Stairway collapse injures 1 in downtown Berkeley

The exterior stairway at 2005 Milvia St. collapsed Saturday evening. Photo: Emilie Raguso

The stairway outside a small building in downtown Berkeley collapsed Saturday evening underneath two people, injuring one, authorities report.

There were initial reports of leg injuries to both people on the stairs, a man and woman, according to scanner traffic reviewed by Berkeleyside. Ultimately, only one person, who appeared to have minor injuries, was taken to the hospital for treatment, authorities said.

Firefighters and police initially were called to 2005 Milvia St. just before 7 p.m. Saturday for the report of the collapsed stairway, said Lt. Dave Lindenau of the Berkeley Police Department.

BFD Battalion Chief Keir Rankin said both people were able to free themselves from the wreckage. The Berkeley Fire Department evaluated them, and ultimately took one to the hospital due to minor injuries.


The stairway, around the corner from popular University Avenue late-night restaurant Au Coquelet, appears to have spanned a single flight that led from the sidewalk up to a small landing with at least two doorways into apartments there. Sunday, several plywood boards had been installed to block off the area. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the units above the collapsed stairway might still be accessible by another route.

Ever since a balcony collapsed in Berkeley at a downtown apartment building in 2015, killing six students and injuring seven, the city has worked to increase building standards and safety inspections of “weather exposed elements” such as balconies, stairways, decks and landings.

The stairway at 2005 Milvia St. collapsed Saturday. Photo: Emilie Raguso

As part of that effort, the city stiffened requirements for building materials, venting and access — to make inspections easier and allow for better airflow to elements that could suffer water damage and other problems.

The Berkeley City Council voted in 2016 to require the inspection, every five years, of all weather-exposed exterior elements in properties with at least three units. That year, the city identified about 400 properties that needed structural improvements under what it dubbed the “Exterior Elevated Elements,” or E3, inspection program.

According to building permit information online, the parcel where the stairway collapsed Saturday evening has four addresses listed. It was unknown as of publication time, however, whether the Milvia Street parcel was on the city’s list of properties that needed to be fixed in 2016. Berkeleyside will request that information from the city.

A review of building permits at 2005 Milvia shows nothing on file related to stairway work, as per the city website. The only item listed for that address is an August 2000 permit related to kitchen floor repairs that were estimated to cost $1,000.

Another address on the same parcel, however, at 2001 Milvia, secured a building permit in 1998 to repair dry rot on the front porch. Other repairs over the years at 2001 Milvia have related to electrical and plumbing work from 1998 through 2017. James and Vivian Woo of El Cerrito are the listed property owners.


Berkeleyside will update this report if additional information becomes available.

Update, June 19: The city reports that the property “is exempt from the E3 program because it has fewer than three residential units. Building & Safety will be following up with the property owner to have a licensed Civil/Structural Engineer promptly assess the failed staircase as well as another staircase.”

Learn more about the E3 program on the city’s website. Residents with questions about the safety of their buildings can learn how to reach the city to file complaints or for additional information.