2020 has been the year of continuous changes in the construction industry brought about by the COVID-19 virus and its regulatory impact. Our construction team continues to monitor and provide timely counsel on meeting those challenges, whether on the project site or back in the company office. This update addresses the most recent orders impacting construction in both Oregon and Washington and what may come next. Continue Reading
Oregon has become the third state in the nation to enact a workplace safety and health standard specifically addressing the coronavirus. Many provisions of the new Oregon OSHA rule take effect November 16, 2020. While some of the more onerous provisions, such as those requiring employers to conduct a risk assessment and implement an infection control plan, will be phased in through December. Employers could be fined up to $12,675 for violations of the Rule and up to $126,749 for repeat or willful violations. The general requirements imposed on all workplaces are summarized below.
During the one-day second special session, the Oregon Legislature passed two budget bills—SB 5721 and SB 5722—relating to public construction. While SB 5721 increases bond authorizations for the 2019-2021 biennium and revises previously approved bond authorizations, SB 5722 establishes expenditure limitations for capital construction projects in excess of $1 million. Among other things, SB 5721 authorizes bond authority to fund four new capital construction projects at public universities:
- Oregon Institute of Technology Boivin Hall Rehabilitation
- Oregon State University Arts and Education Complex
- Portland State University SB1 Renovation and Expansion
- University of Oregon Huestis Hall Renovation
After four years of deliberation and analysis, the Portland City Council adopted the Residential Infill Project (RIP) on August 12, 2020. According to the City, RIP legislation is intended to increase housing opportunities by opening up the types of dwelling units that can be constructed in residential zones that have historically not allowed them, namely those zones that allow primarily single-family residential units. Under RIP, triplexes, fourplexes, sixplexes and cottage clusters will now be allowed in many single-family residential zones they were not allowed in before. Maximum dwelling size has been reduced from approximately 6500 square feet for a single-family unit to 2500 square feet, based on the floor area ratio allowed for a typical 5,000 square foot lot in the R-5 zone. Off-street parking to accommodate the additional density has been made optional.
The legislation has been controversial, which is primarily why it has been under review since 2016. Critics state that it unnecessarily disrupts established neighborhoods, will lead to too much density, and exacerbates a lack of parking. RIP was adopted with only Commissioner Amanda Fritz voting “no,” because, in part, the increased density is not being funnelled to areas with supportive transit.
The U.S. Department of Justice recently issued a new policy on limiting federal civil enforcement penalty actions under the Clean Water Act when a state is already enforcing. The Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division concluded at pages 6-7:
“Accordingly, I have come to the conclusion that – – as a matter of enforcement discretion – – civil enforcement actions seeking penalties under the CWA will henceforward be strongly disfavored if a state has already initiated or concluded its own civil or administrative proceeding for penalties under an analogous state law arising from the same operative facts.”
Our environmental group has not seen much overfiling by the current Administration on state enforcement actions, although we have had a Clean Air Act case in which EPA inspected a west coast facility for Clean Air Act (Title V) violations and has indicated that it may pursue enforcement, where the state was the delegated agency although was not currently enforcing. So it remains to be seen whether this policy will change much in terms of current DOJ/EPA practice. The policy does seem to fall in line with the Administration’s effort to limit environmental enforcement.
Washington continues to expand its protection of subcontractors from the dubious business practice of bid shopping, at least on public works projects.
Washington law requires that general contractors list subcontractors that are to perform certain parts of a public works project expected to cost over $1 million (RCW 39.30.060). If more than one subcontractor is listed, or the general contractor fails to list a subcontractor, the bid is deemed void. This requirement is meant to prevent bid shopping and create a more equitable bidding process. While bid shopping is often criticized as unethical, requiring the listing of subcontractors on the bid provides more transparency in the bidding process. Continue Reading
During the first special session of 2020, the Oregon Legislature passed HB 4212A (commonly referred to as the “omnibus” bill), which was signed into law by Governor Brown on June 30, 2020. The bill contains a variety of statutory changes aimed to provide relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. The contents of HB 4212A can be summarized as follows: Continue Reading
This was originally published on our blog, Bank Law Monitor.
In an effort to provide relief to homeowners, businesses, landlords, and tenants affected by COVID-19, Governor Brown signed two bills that impose significant limitations on lenders and landlords. Under HB 4204, lenders cannot foreclose on loans secured by real estate in Oregon and must defer payments for borrowers on those loans who are unable to pay because of loss of income due to COVID-19. HB 4204 may provide some relief to landlords that, under HB 4213, are prohibited from taking specified eviction and termination actions based on tenants’ nonpayment. Lenders and landlords should be aware of the important requirements and limitations created by the new bills and how these bills affect their current practices. Continue Reading
On Friday, June 5, a bipartisan committee of the Oregon Legislature unanimously made a series of decisions about how to spend $247 million in federal coronavirus relief as part of the CARES Act.
The largest single element of the package is $55 million that will be paid to landlords who rent to low-income Oregonians who’ve lost wages because of the virus. Eligible households must be at or below 80 percent of area median income for the county in which they reside. That money will be distributed through local community action agencies, just like the $12 million in state funding already allocated for that purpose.
If you are a single family or multifamily owner and your tenant needs assistance, please direct them to this website to contact the local community action agencies for the county in which they reside – CLICK HERE.
Governor Kate Brown’s May 15 executive order (No. 20-25), “Reopening a Safe and Strong Oregon,” provides for a phased reopening of recreational and economic activity in Oregon on a county-by-county basis as certain threshold prerequisites are met. All Oregon counties, with the exception of Multnomah County, have achieved the prerequisites for a Phase I reopening. Phase I allows certain businesses to operate, provided each business is able to maintain social distancing and comply with other health and safety guidelines. A full list of the guidelines for different types of establishments can be found here. Continue Reading