California City Adopts Tighter Building Code After Deadly Balcony Collapse

July 17, 2015

Balconies on Berkeley, California, apartment buildings will be inspected every three years under new regulations adopted by the city in the wake of a balcony collapse that left six people dead.

The City Council also voted Tuesday to require that new balconies be made of corrosion-resistant material and be ventilated to prevent a buildup of moisture.

The council’s vote came after it heard from an attorney for one of the victims’ families in last month’s collapse.

“It would be an amazing compounding of this tragedy not to do something now and not to ensure that similarly designed and constructed buildings are not being inspected,” Eustace de Saint Phalle said.

He had called for yearly inspections. City staff had recommended inspections every five years. Some building group representatives had urged the council to hold off on the vote for further study.

Six students were killed and seven others were hospitalized when the apartment balcony collapsed during a birthday party. Five of the dead students were from Ireland.

City inspectors said the balcony was supported by wooden beams that had been badly rotted by water damage.

Prosecutors have opened a criminal probe into the collapse.

The council also agreed to form a task force to more closely examine the city’s building code, KNTV reported.

Meanwhile, California lawmakers rejected a bill Tuesday that would have required construction companies to disclose felony convictions and settlements to state regulators over construction defects.

SB 465, authored by Democratic Sens. Jerry Hill of San Mateo and Loni Hancock of Oakland, did not pass out of the Assembly Business and Professions Committee. It becomes a two-year bill, allowing backers more time to refine their proposal.

Many committee members supported the bill’s intent but worried about requiring a state agency to collect settlement data without understanding how it would be used in enforcement.

Segue Construction, the company that built the Berkeley apartment has paid more than $26.5 million in the past three years to settle lawsuits related to balcony failures.

A call to the company was not immediately returned.

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