The issue: The City Council will hold a hearing Wednesday, Feb. 20, on a resolution to delay and change earthquake warning requirements for owners of unreinforced masonry buildings (see story, Page A1).
The context: The council passed the requirements by a 3-0 vote last October. Commercial business owners are required to post signs by March 1 warning that the building may be dangerous in earthquakes. They also must file a signed agreement with the city to post the signs with their deed.
Many owners object to requirements, saying they will reduce the value of their buildings and make it difficult to refinance them. Some, including the Masonry Building Owners of Oregon, have sued in federal court to block the requirements. A federal judge issued a 60-day injunction against the city enforcing the requirement on Feb. 14.
What changed: The balance of support for the requirements changed in January when Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty replaced Commissioner Dan Saltzman. Now, only Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Amanda Fritz voted for them.
Hardesty directed Portland Fire & Rescue, which she oversees, to not enforce the posting requirement. She also introduced the resolution to be considered Wednesday that would delay the posting requirement for commercial building owners until Nov. 1, 2020, and eliminate the requirement to file the signed agreement with the deed.
"Risk factors for our community members are very important to me, which is why I am asking for these changes to the original (unreinforced masonry buildings) ordinance. With this expanded timeline, we will look for ways to offer financial support for these important upgrades and examine the ways to make this program feasible and fundable," Hardesty told the Portland Tribune.
Is that enough: Many building owners oppose even the delayed and weakened requirements. They are against posting the warning signs at all, and object to a requirement in Hardesty's resolution that future leases must include earthquake warnings.
Those behind the lawsuit are not talking about dropping it if Hardesty's resolution passes. In fact, a federal court hearing on the situation is now set for April 25, five days before the injunction expires.
The hearing is scheduled for the morning session that begins at 9:30 a.m., Wednesday, Feb. 20, in the Council Chambers, second floor, 1221 S.W. Fourth Ave.
Where do you stand? Go to www.PortlandTribune.com, scroll to the bottom, and click on Letters to the Editor.
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