Friday, April 3, 2015

Satisfying curiosity


See the red sign with the white U? This is the first one that I can remember noticing. I took this photo on April 3, 2009, while waiting for the 15 bus home from Fred Meyer on West Burnside and NW 20th Place.

Here's what I've read about the sign (in a July 15, 2010, article in The Oregonian) which I have since noticed posted on other buildings here and there:

The signs, placed on at least 21 Portland buildings since the (fire) bureau introduced its Unsafe Building Alerts Program in December 2009, tell firefighters that if a fire were to break out in the building, it would be unsafe to battle from inside. Firefighters will still enter to rescue people, though. 

"We need a way (to know) from the outside of the building that the building is structurally unsafe," Oswalt said. "The big U is the way we do it." He said the signs are similar to those that warn of hazardous materials, such as the ones on schools that have chemistry labs.

Oswalt said there's no reason for the public to stop visiting the businesses; if the Fire Bureau deemed them unsafe, they would be forced to close. A building gets one of the signs if a fire inspector and city engineer determine together that not every part of it meets fire codes. Reasons vary, Oswalt said, from structural problems to too few exits. Finders Keepers, for example, is in a 70-year-old building that has been renovated several times and has some rooms without exits. If the owner updates the building to meet the codes, the sign can be removed.

And here's what I read in that same article about this particular sign on the building that houses The Kingston:

At another building, at 2021 S.W. Morrison St., Don Mutal, a representative for the building's owner, said plans are under way to renovate the top two floors into six townhouses, which should bring the 1911 building into compliance.

"For us, it's just a temporary thing," Mutal said of the red sign outside one of the doors. "It wasn't worth arguing about. It's really a good thing for the fire department." 

Customers of the building's ground-floor Kingston Bar & Grill, a neighborhood favorite, have asked employee Gary Jondahl about the sign. "Ninety-nine percent of them don't know what it means," said Jondahl, whose wife manages the bar. Jondahl said customers shouldn't worry about it, though, and those gathered there on a recent day didn't seem to.

Frequent patron Glenn Haneberg said he's drawn in part by the building's early 20th-century charm. "I like this bar; I like that it's old," he said. He's never noticed the sign, he said, and doubts others have, either. "I'm on the ground floor. I'm next to an exit," he said. But, he added, the sign "might affect me if I were looking for a place to rent above."

Michael Wells said he isn't surprised the older buildings are being marked. "Some buildings might not get the attention they deserve," he said. "Now that I know what it means, I'll notice it more."

Sophie Lareva, waiting at a bus stop across the street, has noticed the sign and thought it was some kind of advertisement. After learning its meaning, Lareva said she would keep an eye out for other ones. "It probably would make me a little nervous" to enter a marked building, she said, "because it's more vulnerable to fire."


FYI. Here's the building with this particular U on it in a photo that I took in September, 2007. That's West Burnside on the left side of the building, SW Morrison on the right side of it. I've not been in the neighborhood lately, but the next time I'm over there, I want to look for the U sign and for whether or not the top floors have finally been renovated.

By the way, one of my bucket list things to do, when I win the lottery, is to own a triangle-shaped building, a piece of life's pie.


Randy said...

Both photos are wonderful. I like the colors in the first and love that building in the second shot.

Susan Bauer said...

I love the "U" photo. I have a similar love of buildings, windows, doors and other geometric shapes. And I enjoyed your explanation of what the U means. Not to mention Portland, OR is one of my favorite cities.

William Kendall said...

I'd be wary of stepping into such a building, knowing what it means.