Minister Alonzo Chadwick PDX City County 6 13

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Testimony regarding a proposed timeline mandate for seismic retrofits of Un-Reinforced Masonry Buildings in Portland, Oregon. There has been much controversy surrounding the proposal - specifically surrounding the lack of public notification and engagement, several financial conflicts of interest on the Policy Committee, and a lack of any viable up--front financing that would make these prohibitively expensive retrofits feasible under a protracted timeline mandate. It should be noted that there is already existing city code which mandates seismic retrofits of URM buildings when triggered by a change of use or by certain construction permit applications. The city, however, had not been enforcing that code for decades. The proposed timeline mandates, without viable up-front financing, would incentivize the sale and subsequent demolition of over 1,600 buildings. Over 7,000 residential units are contained in those URM buildings. Members and leaders of Portland's African American churches were not notified that their buildings were subject to these proposals. A community activist who started the group Save Portland Buildings met with community leaders at the NAACP offices just a few days before the council was scheduled to vote on the retrofit mandate. The mayor and at least one other city commissioner had indicated they intended to adopt the Policy Committee's recommendations, and there was very likely to be any change in that directive. Members of Portland's African American churches were upset to find out at the 11th hour that their houses of worship, community centers, local small mom-and-pop businesses, and URM apartment buildings were all going to effectively be on the chopping block under the current proposal and that the likely outcome would devastate communities. They demanded to meet with Mayor Wheeler and he obliged by meeting with community leaders the evening before the city council hearing. As a result, the Mayor proposed an amendment that would create a working group for religious organization non-profits and exempt their buildings from the new proposed timeline mandate, deferring to the current code instead. Here is what those community leaders had to say about the process, about the threat to their houses or worship and other buildings, and about the lack of inclusion in the process.

 

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