Lawyer says signs required for unreinforced masonry buildings is unconstitutional.

PORTLAND TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - An example of an unreinforced masonry building in Portland.Owners of unreinforced masonary buildings in Portland are threatening to sue the city over the recent requirement to post signs they could collapse in earthquakes.

Portland lawyer John DiLorenzo sent a letter to the council on Tuesday saying he will file suit in federal court if the council does not repeal the requirement. DiLorenzo says the signs will unfairly reduce the value of the buildings.

DiLorenzo is representing Masonry Buildings Owners of Oregon, a trade group representing landlords of such buildings. In his letter, DiLorenzo said, "We will contend that by so doing, the Ordinance violates the First Amendment and free speech clause and the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clauses to the United States Constitution."

DiLorenzo also says the council mistakenly applied the requirement only to building owners who had already taken out permits to upgrade their buildings, penalizing those meaning to address the problems instead of all such landlords.

There are approximately 1,800 URMs in Portland. Of those, 1,640 are believed to have not been retroffited to survive an earthquake. The council discussed requiring owners to bring all of them up to current earthquake codes, but felt the cost — an average of $105 per square foot — is too expensive. The council intended requiring the warning signs to be a compromise, although the building owners group does not see it that way.

"It's a huge mistake," says DiLorenzo.

You can read the letter here.

To read a previous Portland Tribune story on the issue, go to

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