The Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corp. and the D.C. municipal planning office proposed yesterday that the building height limits along Pennsylvania Avenue east of the White House be raised from 13 to 16 stores.
If the height change and related zoning amendments are approved by the D.C. Zoning Commission, the proposal would add about 15 per cent more office and commercial space to the area than is permitted by present city zoning regulations.
As proposed, the new height rules would apply to buildings on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue between 10th and 15th Streets NW, bracketed by the FBI's new J. Edgar Hoover Building to the east and the U.S. Treasury to the West.
The first beneficiaries probably would be the National Press Club and the John C. Portman Jr. interests of Atlanta, which announced plans to build a $100 million hotel, office and shopping complex on the block now occupied by the National Press Building.
The press building itself is at 14th and F Streets NW, one block uphill from Pennsylvania Avenue. The south side of the block faces the Avenue.
The new proposal would permit the entire complex to rise to the height of the Press Building's F Street frontage. Without the new rule, that portion of the proposed new complex of Pennsylvania Avenue would have to be 30 feet lower.
For the city, the increased height and floor space would produce a higher valuation on the buildings, translating into a higher tax yield.
With some members of the Zoning Commission voicing sympathy for the plan yesterday, the commission took the first step toward its adoption by scheduling public hearings for Feb. 6 and 13 at the District Building.
City zoning regulations, based on a law enacted by Congress in 1910, generally restrict buildings in Washington to a maximum height of 130 feet, or 13 stories. Adopted chiefly as a fire safety measure, the limit also prevents commercial buildings from overshadowing the Capitol dome.
The 1910 law contains an exception for Pennsylvania Avenue between the Capitol and the White House, allowing structures up to 160 feet, or 16 stories. In adopting its zoning rules, the city never took advantage of the exception.
George M. White, the architect of the Capitol and a member of the Zoning Commission, who has criticized past suggestions that building height limits in the city be raised, said the Pennslyvania Avenue proposal should not be permitted to become a precedent for buildings elsewhere in Washington.