City wants to pull earthquake policy out of the rubble


Bureau of Emergency Management has a plan for City Council

unreinforced masonry old buildings

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — After facing anger from building owners and a slap in the face from a federal judge, the city of Portland has a new plan to deal with the buildings most likely to collapse in a major earthquake: form a committee.

The city hopes the plan will generate far more than an eye roll.

The Bureau of Emergency Management hopes its new proposal will lead to an incentive program that will sweeten the pot enough to convince building owners to fork out the money to retrofit their buildings.

“We want to work collaboratively with the community to make sure it’s done right,” said Dan Douthit, the Emergency Management Bureau spokesman. “We know this is a long game. It is going to take 20 -30 years to do this right.”​

Douthit said the city wants to move away from a mandatory retrofit policy for private building owners, to voluntary upgrades to those dangerous buildings.

He said the city will continue to pursue a mandatory retrofit policy for public buildings – including schools.​​

On Wednesday, PBEM will put a proposed ordinance before City Council members and the public will have a chance to comment on whether a committee should be formed to look at incentive options.

seismic upgrade reinforced masonry sign 01042019_1546651183763.jpg.jpg

If approved the ordinance would also remove one of the most contentious parts of the city’s current ordinance: requiring owners of unreinforced masonry buildings to post signs warning they are dangerous in earthquakes.​

Property owners sued saying it would discourage people from entering their buildings and reduce their value. In May a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the city from enforcing the requirement.​

“This gives the city the opportunity to resolve the lawsuit, then concentrate on the next steps,” said Douthit.​

He said the committee will be made up of different stakeholders, including property owners and faith leaders. ​

Douthit said the city has already had a lot of meetings to look at what requirements and incentives should look like.​

“One thing we learned is each building is different and what incentives will help,” said Douthit. “A non-profit doesn’t need a tax credit.”​

He said the council is scheduled to vote on the ordinance October 30. ​The ultimate decision will be made by the City Council when they consider the new committee’s recommendations in a year.

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