Crystal Ballroom wins seismic placard appeal

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Crystal Ballroom is officially seismically compliant.

Just days after McMenamins — the owner of the Crystal Ballroom — appealed their inclusion on a list of buildings that needed to display a sign that their building might collapse in an earthquake, the City of Portland agreed the iconic music venue is already fully upgraded.

About 1500 buildings in the Portland area are designated to post placards alerting people the building may be unsafe in a major earthquake because of its unreinforced masonry. Until Tuesday, the Crystal Ballroom was on that list.

The Portland City Council passed this placard requirement about seismic upgrades in December. There are 4 different classifications of unreinforced masonry (URM) buildings in the city. A building that is mostly, partially, or not reinforced receives the same placard.   

Jimi Biron, the director of music and entertainment for McMenamins, told KOIN 6 News the Crystal Ballroom did “a significant amount of retrofitting” before they opened in 1996. “Then again in 2006, we had a 10-year plant to get fully compliant. So in 2006 we finished the work. We’re fully compliant. The city signed off.”

They officially appealed on February 1, and on Tuesday the city agreed with them.

The Bureau of Development Services sent this email to McMenamins officials:

“Based on the information provided the URM database has been updated to indicate the Crystal Ballroom as “building full upgrade” status.  As such, the building is exempt from the URM placard ordinance.  Thank you for your patience – our inspections group had to go through our records to verify each phase of the phased seismic agreement had been finaled.”  

Biron told KOIN 6 News the Crystal Ballroom’s status is complete and they don’t require a placard.

The Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W. Burnside in Portland, as seen on Google Street View August 12, 2017
The Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W. Burnside in Portland, as seen on Google Street View August 12, 2017

But the issue continues. The requirement is slated to take effect March 1, but Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty — who oversees the Portland Fire Bureau — issued a pause in the placard enforcement January 31. 

That put her at odds with Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler who said the requirement is still the law. He oversees the Bureau of Development Services, which enforces it.

“I stand by City Council’s decision to pass an ordinance requiring the placement of placarding on unreinforced masonry buildings. We voted to take a small but important step to be transparent about identifying buildings that are at risk in an earthquake. These signs share basic information to the public about the safety of a building,” Wheeler said February 1 in a statement to KOIN 6 News.

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