How High Can You Go? 4

One of the things that I enjoy most about living in the District is exploring new neighborhoods with my dogs and always finding something new to appreciate. While I enjoy the finer details apparent in individual homes, such as cornices and brightly-colored doors, I can’t help but notice when something seems out of place on a larger scale, like a home set closer to the street than the rest on a block, or one home that appears to be taller than the rest. The latter is referred to as a “pop-up,” which can be visually disruptive to neighborhood character. IMG_6829

What are pop-ups? Pop-ups are spaces that are constructed above the ceiling height of a dwelling. Sometimes, they are used as attics or storage space, but often they are converted into habitable space, such as a small room or additional story. Dwellings with pop-ups are generally taller than surrounding homes, which disrupts what would otherwise be a consistent roofline in a neighborhood block.

The Office of Planning has received a lot of feedback concerning pop-ups, and the general consensus is that if inappropriately done, they can alter the character of the neighborhood. Pop-ups can cause variations in height that are found to be inconsistent with the architectural and historical design of a neighborhood. So, OP is addressing these concerns in the proposed zoning regulations.

building height

The current zoning regulations allow dwellings in the R-1 through R-4 zoning districts to have a height of 40-feet with up to three stories. That won’t be changing. What will be changing is the way height is measured. Currently, height is measured to the top of the ceiling, which allows homeowners to increase the height of their home above the ceiling height by extending the flat roof or adding a pitched roof to make room for a smaller space, such as an attic. Under the proposed regulations, height would be measured as the average of the lowest eave and highest peak for pitched roofs, and at the top of a flat roof. This effectively lowers the height of dwellings and should help preserve neighborhood character by reducing the occurrence of that pesky pop-up.

What do you think of the proposed regulation? Do you think it will help preserve your neighborhood’s character?


  1. we need some kind of rudimentary architechtural review in all rowhouse neighborhoods, regardless of historic designation.

    (by the way, where is the top photo located? never seen that ugly yellow pop-up before.)

      • Thanks! Combine that with the one on the unit block of P Street NE, and I’d say that proximity to North Capitol increases your likelihood of finding horrible pop-ups!

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