The Placard Ordinance:

The proposed mandate was expected to be informed by the final policy draft. As it turns out, the city has defended its committees and their expertise, but are not following the unanimous recommendation to not negatively placard the buildings.

On June 13th, without notice, published documentation or even orally being read into the record, City Council unanimously passed a resolution to negatively placard buildings that are in full code compliance.

This, after committee members studied the negative the impacts of stigmatizing buildings, businesses, affordable housing, schools and houses of worship and the affects it will  have on obtaining financing, insurance and income needed to afford proposed retrofits.

These placards, if passed, will be permanent even if the building is retrofitted to the standard proposed in the retrofit mandate. Small businesses have not been notified and children will have to pass a warning sign when entering their school. Is this a stress we want to put on small businesses or our children?

The Proposed Mandate:

On June 13th, City Council voted to delay the vote and form two committees to further study the feasibility of the mandate through funding. These committees will be formed in early fall 2018. We’ll publish the link on our home page when the city posts it’s application link.

The two committees are divided into for profit and non profit buildings. The city lacks the clear view of nonprofits as many non profits do not own their buildings, but rather, rely on for profit building owners.
Save Portland Buildings supports one committee. No one group has a seat at the table unless there is one table. This is one of many divisive decisions made by the Mayor’s office that will undoubtedly leave one group behind.

What is the difference between for profit and nonprofit?

  • When considering the feasibility, financing, insurance and retrofit costs - NOTHING.

  • When considering the ability to finance up front costs - NOTHING.

  • When considering a tax-abatement that defunds schools - NOTHING.

  • When considering a tax-abatement that defunds social programs - NOTHING.

The Mandate History

In 2016, the City of Portland published a list of what they determined were URM’s (unreinforced masonry buildings) by using google maps, past permits, and “drive by” inspections by PSU students. By the City’s own admission, the resulting list is highly inaccurate.

Three committees over nearly 4 years were formed by ex-commissioner, Steve Novick and composed of city staff, engineers, architects, developers, large building owner organizations, Portland Public Schools and one church representative.

Missing from this process were small individual and “Mom and Pop” building owners, owner-operator businesses, small business tenants, residential tenants, churches, artist studio tenants, music venues,condo owners and owners and tenants of color. The disenfranchised have had NO voice.


Building owners and observers have been trying to answer that question. In a city full of small main street buildings that identify the diverse neighborhood centers, we continually scratch our heads trying to figure out why just these buildings and why now?

Why with 93% of the buildings being 1-3 story, small in stature and low-occupancy, would the city focus on these buildings when the City of Portland owns dozens of buildings, including these:

  • 30+ Apartment Buildings

  • Keller Auditorium

  • The Firehouse Theater

  • The Children’s Museum

  • Interstate Cultural Center

  • Pittock Mansion

  • Union Station

  • Picnic Shelters

  • Mt. Scott Community Center

  • Dishman Community Center

  • Multnomah Arts Center

With cranes on every corner and a construction boom, the timing of this mandate threat on main streets is interesting. Why not the over 100,000 homes that PBEM identified as needing retrofits? Why not the high rises built along the river and in the liquefaction zones? Why not the gas lines, fuel tanks, bridges and over passes? Why not the “other risky buildings” deleted form the final report to:

Purposely PUSH an agenda for a YES vote for just URMs? Why?

What about schools?

We fully support prioritizing Schools and Critical Buildings. Today, only 4% of Portland Public Schools are fully retrofitted.

On Nov. 8, 2017, a Portland Public Schools representative warned the City that mandating private buildings will work against goals to retrofit schools by making it more difficult and costly.

The State of Oregon voted against $337 million in retrofits for the State Capitol in order to prioritize Oregon's Schools.

In contrast, the City of Portland is proposing a tax abatement (SB-311) for private building owners. That abatement would take revenue from Portland Schools and the State School Fund at a time when school funds are depleted. We believe public funds should be prioritized to update and fund the schools.

 Ken Rust, Chief Financial Officer, Portland, Oregon email 11/9/17:
"If SB 311 is enacted, public schools would experience property tax revenue loss."