Second Balcony at Berkeley Apartment Complex Must be Remove
A second balcony is structurally compromised and must removed at a downtown Berkeley apartment complex where six people were killed in a balcony collapse early Tuesday morning, city officials said today. City inspectors found that the balcony at Unit 305 at the Library Gardens apartment complex at 2020 Kittredge St. poses a collapse hazard that endangers public safety, city spokesman Matthai Chakko said.
That unit is directly below Unit 405, whose balcony collapsed at 12:41 a.m. on Tuesday, killing six people and injuring seven others. That balcony was removed later on Tuesday. When the balcony in Unit 405 collapsed, it landed directly on the balcony below at Unit 305.
Balconies at two other units at the 176-unit complex have been red-tagged, which means that access to them is prohibited while they are scrutinized, Chakko said. The city is still conducting a thorough investigation of the balcony collapse and will announce its results when it is completed, Chakko said.
Five of the six people who were killed were in the U.S. on a J-1 visa, which allows visitors to participate in work and study-based exchange programs. The other victim was 22-year-old Ashley Donohoe of Rohnert Park.
A memorial mass is being conducted for the victims at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland at 7 p.m. tonight. Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said early today that water damage appears to be the chief cause of the fatal balcony collapse but he later issued a statement admitting, “It was speculation on my part about possible water damage to the wood supports for the balcony.” Bates said, “That is not an official conclusion. I am not a structural engineer and am not qualified to make a judgment. We are still awaiting the outcome of the thorough investigation that is underway.”
The architect for the apartment complex, which is next to the main Berkeley City Library, was Thomas P. Cox and the contractor was Segue Construction Inc. of Pleasanton, which completed its work in early 2007. Segue spokesman Sam Singer said today that the construction company “has built more than 6,000 apartment units in its 25-year history and has never had anything like this happen before.”
“Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the deceased and those injured in this tragic incident,” he said. “Segue is fully cooperating with the investigation so we can find out the cause of this tragedy.” Burlingame attorney Niall McCarthy, who has represented victims in six Bay Area balcony collapses, admitted that he hasn’t visited the Library Gardens complex but said that based on his experience he believes that balcony collapses are “100 percent avoidable” and are due to the inadequacy of inspections.
McCarthy said, “Landlords treat balconies like appendages that aren’t part of a home and don’t treat balcony maintenance as a life-and-death issue.” He said he believes balcony collapses are caused by a combination of apathy and the unwillingness of landlords to spend money to replace balconies that have problems... (To read the entire article, please click HERE)