Portland City Council votes to repeal most URM requirements and create new work group

Posted By: Jonathan Clay Advocacy Alerts, Portland/SW Washington,

It’s been a wild ride for the city of Portland’s attempts to address unreinforced masonry buildings (URMs). In the Fall of 2018 Portland City Council approved placarding requirements for URM buildings and mandated new requirements to retrofit. Unlike other cities with similar URM policies, these new rules did not provide funding strategies for URM owners to implement the costly upgrades.

The placarding timeline requirement was to become effective for most URM buildings this Spring, it was to read “This Building is an Unreinforced Masonry Building. Unreinforced Masonry Buildings may be unsafe in an event of a Major Earthquake.” Building owners felt blindsided by the quick adoption of these rules, which were contrary to the final recommendations brought to City Council from the original city-appointed citizen URM committee. Owners sued the City of Portland over the URM rules and won a temporary injunction in Federal Court last February 14th which halted placarding and unfunded retrofit requirements.

On October 25th Portland City Council voted unanimously to form a new URM Work Group to readdress the nearly 2,000 URM building within the city. It’s due to report back with recommendations within a year. Portland provides an interactive map of Portland’s URM buildings. Keep in mind this city list of URM buildings is disputed by some building owners for its accuracy. The Council’s action removed the placarding requirement but leaves in place the retrofit mandate. The vote also removed requirements for written disclosures to URM building lease holders and disclosure requirements in URM building application or lease contracts. The new URM Work Group will be tasked with finding incentives to make URM retrofits financially feasible which amonts to saving these historic buildings. The website saveportlandbuildings.com has great additional information on the plight of URM buildings in Portland.