Paying for the $4.6 Billion URM MandateJan 12 2018 · 0 comments · NISHKIAN DEAN, Seismic ·0
A January 2018 update to our blog post from July 2017
Nishkian Dean previously reported on the URM Building Policy Committee back in July, which you can read here. This shorter post is intended to be a supplement to the original post, and to cover items not addressed in the previous article.
The URM Building Policy Committee had a final meeting on November 8, 2017 and completed a final draft of their report and recommendation in December, which the Portland City Council is likely to review in early 2018.
In summary, the Committee’s proposal is to require seismic strengthening of URM buildings using a tiered approached based on the building’s use and occupancy. The only exceptions to these recommended requirements are for one- and two-family homes and URM buildings that were previously seismically strengthened to an acceptable defined standard, as well as buildings serving religious functions or other buildings owned by non-profits that are not being used as schools. The exemption for Class 3 churches and other buildings used by non-profits would require that a placard noting the earthquake risk be placed at or near the entrances.
The Committee has defined 4 categories of URMs with differing levels of seismic strengthening requirements and corresponding time allotments to complete the requirements. The Classes range from 1 to 4, with Class 1 for Critical Buildings and Essential Facilities and Class 4 for Low-Occupancy structures. Class 2 is for Schools and High-Occupancy structures (such as churches and theaters), while Class 3 is for is the largest class of building and covers every other URM building not included in the other classes. For Class 3 buildings, the allotted time period to complete upgrades was reduced from 20 years to 15 years. Class 3 buildings make up over 80% of the URM building inventory.
Another recommendation by the Committee involves changing the current city code by modifying the thresholds for required seismic upgrades per Title 24.85. Title 24.85 requires owners to seismically retrofit their buildings when an owner spends approximately $43 per square foot on improvements within a two-year period. The Committee recommends lengthening the consideration period for cost-per-square-foot improvement periods from two to five years, and adding an upper limit to the total cost of improvements over a 15 year period to be twice the allowed five year costs. Title 24.85 also requires that the parapets be braced and the roof diaphragm be tied to the walls when more than 50% of the roof is replaced over a five-year period. The committee recommends that the trigger for roofing requirement upgrades happen over a fifteen-year period rather than a five-year period.
In our previous post, we calculated a considerable cost to implement the recommendations citywide. During the period for public comment, building owners expressed grave concern about the considerable costs. The Committee recommended that the City provide some funding mechanisms prior to implementing measures that would give funding assistance for owners, such as a property tax exemption through Oregon Senate Bill 311, and/or a few other sources laid out in the report.
These recommendations are on the docket to be considered by the Portland City Council in early 2018. At that point, the Council will need to decide if it will implement all or part of the recommendations. Possible outcomes may include an ordinance mandating seismic strengthening of URM buildings, the continuation of the status quo as required by Title 24.85, or the modification of Title 24.85 per the committee’s recommendation.
Nishkian Dean will continue to monitor the development of this important issue affecting many of our clients, so stay tuned.
- City of Portland, FINAL Unreinforced Masonry (URM) Building Policy Committee Report, December 2017
- City of Portland, Chapter 24.85 Seismic Design Requirements for Existing Buildings
- City of Portland, URM Buildings Seismic Retrofit Policy Information website
- City of Portland, Unreinforced Masonry (URM) Seismic Retrofit Project website
- The $4.6 Billion Unreinforced Masonry Mandate, by Edwin T. Dean, July 2017