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


UPDATE: Feb 27, 2019 - City Council approves Commissioner Hardesty's resolution to suspend all enforcement of Placarding Ordinance until November 2020.

While MusicPortland applauds this couragous interruption of a law that preceded Hardesty's participation and will join the advisory group to help influence the issues and problems, we remain concerned that leaving the existing law in place will have a deadening effect on all forward efforts to upgrade buildings.  Doing so, leaves a poor policy in place as a pre-existing conclusion rather than than a clean slate with a fully engaged and inclusive process to actually make our city more seismically resilient and our public better informed.

UPDATE Feb 2018: 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.