What is all this about URMs and what can I do to help? 


UPDATE Feb 20/18: Fed Judge Slaps Restraining Order on Placard Law and City Council Debates Delay and Modifications.  MusicPortland and Coalition DEMAND REPEAL.  <More>

Any older brick building in our city might be “unreinforced masonry" (URM), but you cannot tell by just looking. But many of them are at risk from an ill-advised city policy that will create a man-made disaster more immediate and assured than the potential threat of an earthquake in the next 50-400 years. Write to our city leaders (via the links below) to save our music venues, affordable housing and city spirit while recommitting our efforts to making it all safer.

Based on drive-by assessments by PSU students in 2016, 1640 of them have been listed as URMs.  This includes 30+ music venues, 35 churches, 7000 units of affordable housing and most of the character of our city.  City Council then voted to tagged all of them as “May Be Unsafe in a Major Earthquake” despite the fact that every one of them is fully compliant with current codes and many are already upgraded far beyond current code. The city is planning a new code standard for safety in these buildings that they hope to publish in a year, but voted to stigmatize and cripple every building on this unvalidated list starting March 1 of this year (though they gave churches and low-income housing up to two years to comply). 

Now, the City is coercing owners to sign an agreement by March 1 that will legally “distress” their title, threaten their current financing and cut off access to all other financing that they will need to make safety upgrades as ultimately required by the city. Worse still, the agreement commits these building owners to the highest level of upgrades in conflict with current building codes and far beyond what City Council was considering for a mandate. This higher upgrade commitment adds millions to each structure's project cost.  Without a clear title, these buildings cannot even be sold except to a cash buyer who plans to demolish.  Developers, who desperately want the land beneath these buildings.

 The strong opposition from so many varied groups in Portland (NAACP, Portland Tenants United, Restore Oregon, MusicPortland and others) is not only about what some defend as a simple sign, meant to educate. it is about the consequences of the approach that demonizes, dis-incents or disables property owners from upgrading their properties to as yet undefined seismic standards.

URM Placarding is antithetical to public safety and disastrous for our city identity.

Placarding Law is real and needs your voice to help stop it before March 1. Below are links to templated emails to each of the City Councilors to help you get started. Remember that chain letters are never as effective as real people communicating who they are and why they care with a real call for action.

Use as much or as little of the pre-written content as you like, but remember that Commissioner Hardesty is the key at this point. Only she can bring this issue back to City Council for a vote. Commissioners Fish and Eudaly did not support placarding the first time around, so be sure to thank them and ask for their support again to repeal.

Click on the links to copy "Starter Letters" that you can customize to send to City Council (do them in this order if you can do anything less than all of them).  The language is slightly different in each, specific to their role and past vote.

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty
Commissioner Nick Fish
Commissioner Chloe Eudaly
Commissioner Amanda Fritz
Mayor Ted Wheeler

Remember, change comes from those who engage.  Thanks for doing this.  Your "voice" matters.  Here are some examples from other people who have written and given permission to share.