Closing arguments made in URM warning sign lawsuit
Closing arguments in the federal lawsuit against Portland requiring earthquake warning signs in unreinforced masonry buildings were made on Tuesday, May 21.
A city attorney told Oregon U.S. Magistrate Judge John Acosta that the City Council was legally trying to make Portland safer when it approved the requirement, as allowed by the City Charter. Attorneys for URM owners said the requirement violates their free speech and due process rights without making the city any safer.
The URM owners are seeking a permanent injunction against the requirement, which the council delayed from July 1 of this year to Nov. 1, 2020, after the lawsuit was filed. Acosta took the case under advisement but did not say when he will rule at the end of the nearly two-and-a-half hour hearing.
Acosta questioned city attorney Denis Vannier harder than the owners' attorneys during the hearing. Acosta accused the city of changing the rationale for the requirement during two days of hearings last week, soliciting an apology from Vannier at one point.
The owners' attorneys quoted former Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who was the most vocal advocate for the requirement on the council, as saying it was intended to pressure the owners to either pay for expensive earthquake retrofits or redevelop their buildings.
The owners' attorneys also criticized the list of URMs maintained by the city, saying it is incomplete and fails to acknowledge that other kinds of buildings can be dangerous in earthquakes, too.
You can read a previous Portland Tribune story on the issue here.