meetings is available online at:

Tentative agenda [PDF]
Project materials
Recent Commission actions
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Capital City Discussions

Capital cities often share similar issues related to their symbolic functions and role as the seat of their country’s government, including commemoration, ceremonial streets, and foreign missions. On May 5, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Dr. Mark Kristmanson, CEO of the National Capital Commission (NCC) in Ottawa, visited NCPC for briefings on our current initiatives and to discuss opportunities for peer to peer exchanges. NCPC and NCC, in coordination with Canberra, Australia and other capital cities, committed to conduct video conferences to exchange information on topics of shared interest.

Learn more about Canada’s capital planning agency

May Commission Meeting Recap

Commissioners received a briefing at their May meeting regarding a recent study by the US Naval Observatory (USNO) to enhance “dark sky” conditions that would support the Observatory’s mission, while recognizing its urban context. Current sources of light pollution range from street lamps to the increasing use of broad spectrum lighting fixtures. Study recommendations include the use of special DDOT streetlight fixtures in the USNO Precinct Overlay District; establishing a liaison committee to help educate nearby organizations about minimizing light pollution; and amendments to the Overlay District that require appropriate lighting that support the USNO mission. Other items at the May meeting included an information presentation from DDOT on the Anacostia Line Streetcar Extension, and the Pentagon Permanent Visitor Screening Facility which was approved.

Information Sheets and Commission Action

Climate Change Impacts and Release of the National Climate Assessment

Increases in extreme heat, storm surges, and flooding are prompting conversations on the impact of climate change. At the federal level, agencies are considering climate adaptation strategies to ensure they can fulfill their missions during extreme weather events. In the National Capital Region, NCPC is collaborating with other federal and local agencies in a climate adaptation group to share data, identify short- and long-term risks, and formulate priorities. A new, important source of information is the Third National Climate Assessment (NCA) released by the US Global Change Research Program on May 6. The NCA documents climate change-related impacts and responses across key sectors and all regions of the U.S. with the goal of better informing public and private decision-making at all levels.

Learn more about NCPC’s climate change adaptation activities
National Climate Assessment

Take Aways

On July 10, NCPC and the National Archives will present Washington’s Civil War Forts and Parks, the third event of the 2014 NCPC Speaker Series. Mark your calendars!

NCPC’s Diane Sullivan will be speaking May 31 at the DC Green Festival about Ecodistricts.

Commissioner Bradley Provancha, GSA’s Karen Handsfield, and NCPC’s Carlton Hart and Julia Koster discussed integrating federal facilities with local communities at the May 9 Makeover Montgomery conference.

Casey Trees and Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling have worked together to get 100 trees planted on the base. This is a great example of a collaboration that improved an installation and made it more sustainable.

On May 9, NCPC hosted a delegation of South American planners, designers, and government officials; the mutual exchange of information included presentations on the SW Ecodistrict, the Height Master Plan, and case studies on several South American cities that share similar characteristics to Washington, DC.