Portland City Council adopts two ordinances to assist in office-to-residential conversions

News Article
This photo illustrates a brick commercial building.
On March 15, the Portland City Council adopted two emergency ordinances aimed at making it a little easier to change vacant office space to housing.

One ordinance provides a limited exemption from system development charges when commercial buildings that convert to residential uses undertake seismic retrofits to make them safer in an earthquake. The waiver only applies to buildings located in certain areas. If property owners choose to request a system development charge exemption under this policy, they must agree to keep the building residential for at least 10 years. The amount of the waiver would be limited to the total costs of the seismic retrofit or $3 million, whichever is less.

A second ordinance amends the seismic design requirements for office-to-residential conversions to meet the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 41-BPOE (Basic Performance Objective for Existing Buildings) standard, which is a standard for life safety that enables occupants of a building to exit it safely following a major earthquake.

The change in seismic design requirements is a permanent amendment to Portland City Code. The system development charge waiver applies only to permits requested before July 1, 2027.

Both ordinances are now in effect. Customers who wish to seek a waiver or learn more about the new seismic standards are encouraged to schedule a free 15-minute appointment with a building code and engineering reviewer.