Op-Ed: Portland Should Fully Commit to Earthquake Preparedness

An editorial calls for Portland, Oregon to approve a requirement that warning signs be placed on unreinforced historic buildings. An argument is made for further measures, and a greater sense of urgency.
October 6, 2018, 7am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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In an editorial, The Oregonian editorial board calls for the installation of visual warnings on unreinforced historic buildings, a requirement some building owners have characterized as a mandating a "scarlet letter." 

For purposes of transparency, it's important for Portlanders to have information about the potential risks of these buildings, which have at least one wall without steel reinforcements. And the wording - required near front doors in 50-point type - isn't overwrought: "This is an unreinforced masonry building. Unreinforced masonry buildings may be unsafe in the event of a major earthquake."

The editorial goes on, "City leaders say they are committed to earthquake preparedness. They plan to push for legislation in Salem to create a statewide grant program that would reimburse business owners for up to 35 percent of the high cost to upgrade buildings."

But when a committee of stakeholders called for greater attention to retrofits over the next decade, "City Council pushed out the committee's recommendations, setting the retrofit deadline 20 years out. That move undermined their argument that earthquake preparedness is truly a top priority."

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Published on Tuesday, October 2, 2018 in The Oregonian
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