Managers to inspect units at Berkeley apartment complex after deadly balcony collapse

Workers examine a balcony that collapsed at an apartment building in Berkeley.

Workers examine a balcony that collapsed at an apartment building in Berkeley.

(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Managers of a Berkeley apartment complex under scrutiny after six people were killed when a fifth-floor balcony collapsed are beginning inspections of their own.

Notices were slipped onto the doors of multiple tenants in the Library Gardens project Thursday -- including onto the door to the apartment where the balcony collapsed -- announcing their units on Friday would undergo a “required annual inspection.”

Several residents said such inspections are infrequent.

“In the five-plus years I’ve lived at Library Gardens, only one ‘annual inspection’ of my apartment has been announced and carried out,” said a resident who spoke anonymously, citing concern of retribution.


Early Tuesday, a cantilevered balcony at the complex gave way, sending 13 people to the ground. All were injured and six of them died of what the Alameda County coroner’s office described as blunt-force trauma. City officials are still conducting an investigation into the cause of the collapse.

Berkeley has some 25,000 rental units, many leased to college students and during summer, some sub-leased to a seasonal flux of young people from Ireland who come on temporary work visas. A two-bedroom apartment now averages over $2,200 a month.

Berkeley requires owners to “self-certify” the safety of their rental property each year, but the actual checklists are not turned in to the city. Tenants can ask the city to conduct its own inspection, which could result in official housing code violation citations. Otherwise, city workers said, units are not inspected annually unless they are among properties the city Housing Code Enforcement office picks at random.

Berkeley has so far refused to make housing code inspection reports for Library Gardens public, though records at other city offices indicate tenants had filed complaints that resulted in an inspection earlier this year. Berkeley spokesman Matthai Chakko said the city was taking the time to scan copies of those records to post online.

The shorn ends of the seven wood beams that supported the collapsed balcony were blackened and flaked, suggesting water damage. Some of the beams on an identical lower balcony removed Wednesday on order of the city showed similar signs of damage.

Staff writers Rong-Gong Lin II, Lisa Girion and Javier Panzar contributed to this story.

For more on the Berkeley balcony collapse, follow @paigestjohn.