Unreinforced Masonry Project (URM) in Detail

Historic South Downtown is pleased to announce a funding partnership with the City of Seattle in support of the Seattle Chinatown-International District Public Development Authority’s (SCIDPDA) RRIO/URM study that we believe will be of great value to our South Downtown neighborhoods.

The City of Seattle has adopted a Rental Registration Inspection Ordinance (RRIO) and an Unreinforced Masonry Retrofit (URM) ordinance. This ordinance will require seismic retrofitting of URM buildings and is anticipated to take effect later in the year.  Pioneer Square and the Chinatown-International District (C-ID) will be particularly impacted by these policies. Together, the neighborhoods contain approximately 15 percent of all URM buildings in the city. These buildings are particularly vulnerable in the event of a major earthquake. Many of these buildings have affordable housing for low-income individuals and families, seniors, recent immigrants, as well as affordable commercial space for small businesses.

Much of the neighborhoods’ historic building stock may be subject to at least one of the new policies, and many buildings will be affected by both policies. In the C-ID alone, at least 700 affordable housing units (half of which are occupied) need work to comply with URM retrofit requirements; 600 of those will also require upgrades to meet rental inspection standards. Dozens of small businesses—largely located in mixed-use URM buildings—will also be impacted and potentially displaced.

SCIDPDA will conduct outreach in both neighborhoods as a practical way for property owners and city agencies to anticipate the work required to comply with the new policies, estimate associated costs, and create a sustainable, targeted financing mechanism for improvements. The pilot will explore the work required to rehabilitate 5 to 7 case study buildings for URM compliance, including needs assessments and cost estimates by professional consultants, and exploration of potential funding mechanisms to fund retrofit work. Community engagement will be conducted throughout the process. For more information, contact project manager Paul Mar at 206-838-8233 or PaulM[at]scidpda.org.