National Capital Planning Commission

The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) is a U.S. government agency that provides planning guidance for Washington, D.C., and the surrounding National Capital Region. Through its planning policies and review of development proposals, the Commission seeks to protect and enhance the extraordinary resources of the national capital.[1]

National Capital Planning Commission
NCPC newlogo.jpg
Agency overview
JurisdictionFederal government of the United States
Headquarters401 9th Street NW, Suite 500
Washington, D.C.
Agency executives

The 12-member commission includes three presidential appointees, of which one must be from Virginia and one from Maryland, the mayor of Washington, D.C., the chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia, two mayoral appointees, and the chairmen of the House and Senate committees with review authority over the District. Other commission members include the heads of the three major land holding agencies, which are the Department of Defense, the Department of the Interior, and the General Services Administration.[2] The Commission is supported by a professional staff of planners, architects, urban designers, historic preservation officers, among others.


Congress established the "National Capital Park Commission" in 1924 to acquire parkland for the capital in order to preserve forests and natural scenery in and about Washington to prevent pollution of Rock Creek and the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, and to provide for the comprehensive development of the nation's park system. Two years later, Congress renamed the agency the "National Capital Park and Planning Commission" and gave it the additional responsibility of comprehensive planning for the Washington region. Among its early members was noted Philadelphia architect Clarence C. Zantzinger.[3]

The 1952 Capital Planning Act gave the commission its current name and the responsibility for preservation of important natural and historic sites in the area.[4]

The Home Rule Act of 1973 gave some of the commission's local planning authority to the District of Columbia government. The commission remains the planning authority of federally owned land and buildings in the region. In addition, NCPC plays an advisory role to the District in certain land use decisions.[5]


NCPC operates under many laws and authorities that guide the agency’s work. These include the National Capital Planning Act, Height of Buildings Act of 1910, Commemorative Works Act, District of Columbia Zoning Act, Foreign Missions Act, International Centers Act, NEPA, Home Rule Act, and the Capper Crampton Act.[6]

NCPC principle responsibilities include:[7]

  • Urban Design and Plan Review - NCPC’s core work is the review of federal development projects in the region. The Commission reviews plans and projects ranging from commemorative works to new or renovated federal office buildings. Through its work, NCPC ensures that federal development meets the highest urban design standards and complies with Commission policies, including the Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital: Federal Elements.[8] NCPC also reviews District of Columbia public projects, proposed street and alley closings, and Zoning Commission actions, as well as private development in the Pennsylvania Avenue Historic District.
  • Comprehensive Planning - When creating NCPC, Congress charged the agency with preparing a “comprehensive, consistent, and coordinated plan for the National Capital.” The Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital: Federal Elements serves as a blueprint for long-term development through its policies on issues including transportation, preservation and historic features, parks and open space, and foreign missions. The District Elements of the Comprehensive Plan are developed under the auspices of the Mayor of the District of Columbia and are subject to NCPC review prior to adoption by the District's City Council. Preparing long-range comprehensive plans is one of NCPC's missions mandated by Congress. The major comprehensive plans for the National Capital Region are the L'Enfant Plan and the McMillan Plan.[9]
  • Signature Planning - NCPC proactively develops long-term plans for the capital city and the region. NCPC’s signature plans focus on a variety of issues including developing well-designed perimeter security, ensuring that all quadrants of the city benefit from the federal presence, meeting 21st-century transportation challenges, and planning for future memorials and museums. Its most recent signature plans include the Monumental Core Framework Plan, adopted in April 2009 and CapitalSpace, a joint open space plan between NCPC, the Government of the District of Columbia and the National Park Service.[10] In addition, the Circulator Bus was a direct product of NCPC planning and advising.[11]
  • Federal Capital Improvements Program - Each year, federal agencies submit to NCPC their proposals for capital improvements in the coming six years. NCPC reviews these projects and advises the Office of Management and Budget on which projects should move forward. Through the Federal Capital Improvements Program, NCPC helps set the federal government’s development priorities.[12]

NCPC often works in partnership with other federal and District agencies such as the National Park Service, U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, District Office of Planning, and District Department of Transportation.

Key planning initiativesEdit

Map of the Memorials and Museums Master Plan

As part of its long-range planning responsibilities, NCPC produced a visionary blueprint for the nation’s capital. The 1997 plan Extending the Legacy: Planning America's Capital for the 21st century redefines Washington's monumental core and encourages the location of new museums, memorials, and federal office buildings in all quadrants of the city.[13]

The Memorials and Museums Master Plan advances the vision for Washington's monumental core expressed in NCPC's Extending the Legacy. It identifies 100 potential sites for future museums and memorials and provides general guidelines, siting criteria, and implementation strategies.[14]

The Monumental Core Framework Plan: Connecting New Destinations with the National Mall received unanimous approval from the Commission during its April 2009 meeting. The plan, a joint product of NCPC and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, aims to create vibrant and accessible destinations in the federal precincts surrounding the National Mall. It plans to reclaim Washington's waterfront, especially the Anacostia waterfront.[15]

CapitalSpace is the first comprehensive planning analysis of Washington’s parks and open space in almost 40 years. The 2009 plan is a joint initiative of NCPC, the National Park Service and the District of Columbia. The six "big ideas" of the CapitalSpace plan includes linking Fort Circle Parks, improving playfields, enhancing center city parks, improving public schoolyards, enhancing natural areas and transforming small parks.

International activitiesEdit

Representing the United States capital, NCPC is a founding member of Capitals Alliance, an international forum of planners and designers in capital cities around the world.[16]

NCPC also hosts multiple international delegations every year from planners to academia to visitors.

Public participationEdit

Commission meetings are open to the public. In addition, the public may comment on NCPC plans and activities.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "About NCPC"
  2. ^ "NCPC Commission Members"
  3. ^ Tatman, Sandra L. "Zantzinger, Clarence Clark (1872 - 1954)". Philadelphia Architects and Buildings. Retrieved September 13, 2013.
  4. ^ "History of NCPC"
  5. ^ "History of NCPC"
  6. ^ "History of NCPC"
  7. ^ "Principal Activities"
  8. ^ "NARPAC Recent Analyses - Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital"
  9. ^ "The L'Enfant and McMillan Plans"
  10. ^ "Framework Plan Takes Shape", Southwest...The Little Quadrant That Could Blog
  11. ^ "About the Circulator"
  12. ^ "NCPC: Federal Capital Improvements"
  13. ^ Library of Congress
  14. ^ "NCPC: Memorials and Museums"
  15. ^ "Framework Plan Takes Shape", Southwest...The Little Quadrant That Could Blog
  16. ^ "Capitals Alliance"

External linksEdit