Portland’s Old Brick Buildings Will Kill You

But As the City Ponders New Safety Standards, a Group of Property Owners is Fighting Back—and Winning


We don't know where the Cascadia subduction fault will rupture, N, Central or South. We don't know the magnitude - there is a big difference between 9.0 and 9.4. And we don't know how long the quake will run, there is a big difference between 1 minute and 10 minutes.

Most retrofits are designed to protect the residents, not save the building. The retrofit buildings will need to be torn down anyway after the earthquake. They don't have current standard foundations, the walls will be a pile of bricks on the street, no windows and no plumbing. We will have landslides, no power, no heating and no water.

So the building owners have a good point. The City needs focus on their own retrofit challenges and be honest on the level of protection their URM code proposals will provide. They are doing neither.

More coverage is welcome and maybe you need to start a new column: "What's in your bug-out bag?"
Building owners don't want to spend the money? Ok, let's create strict liability for death and injury in buildings where the owners don't take steps to retrofit to a minimum level of earthquake safety - they can purchase insurance to cover the cost if creating a reserve fund is too expensive. Or they can do the retrofits. Having to redevelop the building site will happen anyway after a major quake - the bigger question is going to be the amount of injury or death.
I really don't want to see these buildings all come down, and end up with more soulless condos. I also get that it would be an intense hardship for some of the business owners. Assuming these guys are all flush with cash, and making tremendous profits is crazy. Those that can afford the retrofits should be compelled to do so, and those that show legit financial hardship should be helped to mitigate the expenses. I really don't want to lose more of the city's character. It is a damn shame no code was established to force the new condos to utilize designs that fit into the existing character of the neighborhoods.

How about we go pro-choice? If a building is a potential danger, that trumps historic preservation. A few years back, I was at a meditation retreat with Ruth Denison. There was a buddha on the dais with her, and it was ;it by a hot spotlight. She asked if someone could turn down the light, and a woman (who looked just like the woman who led the protests in the courtroom in the movie version of The Bonfire of the Vanities) said, "We keep the spotlight on for The Buddha". Ruth Denison, a very wise woman, said, "But there are two buddhas up here". How about we consider the safety and lives of the living, instead of constraining live people to preserve the uninformed choices of people who have been gone for years?
Uh, MadeinOregon, there is an extensive architectural review process to develop anything in Portland. You may not like the designs, but try looking at the cookie cutter stucco condo boxes going up in cities where no such review process exists, like Los Angeles for example.
Obviously there is danger present and there has been for a very long time. I can't blame these owners for pushing back on what has been a shady and selective process of labeling locations as potential hazards.

Anyone who's lived here long enough to remember Randy Leonard and his corrupt band of fire marshals slapping the scarlet letter "U" on buildings across downtown should realize this. If Dirk really wanted to do honest reporting he'd report on how many of these branded buildings have since been demolished for new development. The selectivity of those that received Us and those that didn't seemed designed to devalue properties and strong arm owners into selling. Take notice how there are no Us on old-ass building like The Benson or any of the historic churches, etc. The Leonard legacy of corruption lives on....
I second FlavioSuave's suggestion. At least the
survivors of the dead would have something while they reviewed the casualty lists and read the "Needless deaths due to unsafe buildings" article in the Mercury, post quake.