Capitol Hill Restoration Society

DDOT Public Realm Design Manual

Posted on November 16th, 2020 by Elizabeth Nelson

Public Realm Design Manual: A Summary of District of Columbia Regulations
and Specifications for the Design of Public Space Elements 

DDOT Public_Realm_Design_Manual_2011

From the preface:

Dear Neighbor, 

Majestic views of national monuments, leafy residential streets, and wide sidewalks in commercial areas… these are iconic images of Washington, DC. Much of the daily routine of District residents, workers, and visitors takes place in settings like these. This is where we walk to school, wait for the bus, talk to neighbors, walk the dog, window shop, or sit outside in a café to drink a cup of coffee. Having such an extensive network of public space enhances the quality of life for our residents and visitors, and ensures that the city has the foundation to become a more walkable and sustainable city. 

The District’s public space is a valuable asset worthy of our stewardship and – with the help of all residents and property owners – is one if the unique features that makes our city great. The Guide to the District of Columbia’s Public Space Regulations is a resource for learning about the importance of the District’s public space, the regulations that guide its use and form, and the rationale behind them. Property owners are required to maintain the public space adjacent to their property, so it is important that these ideas are understood clearly. 

Beginning with the L’Enfant Plan and continuing to today, Washington, DC has a notable history of using public space to define the city and give character and grace to neighborhoods. From inspirational views of the Capitol along leafy avenues to neighborhood networks of small green spaces, parks, schoolyards and recreation centers, to commercial boulevards with sidewalk cafes and street festivals – these defining characteristics of our public space are not the result of happenstance. Rather, it is the result of thoughtful planning, regulation and long-standing traditions of enhancing the public right-of-way. Today, the District Department of Transportation reviews approximately 6,000 public space permits annually to ensure that the interest of the public is protected. 

Public space contributes to the quality of life for everyone. It can only be maintained and enhanced with the help of all residents and property owners. Together we can maintain and improve this beloved public resource in a way that is environmentally responsible and that contributes to our everyday lives.