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Town Hall to Discuss New Earthquake Preparedness Policy

columbia_city1 urm map

COLUMBIA CITY - The Columbia City area has been identified as the pilot area for the City’s outreach efforts on its future policy for seismic upgrades to Unreinforced Masonry Buildings (URMs).

URMs are brick buildings constructed without steel reinforcements, ties and connections in their bearing walls required by modern building codes. The City is currently considering policy options for strengthening these buildings which are vulnerable during earthquakes.

According to the City, the first outreach efforts will start in the south-end “due to the diversity of its residents coupled with the extent of unreinforced masonry buildings (URMs) in the business districts.”

The concentration of URMS adds critical value to the daily economic and cultural activities of the neighborhood. Interpreters will translate information in Tagalog, Spanish, Chinese, and Amharic. The target audience includes building owners, building managers, business owners, employees, customers, and tenants for both residential and commercial buildings.

The communication program will build awareness of the hazards associated with URMs and create an understanding of the benefits of a retrofit.  The program will also discuss how any future policy would take into consideration the challenges of financing and scheduling the necessary modifications for the identified structures.

Based on a “sidewalk survey” of buildings in the city, the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) estimates there are at least 800 URM structures in Seattle. It is not known how many of these have been retrofitted.  Approximately 45 of the identified URMs are in Columbia City.

The consultant team was hired to develop a pilot outreach project to inform the general public about URMs, discuss draft policy considerations, and gather feedback from the community.  Information gathered from the pilot will be used to create a toolkit to design an effective outreach strategy to educate the community on the final policy and regulations for retrofitting URM buildings.

A group of community outreach specialists and structural engineers will be facilitating a public open house this Wed., Nov. 13, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at the Filipino Community Center (5740 Martin Luther King Jr Way S) to provide educational information.