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Public Space

Photo of 1100 4th Street SW

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.

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. There are examples along every city street. From neighborhood networks of small green spaces, parks, schoolyards and recreation facilities; to neighborhood commercial areas with wide sidewalks, cafes, and street festivals - our public spaces are not the result of happenstance. Rather, they are the result of thoughtful planning, regulation, and long-standing traditions of enhancing the public right-of-way. Today, the District reviews approximately 6,000 public space permits annually to ensure that the interest of the public is protected.

The Office of Planning’s Public Space Program plays an important role in reviewing public space applications and coordinating with other District agencies to improve parks and open spaces. Its ensures that changes to public space further the District’s goals of making the city more walkable and sustainable, and giving Washington, DC, a distinct image that makes is stand out as a premier city in which to live, work, and visit.

For more information, contact Chris Shaheen, Public Space Program Manager of the DC Office of Planning at (202) 442-7616 or by email at [email protected].

Additional Resources

Public Space: A Defining Characteristic of Washington, DC

Public Realm Design Manual

This reference manual is a comprehensive review of the District’s public space policies and regulations. It will help business owners, developers, and residents better understand current public space regulations and to determine when waivers from public space regulations are appropriate.

Sidewalk Café Regulations Pamphlet

An overview of the regulations governing sidewalk cafes and of the review process for obtaining a sidewalk café permit.

Important Definitions

Understanding these terms and concepts is important for correctly interpreting the guidelines, standards, and regulations that apply to the District’s public space.

What is the Public Space Committee?

The Public Space Committee makes final determinations on applications for various uses of public space and areas within building restriction lines.

Projection Schedule

District of Columbia Building Code Schedule of Limitations and Provisions Relative to Projections and Encroachments Beyond Building Lines