Document Type

Article

Publication Date

5-16-2007

Abstract

Washington, D.C. has one of the largest inventories of protected historic buildings of any city in the United States. Over 25,000 structures stand within the city's borders that are either individually landmarked or contributing buildings within a historic district. These buildings are covered by statutory protection designed to prevent alteration or demolition without consultation with the Office of Historic Preservation (HPO) and/or the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). Enforcement of these protections relies on HPO's inspectors.

While the District currently employs two historic preservation inspectors, recent changes in the structure of HPO and other D.C. bureaucracies brought about a staff reduction in historic preservation enforcement -- hampering the city's best efforts to shepherd the buildings within its charge. In the last several years the number of enforcement actions carried out by HPO has declined precipitously, reflecting inefficiencies symptomatic of the new arrangement. Without significant changes to the current mode of operation, HPO inspectors will be forced to continue enforcement triage while allowing the majority of infractions to escape without consequence. This in turn has a detrimental impact on the number of fines assessed by HPO inspectors, thereby reducing the amount of funds available for historic preservation projects.

This is a policy paper, and as such, will lay out in detail the current structure and practices of the historic preservation regime in Washington D.C., analyze its strengths and weaknesses and provide recommendations for improving the process and its overall efficacy.