State files legal action against Library Gardens contractor

A balcony at Library Gardens in downtown Berkeley collapsed Tuesday, killing six. Photo: David Yee
The fifth-floor balcony at Library Gardens in downtown Berkeley collapsed in June 2015, falling on top of the fourth-floor balcony, killing six. Photo: David Yee

A state agency is seeking to revoke the license of the construction company that built Library Gardens, where a fifth-floor balcony sheared off on June 16, 2015, sending six young people to their deaths and seriously injuring seven others.

The California Contractors State License Board filed a formal accusation Tuesday against Segue Construction stating that the construction company “willfully departed from or disregarded building plans or specifications, and willfully departed from accepted trade standards for good and workmanlike construction,” according to a press release.

Read more on the June 16, 2015, balcony collapse.

The legal document essentially states that Segue, which hired subcontractors to build and waterproof the balconies at 2020 Kittredge Ave., did not follow the building plans for the apartment complex. Segue neglected to use pressure treated wood on the joists holding up the balcony that sheared off and instead used an inferior composite that was expressly prohibited in the plans and did not wrap the wood in a waterproof membrane, according to the legal document.


Between October 2005, when work on the balconies began, to August 2006, when the balconies were completed, 38 inches of rain fell in Berkeley, according to the document. A post-accident inspection found that the supports to the balconies were rotted through, presumably because Segue had not constructed them properly.

“Design and load analysis of the balcony established that if the balcony had been built as designed, the imposed load of the 13 students was well within the design limits of the balcony structure,” reads the legal document.

Officials from Segue Construction were not available for comment. The company has 15 days to respond to the state board’s accusations. If Segue does not file a “Notice to Defend” within 15 days, the company’s license will usually be revoked by default. The two sides can try and work out a stipulated agreement, but it that does not work there will be a hearing, according to the press release. The Registrar of Contractors makes the final decision about punishment.

In August 2014, the city of Berkeley inspected apartment 405 in Library Gardens and did not see any signs of decay on the balcony.

In April, California State License Board (CSLB) found five contractors involved in the Library Gardens balcony collapse were in “probable violation of law.” In addition to Segue, the companies under investigation were Etter & Sons, waterproofing contractor R. Brothers Waterproofing, plastering contractor Northstate Plastering, and flashing contractor The Energy Store of California.


The families of those killed or injured in the collapse have filed a total of 12 lawsuits in Alameda County Superior Court claiming the contractor for Library Gardens used inferior wood to build the balcony that collapsed, and allowed it to be saturated by rain before enclosing it.

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