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Portland officials are ordered to send a new letter to unreinforced masonry building owners correcting previous letter that should not have been sent.

PMG GRAPHIC - Controversy continues to surround the earthquake warning requirements for unreinforced masonry buildings.A federal judge has ruled that the City of Portland violated a temporary injunction he issued preventing the enforcement of its unreinforced masonry building earthquake warning requirements.

In an April 3 telephone status conference with attorneys representing the city and URM owners, Oregon U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge John Acosta found that letters by the city to some owners violated the injunction he issued on Feb. 15. It prohibits the city from enforcing any of the requirements until July 1. A hearing on whether to continue the injunction is scheduled for May 14.

The Bureau of Development Services sent letters to some URM owners in late March saying they must include earthquake warnings in lease applications by July 1, 2019, and post warning signs by Nov. 1, 2020.

But Acosta had ordered the city to not communicate with URM owners without his approval.

"[T]he City may not take action in reliance on the ordinance, including but not limited to informing owners of URM buildings that they must comply with ordinance, that they are not in compliance with the ordinance, or that they shall be or are fined for noncompliance with the ordinance," Acosta's order said.

CITY OF PORTLAND - Examples of the required warning signs.

The city did not submit its letter to Acosta before mailing it. Attorneys representing URM owners notified Acosta of the letters in an April 2 letter to him asking him to send followup information to the owners about the temporary injunction and upcoming hearing for a permanent one.

"We are concerned that many recipients will feel obliged to begin preparing to comply with the amended Ordinance — by, for example, drafting and printing new rental applications — before this Court is able to rule on our Motion for Preliminary Injunction," reads the letter signed by Chris Swift with Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.

On Wednesday Acosta ordered both parties to prepare a new correction letter to be mailed to URM owners. He also ordered both parties to prepare a script based on the letter to be given to city employees receiving phone calls regarding the status requirements.

The City Council postponed the sign posting date after URM owners complained they would lower the value of their buildings, which could fail in an earthquake. The council is expected to reconsider the requirement before the posting deadline.

You can read Swift's letter and supporting documents here.

You can read a previous Portland Tribune story on the issue here.

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