Code of the District of Columbia

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

(a) No building shall be erected, altered, or raised in the District of Columbia in any manner so as to exceed in height above the sidewalk the width of the street, avenue, or highway in its front, increased by 20 feet; but where a building or proposed building confronts a public space or reservation formed at the intersection of 2 or more streets, avenues, or highways, the course of which is not interrupted by said public space or reservation, the limit of height of the building shall be determined from the width of the widest street, avenue, or highway. Where a building is to be erected or removed from all points within the boundary lines of its own lots, as recorded, by a distance at least equal to its proposed height above grade the limits of height for fireproof or noncombustible buildings in residence sections shall control, the measurements to be taken from the natural grades at the buildings as determined by the Mayor of the District of Columbia.

(b) No buildings shall be erected, altered, or raised in any manner as to exceed the height of 130 feet on a business street or avenue as the same is now or hereafter may be lawfully designated, except on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue between 1st and 15th Streets Northwest, where an extreme height of 160 feet will be permitted.

(c) On a residence street, avenue, or highway no building shall be erected, altered, or raised in any manner so as to be over 90 feet in height at the highest part of the roof or parapet, nor shall the highest part of the roof or parapet exceed in height the width of the street, avenue, or highway upon which it abuts, diminished by 10 feet, except on the street, avenue, or highway 60 to 65 feet wide, where a height of 60 feet may be allowed; and on a street, avenue, or highway 60 feet wide or less, where a height equal to the width of the street may be allowed; provided, that any church, the construction of which had been undertaken but not completed prior to June 1, 1910, shall be exempted from the limitations of this subsection, and the Mayor of the District of Columbia shall cause to be issued a permit for the construction of any such church to a height of 95 feet above the level of the adjacent curb.

(d) The height of a building on a corner lot will be determined by the width of the wider street.

(e) On streets less than 90 feet wide where building lines have been established and recorded in the Office of the Surveyor of the District, and so as to prevent the lawful erection of a building in advance of said line, the width of the street, insofar as it controls the height of buildings under this subchapter, shall be held to be the distance between said building lines.

(f) On blocks immediately adjacent to public buildings or to the side of any public building for which plans have been prepared and money appropriated at the time of the application for the permit to construct said building, the maximum height shall be regulated by a schedule adopted by the Council of the District of Columbia. This restriction shall not apply to any structure that is set back from the 14th Street property line to a line that is continuous with the facade of the adjacent Bureau of Engraving and Printing annex building that is located along 14th Street, S.W., between C and D Streets, S.W. The height of a structure described in the preceding sentence shall be established in accordance with the requirements of this subchapter and the Zoning Regulations (11 DCMR).

(g) Buildings erected after June 1, 1910, to front or abut on the plaza in front of the new Union Station provided for by Act of Congress approved February 28, 1903, shall be fireproof and shall not be of a greater height than 80 feet.

(h) Spires, towers, domes, minarets, pinnacles, penthouses, 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, 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.


(June 1, 1910, 36 Stat. 452, ch. 263, § 5; Dec 30, 1910, 36 Stat. 891, ch. 8; June 7, 1924, 43 Stat. 647, ch. 340; Feb. 21, 1925, 43 Stat. 961, ch. 289; May 16, 1926, 44 Stat. 298, ch. 150; Apr. 29, 1930, 46 Stat. 258, ch. 220; Mar. 24, 1945, 59 Stat. 38, ch. 37; Sept. 22, 1961, 75 Stat. 583, Pub. L. 87-281, § 1; Apr. 20, 1999, D.C. Law 12-234, § 2, 46 DCR 643; May 16, 2014, 128 Stat. 1155, Pub. L. 113-103, § 1(a).)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 5-405.

1973 Ed., § 5-405.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 1-206.02.

Effect of Amendments

The 2014 amendment by 113 P.L. 103, in (h), substituted “pinnacles, penthouses” for “pinnacles, penthouses over elevator shafts” and added “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.”

Cross References

Limitations on authority of council, see § 1-206.02.

Transfer of Functions

“National Capital Planning Commission” was substituted for “National Capital Park and Planning Commission” in view of the Act of June 6, 1924, ch. 270, § 9, as added by the Act of July 19, 1952, 66 Stat. 790, ch. 949, § 1, which transferred the functions, powers, and duties of the National Capital Park and Planning Commission to the National Capital Planning Commission.

Editor's Notes

Office of Inspector of Buildings abolished: Section 3 of the Act of December 20, 1944, 58 Stat. 822, ch. 611, transferred all the duties, powers, rights, and authority of the Inspector of Buildings of the District of Columbia to the Director of Inspection of the District of Columbia. The Department of Inspections was abolished and the functions thereof transferred to the Board of Commissioners of the District of Columbia by Reorganization Plan No. 5 of 1952. Reorganization Order No. 55 of the Board of Commissioners, dated June 30, 1953, and amended August 13, 1953, and December 17, 1953, established, under the direction and control of a Commissioner, a Department of Licenses and Inspections headed by a Director. The Order set out the purpose, organization, and functions of the new Department. The Order provided that all of the functions and positions of the following named organizations were transferred to the new Department of Licenses and Inspections: The Department of Inspections including the Engineering Section, the Building Inspection Section, the Electrical Section, the Elevator Inspection Section, the Fire Safety Inspection Section, the Plumbing Inspection Section, the Smoke and Boiler Inspection Section, and the Administrative Section, and similarly the Department of Weights, Measures and Markets, the License Bureau, the License Board, the License Committee, the Board of Special Appeals, the Board for the Condemnation of Dangerous and Unsafe Buildings, and the Central Permit Bureau. The Order provided that in accordance with the provisions of Reorganization Plan No. 5 of 1952, the named organizations were abolished. The executive functions of the Board of Commissioners were transferred to the Commissioner of the District of Columbia by § 401 of Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1967. Functions vested in the Department of Licenses and Inspection by Reorganization Order No. 55 were transferred to the Director of the Department of Economic Development by Commissioner’s Order No. 69-96, dated March 7, 1969. The Department of Economic Development was replaced by Mayor’s Order No. 78-42, dated February 17, 1978, which Order established the Department of Licenses, Investigation and Inspections. The Department of Licenses, Investigation and Inspections was transferred to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs by Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1983.

D.C. Schedule of Heights Amendment Act disapproved by Congress: Pursuant to Pub. L. 102-11, 105 Stat. 33, effective March 12, 1991, it was resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that the Congress hereby disapproves of the action of the District of Columbia Council described as follows: The Schedule of Heights Amendment Act of 1990 (D.C. Act 8-329), signed by the Mayor of the District of Columbia on December 27, 1990, and transmitted to Congress pursuant to section 602(c)(1) of the District of Columbia Self-Government and Governmental Reorganization Act on January 15, 1991.

Section 1(b) of 113 P.L. 103 provided that the amendment made by § 1(a) shall take effect May 16, 2014.

Change in Government

This section originated at a time when local government powers were delegated to a Board of Commissioners of the District of Columbia (see Acts Relating to the Establishment of the District of Columbia and its Various Forms of Governmental Organization in Volume 1). Section 402(120) of Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1967 (see Reorganization Plans in Volume 1) transferred all of the functions of the Board of Commissioners under this section to the District of Columbia Council, subject to the right of the Commissioner as provided in § 406 of the Plan. The District of Columbia Self-Government and Governmental Reorganization Act, 87 Stat. 818, § 711 ( D.C. Code, § 1-207.11), abolished the District of Columbia Council and the Office of Commissioner of the District of Columbia. These branches of government were replaced by the Council of the District of Columbia and the Office of Mayor of the District of Columbia, respectively. Accordingly, and also pursuant to § 714(a) of such Act ( D.C. Code, § 1-207.14(a)), appropriate changes in terminology were made in this section.