H. Rept. 113-418 - 113th Congress (2013-2014)
April 28, 2014, As Reported by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee

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House Report 113-418 - AMENDING THE ACT ENTITLED ``AN ACT TO REGULATE THE HEIGHT OF BUILDINGS IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA'' TO CLARIFY THE RULES OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA REGARDING HUMAN OCCUPANCY OF PENTHOUSES ABOVE THE TOP STORY OF THE BUILDING UPON WHICH THE PENTHOUSE IS PLACED




[House Report 113-418]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]


113th Congress                                                   Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 2d Session                                                     113-418

======================================================================

 
AMENDING THE ACT ENTITLED ``AN ACT TO REGULATE THE HEIGHT OF BUILDINGS 
 IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA'' TO CLARIFY THE RULES OF THE DISTRICT OF 
COLUMBIA REGARDING HUMAN OCCUPANCY OF PENTHOUSES ABOVE THE TOP STORY OF 
            THE BUILDING UPON WHICH THE PENTHOUSE IS PLACED

                                _______
                                

 April 28, 2014.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the 
              State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

   Mr. Issa, from the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                        [To accompany H.R. 4192]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, to whom 
was referred the bill (H.R. 4192) to amend the Act entitled 
``An Act to regulate the height of buildings in the District of 
Columbia'' to clarify the rules of the District of Columbia 
regarding human occupancy of penthouses above the top story of 
the building upon which the penthouse is placed, having 
considered the same, report favorably thereon without amendment 
and recommend that the bill do pass.

                                CONTENTS

                                                                   Page
Committee Statement and Views....................................     2
Section-by-Section...............................................     4
Explanation of Amendments........................................     4
Committee Consideration..........................................     4
Application of Law to the Legislative Branch.....................     4
Statement of Oversight Findings and Recommendations of the 
  Committee......................................................     4
Statement of General Performance Goals and Objectives............     4
Duplication of Federal Programs..................................     4
Disclosure of Directed Rule Makings..............................     5
Federal Advisory Committee Act...................................     5
Unfunded Mandate Statement.......................................     5
Earmark Identification...........................................     5
Committee Estimate...............................................     5
Budget Authority and Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate...     5
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported............     6

                     Committee Statement and Views


                          PURPOSE AND SUMMARY

    Current federal law sets building height limits for 
buildings in the District of Columbia. It also allows for 
certain rooftop structures to be erected to a greater height 
than these limits, subject to approval by the Mayor of the 
District. For instance, ``mechanical penthouses'' over elevator 
shafts can rise above the height limit, so long as they are set 
back from the roof edge by a distance equal to their height. 
This legislation permits certain human occupancy penthouses to 
be erected to a height that exceeds the statutory limits. 
Specifically, it permits approval of the erection on rooftops 
of human occupancy penthouses of a height of one story of 20 
feet or less. These would also be subject to the one-to-one 
setback requirement. Additional structures could not be erected 
atop the human occupancy penthouse. The Committee anticipates 
that the District of Columbia Zoning Commission would adapt its 
regulations to accommodate the erection of those human 
occupancy penthouses that are allowable under this bill.

                  BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR LEGISLATION

    In 1910, the Heights of Buildings Act was signed into 
federal law. That law has prohibited New York City-style 
skyscrapers from being erected in the Nation's capital. In 
limiting building heights in the District of Columbia, the 
Heights Act protects sightlines to the city's monuments and 
memorials, and helps to ensure public safety.
    The Committee began in early 2012 to determine what, if 
any, modifications should be made to this 100-year-old law--
changes that would empower the residents of the District to 
determine the shape of their city's skyline without 
compromising federal interests--such as maintenance of the 
prominence of the city's great architectural symbols.
    In the 112th Congress, the Committee held a hearing on the 
Heights Act, and witnesses provided different perspectives on 
whether and how to modify the existing law.
    Chairman Issa and Delegate Norton subsequently wrote to the 
National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) and the Mayor's 
Office, asking them to jointly study the Heights Act and 
recommend changes, if appropriate.
    The comprehensive study included significant research as 
well as a series of meetings held to consider input from 
experts and the general public alike. Afterward, the Mayor's 
Office and NCPC provided separate recommendations.
    The Mayor recommended specific increases of the height 
limits in the downtown area. The Mayor also recommended that 
the city and NCPC, working together, be permitted to use the 
City's comprehensive plan as a tool to adjust height limits 
outside of the L'Enfant City, without having to go to Congress 
for statutory approval.
    Ultimately--and only after itself considering broader 
changes--NCPC's lone recommendation for near-term change was a 
modest proposal for a specific enhancement to the existing 
Heights Act.
    Under existing law, so-called ``mechanical penthouses'' 
that cover elevator shafts or mechanical equipment can be built 
on rooftops--even if the penthouse exceeds Heights Act 
limitations--so long as a one-to-one setback ratio is 
maintained between the penthouse height and the distance from 
the side of the penthouse to the edge of the roof, and so long 
as the city approves the structure.
    NCPC recommended that human occupancy be allowed in rooftop 
penthouses, so long as the setback ratio is maintained, the 
penthouse does not exceed one story that is no more than twenty 
feet high--and, again, so long as the city approves the 
structure.

                          LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

    Limitations on building heights date as far back as the 
origins of the capital city. In 1791, President Washington 
promulgated the first regulations on buildings in the city, 
which included ``that the wall of no house [is] to be higher 
than forty feet to the roof, in any part of the city; nor shall 
any be lower than thirty-five feet on any of the avenues.'' 
These regulations were later suspended until December 1800 due 
to cost restraints.
    In 1894, following the construction of the 164-foot Cairo 
Hotel in Northwest Washington, the DC Board of Commissioners 
approved new regulations restricting building heights in the 
city. These regulations generally prohibited buildings from 
being erected whose height exceeded the width of the street in 
front, and limited the height of residential buildings to fewer 
than 90 feet and commercial buildings to fewer than 110 feet.
    In 1899 and again in 1910, legislation was enacted 
restricting building heights in the District of Columbia. The 
1899 law slightly modified and codified the regulations the 
Board of Commissioners set five years earlier. The law also 
allowed for certain architectural elements to be built higher 
than the limitations. Although the popular belief is that 
Congress acted to preserve and protect views of the monuments, 
memorials, and other significant national landmarks in the 
city, it is more likely that the principal cause for 
legislation was to address environmental and public safety 
concerns, as the concept of ``skyscrapers'' was still new to 
the country. In fact, the Committee report accompanying the 
bill cited these concerns.
    The 1910 law modified the maximum heights for buildings, 
added enforcement measures, and for the first time highlighted 
Congressional interest in maintaining certain characteristics 
of federal architectural interests within the city. Under the 
law, no building could be erected higher than the width of the 
adjoining street plus 20 feet; in residential areas, no 
building could be constructed higher than 85 feet; in 
commercial areas, no building could be erected greater than 130 
feet; and between First and Fifteenth streets, NW on the North 
side of Pennsylvania Avenue, the height restriction was capped 
at 160 feet.
    These laws paralleled limitations in many U.S. cities 
during that time. However, unlike other cities that began 
modifying height restrictions in 1915, the District of 
Columbia's law has been largely unchanged in over 100 years--
with the exception that residential buildings are currently 
permitted to go up to 90 feet. In many instances, however, 
specific construction projects have been granted exemptions 
from the law.
    On July 19, 2012, the DC Subcommittee held the first 
hearing on the Height Act. Outside of one witness, the panel 
generally agreed that some modifications to the law could be 
beneficial to the city and its residents.
    On October 3, 2012, Chairman Issa wrote to Mayor Gray and 
NCPC Chairman Bryant requesting that they jointly examine the 
law and offer recommendations on potential changes. On December 
2, 2013, the full Committee held a second hearing on the report 
and recommendations.
    Although the city and NCPC came up with separate proposals, 
an agreement was struck to make this modest change to the law.

                           Section-by-Section


Section 1. Clarification of the rules applying to human occupancy of 
        penthouses in District of Columbia buildings

    This section strikes current law that prohibits human 
occupancy in ``mechanical penthouses'' on DC buildings. It 
allows for these penthouses to have human occupancy; and sets 
the limit for such penthouses at 20 feet or one story.

                       Explanation of Amendments

    No amendments were offered.

                        Committee Consideration

    On March 12, 2014, the Committee met in open session and 
ordered reported favorably the bill, H.R. 4192, by voice vote, 
a quorum being present.

              Application of Law to the Legislative Branch

    Section 102(b)(3) of Public Law 104-1 requires a 
description of the application of this bill to the legislative 
branch where the bill relates to the terms and conditions of 
employment or access to public services and accommodations. 
This bill permits certain human occupancy penthouses to be 
erected in the District of Columbia to a height that exceeds 
the statutory limits. As such this bill does not relate to 
employment or access to public services and accommodations.

  Statement of Oversight Findings and Recommendations of the Committee

    In compliance with clause 3(c)(1) of rule XIII and clause 
(2)(b)(1) of rule X of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives, the Committee's oversight findings and 
recommendations are reflected in the descriptive portions of 
this report.

         Statement of General Performance Goals and Objectives

    In accordance with clause 3(c)(4) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives, the Committee's performance 
goals and objectives are reflected in the descriptive portions 
of this report.

                    Duplication of Federal Programs

    No provision of H.R. 4192 establishes or reauthorizes a 
program of the Federal Government known to be duplicative of 
another Federal program, a program that was included in any 
report from the Government Accountability Office to Congress 
pursuant to section 21 of Public Law 111-139, or a program 
related to a program identified in the most recent Catalog of 
Federal Domestic Assistance.

                  Disclosure of Directed Rule Makings

    The Committee estimates that enacting H.R. 4192 does not 
direct the completion of any specific rule makings within the 
meaning of 5 U.S.C. 551.

                     Federal Advisory Committee Act

    The Committee finds that the legislation does not establish 
or authorize the establishment of an advisory committee within 
the definition of 5 U.S.C. App., Section 5(b).

                       Unfunded Mandate Statement

    Section 423 of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment 
Control Act (as amended by Section 101(a)(2) of the Unfunded 
Mandate Reform Act, P.L. 104-4) requires a statement as to 
whether the provisions of the reported include unfunded 
mandates. In compliance with this requirement the Committee has 
received a letter from the Congressional Budget Office included 
herein.

                         Earmark Identification

    H.R. 4192 does not include any congressional earmarks, 
limited tax benefits, or limited tariff benefits as defined in 
clause 9 of rule XXI.

                           Committee Estimate

    Clause 3(d)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives requires an estimate and a comparison by the 
Committee of the costs that would be incurred in carrying out 
H.R. 4192. However, clause 3(d)(3)(B) of that rule provides 
that this requirement does not apply when the Committee has 
included in its report a timely submitted cost estimate of the 
bill prepared by the Director of the Congressional Budget 
Office under section 402 of the Congressional Budget Act.

     Budget Authority and Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate

    With respect to the requirements of clause 3(c)(2) of rule 
XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and section 
308(a) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 and with respect 
to requirements of clause (3)(c)(3) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives and section 402 of the 
Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Committee has received 
the following cost estimate for H.R. 4192 from the Director of 
Congressional Budget Office:

                                                    March 21, 2014.
Hon. Darrell Issa,
Chairman, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has 
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 4192, a bill to 
amend the Act entitled ``An Act to regulate the height of 
buildings in the District of Columbia'' to clarify the rules of 
the District of Columbia regarding human occupancy of 
penthouses above the top story of the building upon which the 
penthouse is placed.
    If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be 
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Matthew 
Pickford.
            Sincerely,
                                              Douglas W. Elmendorf.
    Enclosure.

H.R. 4192--A bill to amend the Act entitled ``An Act to regulate the 
        height of buildings in the District of Columbia'' to clarify 
        the rules of the District of Columbia regarding human occupancy 
        of penthouses above the top story of the building upon which 
        the penthouse is placed

    CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 4192 would have no effect 
on the federal budget. The legislation would amend the Height 
of Buildings Act of 1910, which limits the height of buildings 
in Washington, D.C. The legislation would allow human occupancy 
of certain building penthouses that are currently limited to 
mechanical uses (such as climate control or elevators). 
Enacting the bill would not affect direct spending or revenues; 
therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply.
    H.R. 4192 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and 
would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal governments.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Matthew 
Pickford. The estimate was approved by Theresa Gullo, Deputy 
Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.

         Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported

  In compliance with clause 3(e) of rule XIII of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives, changes in existing law made by 
the bill, as reported, are shown as follows (existing law 
proposed to be omitted is enclosed in black brackets, new 
matter is printed in italic, existing law in which no change is 
proposed is shown in roman):

          SECTION 6-601.05, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA OFFICIAL CODE


Sec. 6-601.05. Street width to control building height; business 
                    streets; residence streets; specified properties; 
                    structures above top story of building

  (a) * * *

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *

  (h) Spires, towers, domes, minarets, pinnacles, penthouses 
over elevator shafts, ventilation shafts, chimneys, 
smokestacks, and fire sprinkler tanks may be erected to a 
greater height than any limit prescribed in this subchapter 
when and as the same may be approved by the Mayor of the 
District of Columbia; provided, however, that such structures 
when above such limit of height shall be fireproof, [and no 
floor or compartment thereof shall be constructed or used for 
human occupancy above the top story of the building upon which 
such structures are placed] and, except in the case of a 
penthouse which is erected to a height of one story of 20 feet 
or less above the level of the roof, no floor or compartment 
thereof shall be constructed or used for human occupancy above 
the top story of the building upon which such structures are 
placed; and provided, that penthouses, ventilation shafts, and 
tanks shall be set back from the exterior walls distances equal 
to their respective heights above the adjacent roof; and 
provided further, that a building be permitted to be erected to 
a height not to exceed 130 feet on lots 15, 804, and 805, 
square 322, located on the southeast corner of 12th and E 
Streets Northwest, said building to conform in height and to be 
used as an addition to the hotel building located to the east 
thereof on lot 18, square 322; and further provided, that the 
building to be erected on lots 813, 814, and 820, in square 
254, located on the southeast corner of 14th and F Streets 
Northwest, be permitted to be erected to a height not to exceed 
140 feet above the F Street curb; and provided further, that 
the building to be erected on property known as the Dean Tract, 
comprising nine and one-fourth acres, bounded on the west by 
Connecticut Avenue and Columbia Road, on the south by Florida 
Avenue, and the east by 19th Street, and on the north by a 
property line running east and west 564 feet in length, said 
building to cover an area not exceeding 14,000 square feet and 
to be located on said property not less than 40 feet distant 
from the north property line, not less than 320 feet distant 
from the Connecticut Avenue property line, not less than 160 
feet distant from the 19th Street property line, and not less 
than 360 feet distant from the Florida Avenue line, measured at 
the point on the Florida Avenue boundary where the center line 
of 20th Street meets said boundary, be permitted to be erected 
to a height not to exceed 180 feet above the level of the 
existing grade at the center of the location above described; 
and provided further, that the design of said building and the 
layout of said ground be subject to approval by the Fine Arts 
Commission and the National Capital Planning Commission, both 
of the District of Columbia; and further provided, that the 
building to be erected by the Georgetown University for a 
hospital as a part of the Georgetown University Medical School 
on parcels 28/31, 28/36 and 28/37 located on the south side of 
Reservoir Road Northwest in the District of Columbia, 
approximately opposite 39th Street, plans for which building 
are on file in the Office of the Inspector of Buildings of the 
District of Columbia, be permitted to be erected to a height of 
not to exceed 110 feet above the finished grade of the land, as 
shown on said plans, at the middle of the front of the 
building.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *