Tag Archives: Downtown Berkeley

Support springs up for families, friends of deceased

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Update, 10:15 a.m. 6/18: The Irish Immigration Pastoral Center has set up a relief fund for the students and families affected by the balcony collapse. At the time of the update, the they had raised $65,805 to help the immediate needs of the families and students in Berkeley. Click here to donate.

Original story: A day after a balcony collapsed in Berkeley, killing six students and injuring seven others, both the Irish and the Berkeley communities are rallying to support the families and friends of those who died.

The initiatives range from those being organized by government bodies to others orchestrated by local businesses.

Read complete Berkeleyside coverage of the collapse.

Al Lasher’s Electronics in Berkeley is taking donations for the Irish exchange students and their families, said Melissa Lasher in an email to Berkeleyside. Lasher’s family is a part of the local Irish community, and Lasher plays Gaelic football with the local team, Clan na Gael.
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As Berkeley orders removal of second balcony, questions over quality of construction at Library Gardens

Remnants of beams from removed balconies show contrast between the condition of the wood from the collapsed balcony and the balcony it fell upon at the Library Gardens Apartments, in Berkeley, on Thursday, June 18, 2015. Six people died and seven were seriously injured in the early Tuesday morning accident. Photo: David Yee ©2015
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In a series of stories, Berkeleyside examines the building where six people died and seven were seriously injured Tuesday after a balcony collapsed. Part 1 looks at a history of complaints by residents, Part 2, below, examines potential issues surrounding the balcony construction, and Part 3 looks at some of the issues faced by the company that built the apartment complex where Tuesday’s tragedy took place.

Crews planned to take down another balcony at Library Gardens on Wednesday, after the city of Berkeley on Tuesday ordered it to be removed. Inspectors determined that the fourth-floor balcony “was structurally unsafe and presented a collapse hazard endangering public safety.”

The small balcony is directly underneath the fifth-floor balcony that collapsed early Tuesday, sending six young college students to their deaths. The fifth-floor balcony was removed Tuesday for analysis by the city. (Initially the city said the failed balcony was on the fourth floor, but later revised this description.)

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

The removal was done on behalf of the owners of the 176-unit complex. Other balconies in the building have been red-tagged, according to city spokesman Matthai Chakko.

The finding that yet another balcony in Library Gardens may have been in danger of collapsing is focusing attention on the quality of the construction of the complex, which was built from 2005 to 2007 by TransAction Companies, designed by Thomas. P. Cox Architects of Irvine. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley building under scrutiny before balcony collapse

The upper of two balconies collapsed earlier this morning in Berkeley. Photo: Emily Dugdale
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In a series of stories, Berkeleyside examines the building where six people died and seven were seriously injured Tuesday after a balcony collapsed. Part 1, below, looks at a history of complaints by residents. Part 2 examines potential issues surrounding the balcony construction, and Part 3 looks at some of the issues faced by the company that built the apartment complex where Tuesday’s tragedy took place.

The downtown Berkeley property at 2020 Kittredge St. where a balcony collapsed early Tuesday morning killing six students — five from Ireland — and injuring seven others, was the subject of complaints by many of its tenants.

The property, called Library Gardens, was built from 2005 to 2007 and underwent numerous inspections during construction (to see the property’s inspection history, click here).

Since its completion, city building officials have mainly inspected its tenant improvements rather than its structural integrity. Due to the balcony collapse, the city of Berkeley has ordered the owner to evaluate the building’s integrity and will be performing its own independent inspection. … Continue reading »

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Mayor, consul general, lay wreaths to honor 6 killed in Berkeley balcony collapse

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and the consul general of Ireland for the Western United States, Philip Grant, lay wreaths at the site of a deadly balcony collapse in Berkeley, on Tuesday, June 16, 2015 at around 6 p.m.. Six people died and seven were seriously injured in the early morning accident. Looking on are Berkeley Fire Chief Gil Dong (far left), Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan and City Manager Christine Daniel (to the left of Mayor Bates). Photo: David Yee
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A difficult day for Berkeley came to a close wrapped in the mournful tones of a single bagpipe as Berkeley’s mayor and Ireland’s San Francisco-based consul general laid two wreaths at the site of a tragic balcony collapse.

A fifth-floor balcony at Library Gardens at 2020 Kittredge St. collapsed early Tuesday morning, plunging five Irish students and one Irish-American to their deaths and causing serious and critical injuries to seven others. What was left of the malfunctioning balcony was removed Tuesday afternoon, and an order was issued to assess the structural integrity of the building’s remaining balconies within the next two days.

Read complete Berkeleyside coverage of the collapse.

Philip Grant, the consul general of Ireland to the Western United States, organized the wreath-laying ceremony that took place around 6 p.m. Grant, arriving late due to traffic, was escorted to the scene of the accident by Berkeley police officers, as well as Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. … Continue reading »

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Six who died in Berkeley: Young students in their prime

From upper left, clockwise: Eimear Walsh, Olivia Burke, Ashley Donohoe, Lorcán Miller, Eoghan Culligan and Nick Schuster. Photos via Facebook
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By Tracey Taylor and Francesca Paris

The six victims of a balcony collapse, at the Library Gardens apartment building at 2020 Kittredge St. in downtown Berkeley early Tuesday, were all young — five aged 21 and one aged 22 — and in the midst of pursuing college careers.

The students have been identified as 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.

Read complete Berkeleyside coverage of the balcony collapse.

The Irish Times released the names of those who were injured in the accident: “The names of the injured Irish students, aged between 20 and 22, have been confirmed as Clodagh Cogley, Hannah Waters, Niall Murray, Sean Fahey, Jack Halpin, Conor Flynn and Aoife Beary.”

The Irish Times reported that Beary was sharing the Berkeley apartment with Walsh and Burke, and that Donohoe was a cousin of Burke.  … Continue reading »

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Six people killed in Berkeley balcony collapse identified

A balcony at Library Gardens in downtown Berkeley collapsed Tuesday, killing six. Photo: Emily Dugdale
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By Tracey Taylor and Emilie Raguso

Update, 4:40 p.m. According to the city of Berkeley, Philip Grant, the Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States, will have a wreath-laying ceremony at 5 p.m. near the site of the balcony collapse.

The city expects its investigation into what caused the collapse to take several days: “As part of the City’s investigation of the incident, the City will be retaining possession of the collapsed materials. Building and Safety staff have been on scene since early Tuesday morning, shortly after the collapse. Once the damaged materials are removed from the building, they will be taken to a City facility and will remain under City control.”

City staff members have taken other steps, as well, to document the scene and the damage. Inspectors have already been inside the unit, and have “completed an up-close, aerial investigation using cranes to examine the damage,” the city reported just after 4:30 p.m. At that time, the city also released property records related to the building where the accident took place.

Update, 3:30 p.m. At around 3:15 p.m., crews in downtown Berkeley used a crane to remove the fifth-floor balcony at Library Gardens, which fell in the early hours of Tuesday, killing six people.

ORIGINAL STORY: The six people who died early Tuesday morning after a balcony collapsed in downtown Berkeley have been identified as Ashley Donohoe, 22, from Rohnert Park; and Olivia Burke, Eimear Walsh, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster and Lorcán Miller, all 21 years old and from Ireland.

See complete coverage of the balcony collapse.

At a press conference that started at around 1:15 p.m., Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to Western United States, said: “Our hearts are breaking but it is so good to know that so many people stand with us.”

Listen to an audio recording of the press conference below. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley orders balcony removal after tragedy kills 6

Students outside Tuesday's balcony collapse in Berkeley struggled to make sense of the tragedy that killed at least six Irish students. Photo: Emily Dugdale
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The city of Berkeley has ordered the property owner of a downtown apartment complex to remove a balcony that collapsed early Tuesday, killing six, and follow up with a structural assessment of the remaining balconies on the property within the next two days.

In a statement released at 11:30 a.m., city spokesman Matthai Chakko reported that building inspectors visited 2020 Kittredge St., between Milvia Street and Shattuck Avenue, early Tuesday morning to examine the scene at Library Gardens. The complex has two separate buildings with about 160 one- and two-bedroom units.

See complete coverage of the balcony collapse.

Authorities received reports beginning at 12:40 a.m. regarding a fifth-floor balcony that had collapsed in the apartment complex. (Editor’s note: Initially authorities said the balcony was on the fourth floor, because it was on the fourth residential story in the building.) There have been six confirmed fatalities of young people from Ireland reported to be living in the Bay Area for the summer. Seven others were critically injured.

The people who were injured were taken by ambulance to Highland Hospital in Oakland, Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, and John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek. The city has not released the names of those who were killed or injured “Due to privacy concerns.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley balcony collapse leaves 6 people dead

An injured person is placed into an ambulance at the scene of a balcony collapse at the Library Gardens Apartments, in Berkeley, early Tuesday, June 16, 2015. Photo: David Yee ©2015
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A fifth-floor balcony at an apartment complex in downtown Berkeley collapsed early Tuesday morning, sending six Irish students to their deaths and injuring seven others critically.

The balcony, at Library Gardens, collapsed around 12:40 a.m. according to Officer Ethell Wilson, a spokesman for the Berkeley Police Department. Police had received a call about a loud party at that address, at 2020 Kittredge St., around midnight, he said. (Note: Initially authorities said the balcony was on the fourth floor, because it was on the fourth residential story in the building. They later reported the balcony was on the fifth story.)

As many as 13 people may have been on the balcony when it collapsed. Four were declared dead at the scene and one died later, according to Wilson. A sixth was reported dead shortly after 7:30 a.m. Seven others are in serious or critical condition at area hospitals, said Wilson.

See complete coverage of the balcony collapse.

The city of Berkeley has red tagged the three other balconies in the 9-year-old building as a safety precaution, according to Berkeley Police Officer Byron White. Berkeley has ordered the property owner to remove the damaged balcony and do a structural inspection of the other balconies within 48 hours.

As of about 10:30 a.m., the Alameda County coroner’s office said names of the deceased victims have not yet been released, but authorities plan to release additional information at 1 p.m. at a press conference at the Public Safety Building.

The balcony appears to have been constructed to hold 13 people at one time, so its collapse was probably caused by water damage, said Gene St. Onge, an Oakland civil and structural engineer who is basing his assessment on pictures he has seen of the balcony. “All water has to do is get in there and start seeping into the joint and into the wall,” said St. Onge. “In a short time it can rot the wood, which can give away.”

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ZAB to downtown garage developer: Step up your game

A rendering of the upgraded Center Street garage. The Zoning Adjustments Board was critical of the plan, saying it was not ambitious enough. Image: CMA
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Berkeley zoning board members told the developer of the Center Street garage overhaul at a project preview session last week that they want him to go above and beyond the submitted plans in terms of green features and physical design.

“I am dismayed by this project in a major way,” said Zoning Adjustments Board Commission Chairman Prakash Pinto on Thursday night. “It’s rather mundane. It’s got some lipstick on it as far as I’m concerned.”

Read more about parking in Berkeley.

The downtown Berkeley garage is a bit different than most that come before the zoning board because it is a municipal project and not one brought forward by a private developer. In December 2013, the city voted to pay up to $1 million to San Francisco-based Conversion Management Associates Inc. to plan and manage the overhaul. Money for the project is coming from the city’s off-street parking fund, including $350,000 last year and $650,000 in fiscal year 2015.

Pinto, who was not particularly vocal during the first several hours of Thursday’s meeting, spoke with emotion for several minutes about his disappointment in the garage proposal. He focused in particular on the green aspects of the design, saying city projects should be a model for superior environmental standards, especially when the city asks so much of private developers downtown. (Under the Downtown Area Plan, most projects are required to meet a LEED Gold standard or its equivalent.)

Pinto said, too, that the garage could be a beautiful structure with creative features without necessarily costing the city an excessive amount of money.

The other commissioners echoed Pinto’s sentiments and added their own concerns regarding the look of the structure, plans for its public restrooms, parking spaces for the disabled and electric vehicles, the possibility of open space for recreation and more.  … Continue reading »

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Police report mistakes, challenges in Berkeley protests

Protesters and police clashed Dec. 6, 2014, during a Black Lives Matter demonstration. Photo: Gael McKeon
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Berkeley police officers used 50 tear gas grenades and “blast rounds” to clear Telegraph Avenue during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in December, but police officials declined to say Wednesday night whether that had been excessive.

The June 10 meeting before the city’s Police Review Commission was the citizen panel’s first chance to ask officers specific questions about the anti-police protests in Berkeley in December, following the release on Tuesday of a 161-page report completed by the department to analyze its response to the demonstrations.

After being charged with the task earlier this year by the Berkeley City Council, the PRC is working to complete its own investigation: questioning authorities, reviewing the police report, examining original documents and interviewing witnesses. Council asked the PRC to come back with its findings within six months.

Read past Berkeleyside coverage of the Berkeley protests.

Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan told commissioners Wednesday night that, without “a full discussion about the facts and circumstances at the moments those decisions were made” — regarding tear gas use on Telegraph Avenue on Dec. 6-7, 2014 — he could not say whether an appropriate amount had been used or not. 

“It’s a discussion I think we should have,” Meehan said.

The time for that discussion, however, was apparently not Wednesday night. Meehan stressed that the department’s focus while doing its report had been to find strategies to avoid getting into situations where force becomes necessary. He noted that, once officers witness crimes being committed or are “already under attack, their options are limited.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Center Street garage project gets first review

The Center Street garage project would demolish the existing structure and build an eight story garage with retail and art display space. Photo: Zoning Adjustments Board project review
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The Center Street garage project, which proposes a larger, greener and seismically safer parking structure for downtown Berkeley, is slated for discussion at the upcoming Zoning Adjustments Board meeting this Thursday.

Until construction is complete, the project is likely to cause downtown parking to become more difficult than it already is. Under the current plans, an 8-story parking garage with commercial and arts display spaces on the ground floors would take the place of the existing structure, which would be demolished.

Read more about parking in Berkeley.

The Center Street garage is one of the most heavily used off-street parking areas downtown. It operates “at or near capacity during the daytime on most weekdays, and occasionally reaches capacity during weekday evenings and some weekends,” according to the city.

Discussions about the project have been in the works for two years. Thursday night will be the zoning board’s first chance to “preview” the project. Commissioners will provide comment to the city, but otherwise no action is expected. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Harold Way deserves better than Berkeley

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Harold Way could be one of the best streets in Downtown Berkeley. It’s a quiet, narrow, low-traffic, shady street with some beautiful architecture from the Dharma College buildings. It’s highly accessible – with a parking garage next door, in direct proximity to both Shattuck and Milvia (and the bike station on Shattuck), and just a few hundred feet from Downtown Berkeley BART. Harold Way is easy to get to by bus, BART, bike, foot, or car. With all the other opportunities in Downtown, a trip to Harold Way could easily be combined with a visit to the library, the theaters, the pharmacy, or even when making a transfer on the daily commute.

But right now, there’s not much to visit on Harold Way. Right now, it’s a bleak, abandoned street in the heart of our thriving downtown. A featureless wall greets pedestrians at the intersection with Allston, and runs the entire length of Harold Way and up Kittredge Street, with one break in the monotony for the sunken entrance to Habitot Children’s Museum, whose street-level windows are protected by metal bars. A recent evening walk revealed that every streetlight along the road was either burnt out or nonfunctional.

It’s ridiculous to leave such an accessible location underdeveloped when Berkeley stores and residents are facing rising rents due to limited retail and housing opportunities. Given that the eastern side of Harold Way is also the least utilized area within the Downtown Area Plan’s “Core Area” (approved by voters to allow 180-ft buildings), it’s highly sensible to build one of Berkeley’s new high-rises here, where the impact on most of Downtown and disruption to other businesses will be minimized. … Continue reading »

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With Harold Way EIR approval on hold pending new design, Berkeley officials to consider community benefits

2211 Harold Way is one of several tall building proposals in the pipeline that must offer "significant community benefits" under the Downtown Area Plan. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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After two recent discussions regarding the environmental impact analysis for a tall building proposed at 2211 Harold Way, the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board agreed Thursday to delay action pending new plans expected from developers.

City staff told the zoning board at its May 14 meeting that the developer is modifying plans in response to Design Review Committee feedback in April. Staff said that, rather than move ahead to certify the project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR), it would be better to “take a step back” and wait to learn about the project’s most recent iteration. Staff will complete a report about the project revisions and environmental analysis, and the final EIR will not come back to the board until the staff report is complete.

City planner Shannon Allen said she hopes to bring back the EIR for consideration at the end of June, followed by the community benefits and project entitlements package for Harold Way at the end of July.

The Berkeley City Council, too, is in the process of considering new policies related to the community benefits required of large projects downtown — including 2211 Harold Way — under the city’s Downtown Area Plan. That topic is slated to be back before council next Tuesday, May 26.

Mayor Tom Bates and Councilman Laurie Capitelli have suggested several new guidelines, including a $100 fee per square foot for residential portions of buildings 76-120 feet tall; a $150-per-square-foot fee for that portion above 120 feet; the requirement of a project labor agreement; and voluntary on-site benefits related to arts and culture that must be approved by council. Under the proposal, the developer could get fee discounts related to the labor agreement and voluntary benefits, and “The remainder would be paid into a City fund to be used for affordable housing and arts and culture benefits.” … Continue reading »

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