$1 Million Seismic Upgrade = Still On The URM List

The Portland Tribune’s article t”oday illustrates yet another problem with the city’s URM Ordinance. Even after millions on seismic upgrades, buildings can’t get off the “URM List”.

“Twenty-four years ago, Rejuvenation Hardware founder Jim Kelly spent more than $1 million upgrading the company’s landmark headquarters building in Southeast Portland to better withstand earthquakes.” 

“The work included installing steel bracing, special flooring and concrete pillars inside the historic 1905 Neustadter Building — and even bolting it to a newer concrete building next door. The work was performed under the supervision of the Portland Bureau of Buildings, which issued a Certificate of Occupancy when it was completed on Feb. 16, 1995.” 

“So Kelly, who has since sold the business but still owns the building, was shocked to learn the city still considers it an unreinforced masonry (URM) building — and that he must post signs warning customers and employees that it may be unsafe in a major earthquake.” 

” “I wasn’t required to do the work at the time. I did it voluntarily and never imagined the city could still come after me,” Kelly told the Portland Tribune while conducting a tour of his building earlier this month.”

There is growing momentum to repeal the URM Ordinance and start a broad, inclusive process to find a sensible and fair path on seismic issues.

“Owners of other unreinforced masonry buildings have publicly complained about the requirements for months, saying the signs will reduce the value of their properties and make refinancing them difficult. They include music club owners and representatives of African-American churches, who rallied against the requirement outside City Hall on Jan. 5. Joining them was the Rev. E.D. Mondaine, president of the Portland chapter of the NAACP, who said the requirement will disproportionately hurt minority-owned businesses and nonprofit organizations.”

“But now a majority of the current council has come out against the posting requirement, which was approved by only two of its current members, Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Amanda Fritz.”

Under pressure from a Federal court ruling, City Council will consider amending the URM Ordinance on February 20. The URM coalition led by the Portland NAACP, Save Portland Buildings, small business owners, small building owners, renters’ groups and others are pressing for a full repeal of the ordinance, and will hold a rally at 10 am on February 20 in City Hall, followed by testimony to council. More information here.

Posted in: URM