Shipstead-Luce FAQs

  1. What is the Shipstead-Luce Act?
  2. What areas of the District of Columbia are subject to CFA review under the Shipstead-Luce Act?
  3. How do I find out if my property is subject to the Shipstead-Luce Act? Is there a map of the Shipstead-Luce Act area?
  4. What is the CFA’s relationship to the District government?
  5. I live in a property subject to the Shipstead-Luce Act and wish to apply for a permit. Do I apply at CFA?
  6. There are so many agencies that review permit applications for properties in the Shipstead-Luce Act area. Is there a particular order for review by CFA and the various District and federal review agencies?
  7. What is meant by “design review?”
  8. What's the difference between a concept review and a permit review?
  9. Can I ever skip the concept review and directly apply for a permit?
  10. How long is my CFA approval good for?
  11. I am renovating the interior of my home. Do I need to submit an application for CFA review of my plans?
  12. I am renovating a commercial space. Do I need to submit an application for CFA review of my plans?
  13. My proposed alterations are only on the rear of my building. Do I need to submit an application for CFA review of my plans?
  14. Do I need to submit for review by the CFA if my project involves work in public space?
  15. Are foreign missions subject to review under the Shipstead-Luce Act?
  16. What kinds of Shipstead-Luce projects do not require CFA review?
  17. Are there any policies or guidelines I can follow when preparing plans for my project?
  18. Do I need to consult with CFA staff prior to submitting?
  19. If I have met with CFA staff about my project and have received staff comments, do I still need to submit for CFA review?
  20. Must I make a presentation? If so, what do I need to bring?
  21. When are presentation materials due?
  22. How do I obtain a record of my presentation to the Commission? Is there a transcript?
  23. Can I appeal the CFA's recommendation if it is not in my favor?
  24. What is the role of other DC community organizations, such as the ANC or other neighborhood associations?
  25. I have concerns about a neighbor’s construction project. How can I make these concerns known to the CFA?
  26. I would like to learn about the CFA review history for a particular property in the Shipstead-Luce area. How can I access this information?
1. What is the Shipstead-Luce Act?

It is an act of Congress that extended the authority of the Commission of Fine Arts to review the designs of private construction in specific areas in the Nation’s Capital. The act was passed on 16 May 1930 and was amended 31 July 1939.

2. What areas of the District of Columbia are subject to CFA review under the Shipstead-Luce Act?

The Shipstead-Luce Act applies to construction which fronts or abuts:

  • the grounds of the Capitol
  • the grounds of the White House
  • the portion of Pennsylvania Avenue extending from the Capitol to the White House
  • Lafayette Park
  • the Mall Park System
  • Southwest Waterfront
  • Rock Creek and Potomac Parkways
  • Rock Creek Park
  • the National Zoo
3. How do I find out if my property is subject to the Shipstead-Luce Act? Is there a map of the Shipstead-Luce Act area?

CFA staff make the definitive determination of jurisdiction under the Shipstead-Luce Act. For general purposes, applicants can refer to the map shown here, which indicates the general location of the Shipstead-Luce Act area. For property-specific information, refer to the D.C. government’s DCPropertyQuest website, which identifies properties within the Shipstead-Luce Act area. However, this website is neither entirely accurate nor entirely precise. Contact the Shipstead-Luce Act staff architect at (202) 504-2200 or cfastaff@cfa.gov for a determination of jurisdiction. Please provide the address and the square and lot numbers of the site.

4. What is the CFA’s relationship to the District government?

CFA review is required as part of the permit process of the District of Columbia. Final CFA action is required for the issuance of a construction permit. CFA staff work in consultation with other District government entities, such as the Office of Planning, the Historic Preservation Office, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

5. I live in a property subject to the Shipstead-Luce Act and wish to apply for a permit. Do I apply at CFA?

No. CFA is a federal design review agency and does not issue permits. Design review by CFA is an integral part of the District of Columbia permit process. Applications for permits are made to DCRA, which then forwards applications to CFA for design review.

6. There are so many agencies that review permit applications for properties in the Shipstead-Luce Act area. Is there a particular order for review by CFA and the various District and federal review agencies?

In general, CFA review occurs before any other federal or District government agencies review a permit application. For large projects that are subject to review by many agencies, CFA staff may recommend joint staff consultation meetings with the other federal and District agencies before submission for permit.

7. What is meant by “design review?”

Design review refers to the review of the aesthetic character of new or renovated construction. In the case of the Shipstead-Luce area, the CFA also considers whether a proposed design is consistent with the goal of protecting the public interest in the adjacent federal parks and buildings.

8. What's the difference between a concept review and a permit review?

Concept review provides an opportunity for the applicants to know what is acceptable at an early stage of design, but a concept approval does not constitute the necessary advice to issue a permit for the work. A separate permit application must be filed and submitted for review by the Commission.

9. Can I ever skip the concept review and directly apply for a permit?

Under certain circumstances and upon the advice of CFA staff, the concept phase may be skipped. The determination will be made by CFA staff based on the scope and proposed design of the project and the characteristics of the subject property.

10. How long is my CFA approval good for?

Concept approval by the CFA expires after two years. At the end of that period, the original applicant may make a new submission to DCRA to request a one year extension of the previous concept approval.

Permit approval by the CFA expires after four years. If construction of the project has not been substantially started within that period, the applicant must make a new submission to DCRA for permit review by the CFA.

11. I am renovating the interior of my home. Do I need to submit an application for CFA review of my plans?

Site modifications, window and door replacements, mechanical equipment (such as vents, meters, and rooftop condensers), visible electrical wiring and lighting, and other exterior changes commonly associated with interior renovations all require review by the CFA. CFA review is not required only if there are no changes proposed to the exterior of the property.

12. I am renovating a commercial space. Do I need to submit an application for CFA review of my plans?

Signs, outdoor seating areas, window, door, and storefront replacements, mechanical equipment (such as vents, meters, and rooftop condensers), visible electrical wiring and lighting, and other exterior changes commonly associated with commercial renovations all require review by the CFA. CFA review is not required only if there are no changes proposed to the exterior of the property.

13. My proposed alterations are only on the rear of my building. Do I need to submit an application for CFA review of my plans?

Visibility is not a criterion for establishing CFA jurisdiction under the Shipstead-Luce Act. The CFA reviews all exterior changes to properties within the Shipstead-Luce Act area, whether or not they are visible from public space.

14. Do I need to submit for review by the CFA if my project involves work in public space?

Projects with public space components must be submitted to DCRA for review by the CFA prior to submission for a DDOT public space permit. Projects involving only work in public space, with no work on private property, must also be submitted for CFA review through DCRA prior to submission for a DDOT public space permit. Once CFA review is complete, the CFA staff will process the DDOT public space permit through the online DDOT permit system.

15. Are foreign missions subject to review under the Shipstead-Luce Act?

Foreign missions within the Shipstead-Luce Act area follow the same procedures as other properties subject to the Act.

16. What kinds of Shipstead-Luce projects do not require CFA review?
  • razing
  • minor repairs
  • masonry repointing
  • temporary primary business signs to be displayed 60 days or less while review for a permanent sign is pending
  • replacement of roofs that are not visible from the ground
  • installation, removal or repairs of underground storage tanks, underground utility lines and underground waterproofing measures
  • temporary construction barriers and scaffolding and public space permits for dumpsters and parking
  • repair or partial replacement in kind of compatible fences (new fences or substantial replacement of a fence requires CFA review; replacement of small portions can considered a minor repair not requiring a permit)
  • changes of use involving no physical change to the exterior of the property
17. Are there any policies or guidelines I can follow when preparing plans for my project?

CFA has no written policies or guidelines for design review under the Shipstead-Luce Act; each case is considered by the CFA on its merits. The District of Columbia incorporated specific sign regulations for the Shipstead-Luce Act area in Chapter 12 A, Appendix N of the D.C. Construction Code (click on "View Text").

18. Do I need to consult with CFA staff prior to submitting?

It is highly recommended, especially for new structures or large projects, that the applicants and/or their agent contact CFA staff prior to submission to determine if there is any additional or special information that should be included in the submission. CFA staff may also recommend an informal staff consultation meeting prior to submission.

19. If I have met with CFA staff about my project and have received staff comments, do I still need to submit for CFA review?

Yes. Informal consultation with CFA staff in meetings prior to submission for CFA review is often recommended, but it does not substitute for the required formal review by CFA.

20. Must I make a presentation? If so, what do I need to bring?

New buildings and large or complex projects require a presentation before the Commission of Fine Arts; CFA staff will notify you if your case requires presentation to the CFA. Presentation materials may include projected digital media, boards, models, and material samples, and should convey very clearly the intent and design of the project. It is recommended that the applicant consult with CFA staff prior to submitting presentation materials.

21. When are presentation materials due?

All presentation materials, including digital media, must be received by CFA staff no later than the Monday before the Commission meeting. Revised digital presentations will not be accepted the day of the meeting. Please contact CFA staff to coordinate the delivery of physical models and material samples.

22. How do I obtain a record of my presentation to the Commission? Is there a transcript?

A written transcript is made of the public meetings of the Commission of Fine Arts. Copies of transcripts are available for reference, as are digitally recorded audio excerpts, but neither of these is considered an official record of the meeting. The official records of the CFA meetings are: the recommendation letter (sent to the applicant after the meeting); meeting minutes (made public following approval at the subsequent Commission meeting); and the approved Shipstead-Luce Act Appendix. Once approved, these record documents are available online.

23. Can I appeal the CFA's recommendation if it is not in my favor?

Concept applications do not constitute a final action and cannot be appealed. Permit applications may be appealed through the District of Columbia.

24. What is the role of other DC community organizations, such as the ANC or other neighborhood associations?

Review by the ANC and other community organizations is not required for CFA review. However, it is recommended that applicants and/or their agents contact neighbors who may be affected by a proposed project prior to submission review. Letters of support from the neighbors can be made part of the record. The local Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) may be interested in a public presentation of the project so they can offer comments to the Commission of Fine Arts.

25. I have concerns about a neighbor’s construction project. How can I make these concerns known to the CFA?

Concerned citizens may submit their comments in support of or in opposition to proposed work on a particular property, in writing to cfastaff@cfa.gov, through the CFA website, or to 401 F Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001. These documents will be distributed to the Commission members and will become part of the public record. As the Commission of Fine Arts is a design review entity, please limit comments to design issues only.

Citizens may also attend the public meetings of the Commission of Fine Arts and voice their concerns, at the discretion of the CFA Chairman. Please contact CFA staff at (202) 504-2200 or cfastaff@cfa.gov if you wish to make a comment in the public meeting.

26. I would like to learn about the CFA review history for a particular property in the Shipstead-Luce area. How can I access this information?

CFA submission files and review history are made available to the public by appointment only. Please contact the Records Officer at (202) 504-2200 or cfastaff@cfa.gov to make an appointment. When doing so, please state specific projects and dates of review. Some materials, such as meeting minutes and other records of CFA review, are also available online.