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Jay Raskin

The New Yorker articles certainly have had impact on raising awareness, but there should be a third article talking about what Oregon has actually been doing to prepare. A major step was taken back in 2005 when Oregon voters passed bonding authority to retrofit Oregon's schools and essential facilities. Due to the recession, this was slow to get off the ground, until this year only $50 million had been spent. However, the Legislature authorized over $200 million this year, so the program is kicking into high gear.

In 2011, the Legislature requested the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission (OSSPAC) to create the Oregon Resilience Plan (ORP), which it did with the help of 169 volunteers. They came up with an innovative plan with over a hundred recommendations that are in the process of being implemented. Its number one recommendation was the creation of a State Resilience Officer, which was created by legislature this year (with the active support of AIA Oregon).

The ORP solidified efforts such ODOT's plan for a tiered lifeline transportation system. This tiered system will create a backbone system of roads and bridges that will ensure mobility for relief and reconstruction efforts following the earthquake. This backbone concept is also being adopted by water service districts. Both Portland Water Bureau and Clean Waters have major seismic upgrade projects planned.

The Legislature also passed a bill that allows local communities to create loan guarantee/loan programs for the seismic upgrade of private multi-family housing, commercial and industrial buildings. This was requested by the City of Portland (essentially to provide a carrot to go with the mandatory requirements they are considering for URMs).

With regards to the historic buildings, Restore Oregon came out with a Special Report "Resilient Masonry Buildings: Saving Lives, Livelihoods, and the Livability of Oregon's Historic Downtowns". Their recommendations were folded into the ORP.

It is this idea of resilience that is truly innovative, since it looks past just code into how well we want to our buildings and communities to perform. It seeks to turn natural hazards from being a disaster to become an inconvenience that a we can recover quickly from. Resilience has become a national topic and the efforts Oregon has done has attracted national attention. One example of this is the fact that the ORP has become a core document for the National Institute of Standards and Technologies' "Community Resilience Planning Guide", which will impact standards and codes.

Oregon is a leader in sustainability and it is becoming leader in resilience. The challenge for architects is to integrate both efforts.


Steele does not address the damage from a Tsunami. That is the core of the New Yorker article and it gets glossed over.


I don't think a tsunami is going to make it to Portland. It's certainly going to devastate a lot of places west of here though.


The tsunami won't make any elevations of greater than 100 feet. At the worst points, it will die a couple of miles inland. Places like Seaside and Cannon Beach will be absolutely devastated, but it will have zero effect on places inland.

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