Berkeley balcony passed inspection before collapse

A balcony at Library Gardens in downtown Berkeley collapsed Tuesday, killing six. Photo: Emily Dugdale
The balcony at Library Gardens in downtown Berkeley that collapsed June 16 killing six, had been inspected and found in good shape less than a year earlier. Photo: Emily Dugdale

The fifth-floor Berkeley balcony that collapsed June 16, sending six people in their 20s to their deaths, was inspected less than a year before the accident and found to be structurally sound.

The Aug. 15, 2014, inspection report attesting to that was included in a slew of documents that Greystar, the management company for Library Gardens at 2020 Kittredge St., released in recent days to the city of Berkeley. The documents also include the record of a Sept. 30, 2014, visual inspection of unit 405, the two-bedroom apartment where the balcony collapsed. In that instance, two employees found that the window seals in the unit were “good,” but that the apartment was lacking a carbon-monoxide alarm, and one fire alarm was beeping.

Despite the reams of paper submitted, Greystar has not complied with the terms of Berkeley’s Rental Housing Safety Program, which requires companies to do an inspection form for each unit once a year and make copies available to tenants.

After the balcony collapse, Berkeley asked Greystar for a copy of the 2014 forms to be presented to the Housing Code Enforcement Office. The forms submitted by Greystar do not match the ones required by Berkeley, nor were they dated or signed, according to Brent Nelson, a Berkeley housing inspector supervisor. Forms for a number of apartments were also missing.


The Library Gardens records “do not meet the requirements” of Berkeley’s rental safety program, Nelson told Brian Gagan, a Greystar managing director, in a June 24 letter.

Greystar has until Thursday, July 2, to provide the proper paperwork, as well as to show that it has completed a 2015 inspection of all 176 units in Library Gardens, according to Nelson.

      Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

But the documents submitted to the city do show that Greystar and its predecessor, Riverstone Residential, routinely inspected Library Gardens — even when not required to do so by law — and that it did fix deficiencies pointed out by city inspectors.

In August 2014, Greystar hired a private firm — which is not named in the report — to do a structural review of the building. The firm doing the report interviewed Denee Davenport, a property manager for Riverstone, which managed the building until it was acquired by Greystar, and Oscar Roman, a maintenance supervisor who lives on site.

The report says the supports, soffits, deck surfaces and rails of all the balconies in the building were in “good” condition.

The front page of a structural inspection by an unnamed firm of 2020 Kittredge St.
The front page of a structural inspection by an unnamed firm of 2020 Kittredge St.
A detail of an inspection report on the balconies at Library Gardens.
A detail of an inspection report on the balconies at Library Gardens. The ‘xs” were all in the “good” category

The unnamed inspectors did find some other problems with the building, including some pooling of water on the asphalt roof of building #4, cracks in the pavement in the complex’s courtyard, water streaking and missing flashing along some down spouts.

The report does not indicate whether the inspectors were trained engineers or building officials, or anyone with particular expertise.

That report was not something required by Berkeley, according to Matthai Chakko, city spokesman.

The submitted documents also show a number of “requests for service” made by tenants about conditions inside Library Gardens that they found worrisome. The tenants reported their concerns to the Housing Services Division, which then sent out an inspector to investigate. The property manager would then be given a window in which to make the repairs.

The requests for service included complaints about water leaks in individual apartments, worn carpets that posed tripping hazards, broken lights, broken windows, missing illuminated exit signs, and a blocked fire escape door, among other issues.

A Greystar representative told Berkeleyside that the company has provided inspection documents for units 405 and 305 to the city. It also hired engineers to inspect the building after the deadly balcony collapse and found the building safe.

“The safety of our residents and their guests is our highest priority,” Greystone said in an email. “Immediately following the accident, experts from leading engineering firms were engaged to evaluate the building. The experts have confirmed that the building is safe.”

(To review the papers submitted, go to page 10 to find the letter from Brent Nelson, the Berkeley housing inspector supervisor; to page 65 to find the visual inspection of unit 405; and page 72 to find the Property Management Inspection report.)

Related:
Library gardens builder seeks to block DA from inspecting balcony (06.29.15)
Irish consul general says J1 students a source of pride (06.26.15)
DA launches criminal investigation into balcony collapse (06.25.15)
‘Severely dry rotted’ timber found after balcony collapse; city plans to stiffen safety rules (06.23.15)
Church services held for balcony collapse victims (06.20.15)
Protesters demand halt on new construction in Berkeley (06.19.15)
No ‘smoking gun’ in Berkeley balcony design (06.19.15)
As students recover in hospitals, support grows for survivors, victims of balcony collapse (06.18.15)
Coroner releases autopsy results on balcony victims; first responders sought help for stress (06.18.15)
City posts documents from balcony collapse property (06.18.15)
People gather to remember victims of Berkeley balcony collapse (06.18.15)
Firm that built Berkeley complex has been fined, sued (06.18.15)
Support springs up for families, friends of deceased (06.17.15)
As Berkeley orders removal of second balcony, questions over quality of construction (06.17.15)
Berkeley building under scrutiny before balcony collapse (06.17.15)
Mayor, consul general, lay wreaths to honor 6 killed in Berkeley balcony collapse (06.16.15)
Six who died in Berkeley: Young students in their prime (06.16.15)
Six students killed in Berkeley balcony collapse identified (06.16.15)
Berkeley orders balcony removal after tragedy kills 6 (06.16.15)
Berkeley balcony collapse leaves 6 students dead (06.16.15)

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