The apartment complex where a balcony sheared off on June 16, 2015 sending six young adults to their deaths has been completely rebranded to hide all traces of the tragedy.
What used to be known as Library Gardens at 2020 Kittredge St. is now known as the K Street Flats. The building is no longer a Mediterranean-style yellow but a bright blue.
And the two balconies that once faced onto the street have been removed, leaving a flat face to the large apartment complex.
“I drive by Library Gardens daily (with my Berkeley High student), and watched with interest as they repainted the buildings after the balcony collapse tragedy,” a reader recently emailed Berkeleyside. “Tonight (Jan. 15), I noticed the building formerly known as Library Gardens is now being touted as K Street Flats. Not surprising that the companies that own and manage this complex would want to separate themselves from this tragedy, but clearly, they are moving with some speed to re-brand the complex.”
Greystar, the property management firm for the complex, did not return several calls or emails sent to its offices in San Francisco or the PR firm it used after the balcony collapse asking the reasoning behind the rebranding.
Greystar is one of dozens of corporations named in multiple lawsuits connected to the tragedy. Others include Segue Construction, the general contractor, John DeClerk, who formed the LLC that built the complex, BlackRock, a real estate investment trust that purchased the apartment building in 2007, many subcontractors and others.
2020 Kittredge St. is made up of two buildings where two-bedroom apartments rent for anywhere from $2,995 to $4,000 a month, depending on the size. The first building was completed in November 2006 and the second was finished in 2007. The original developer, LLC Library Gardens, sold the complex in June 2007 to BlackRock, which holds the real estate in a subsidiary, Granite Library Gardens LP. That corporate entity is the third largest taxpayer in Berkeley, according to the Alameda County treasurer’s office, with assets of $66 million.
Greystar is a Houston-based developer and real-estate management company that owns or manages more than 400,000 apartments around the country, including seven apartment complexes in Berkeley. Those include K Street Flats, Parker Apartments at 2028 Parker St., Berkeley Central on Center Street, Bachenheimer Apartments at 2119 University Ave., Hillside Village Apartments at 1797 Shattuck Ave. in the Gourmet Ghetto, Telegraph Commons Apartments at 2490 Channing Way, and The Varsity Berkeley Apartments at 2024 Durant Ave.
On June 16, 2015, a group of Irish students who had come to the U.S, to work for the summer was celebrating a friend’s 21st birthday in a fifth-floor apartment at 2020 Kittredge St., then called Library Gardens. Thirteen of them were hanging out on the balcony when it suddenly sheared off, sending them down to the sidewalk below.
The six who died were all in their early 20s: Ashley Donohoe, 22, from Rohnert Park; and Olivia Burke, Eimear Walsh, Eoghan Culligan, Nick Schuster and Lorcán Miller, all 21 years old and from Ireland.
Seven Irish students were seriously injured: Clodagh Cogley, Hannah Waters, Niall Murray, Sean Fahey, Jack Halpin, Conor Flynn and Aoife Beary. All of them have since returned to Ireland.
Dry rot caused by water intrusion was the cause of the balcony collapse, according to a city of Berkeley examination of the balconies.
In Nov. 2015, the San Francisco law firm of Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger filed 12 lawsuits against 35 defendants, including BlackRock and its many subsidiaries: GreyStar, Segue Construction, the general contractor, R. Brothers Waterproofing, TCA Architects, W.R. Grace and company, and numerous other companies.
The lawsuits also named John DeClerq as an individual defendant. DeClerq was one of the developers of Library Gardens. He is also a former co-director of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce.
The lawsuits filed against the contractor and others allege that instead of using pressure-treated wood to build the balconies, as was set out in the building plans, the companies used an inferior wood composite. Moreover, the companies did not completely wrap the wood in a waterproof membrane, according to the lawsuits.
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 lawsuits. Mushrooms later sprouted on the surface of the balcony, according to the lawsuit.
Yet the decay was hidden. In August 2014, the city of Berkeley inspected apartment 405, where the balcony sheared off, and did not see any signs of decay, according to city documents.
In November, the state moved to rescind the license of Segue Construction, the general contractor. The California Contractors State License Board filed a formal accusation 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.
Segue Construction has filed a motion of defense asking that the state delay its action while the other lawsuits make their way through Alameda County Superior Court, according to the affidavit.
The renaming of Library Gardens to K Street Flats brings up an association with K Street, a major thoroughfare in Washington D.C. that is often associated with the lobbying firms that have their headquarters there. K Street Flats, however, clearly refer to Kittredge Street, where the complex is located.
The apartment complex has an internal courtyard, package service, a laundry room, and bike storage, among other amenities.
In the past few weeks, a new restaurant has opened up on the ground floor of the complex. Mâison Bleue, a crêperie, replaced Cafe Clem.