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Portland considering mandate to retrofit older buildings in preparation of The Big One

Downtown Portland building (KATU News photo)

Portland is considering mandating people who own old brick buildings to retrofit them so they withstand a major earthquake.

A similar measure was proposed decades ago, and about 80 percent of the unreinforced masonry buildings didn't comply.

In a city council meeting Wednesday, officials discussed adding signs outside those buildings, warning people of potential threats in case of an earthquake.

Representatives from Stop Demolishing Portland were present, saying this would lead to more demolitions and tear downs of Portland's oldest buildings.

The city doesn't have any estimates of that or how much the average property owner would have to pay to get their building up to seismic standard. They say it's long overdue to get buildings up to code.

"There wasn't a mandate, so that's one of the reasons we're pushing for this policy ... to make sure we reach all those buildings in a way that we wouldn't unless it's mandated," Dan Douthit with the Bureau of Emergency Management said.

Many of the buildings that need to be retrofitted are owned by the City of Portland. Leaders say the work should be done there first, because many of those buildings house first responders who will need a functioning building when responding to a disaster like an earthquake.

Those older buildings can also often include churches, which can be tight on cash.

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