Berkeley council passes strict new building rules following balcony collapse tragedy
Berkeley City Council have passed strict new building rules following last month’s balcony collapse that killed six Irish students and injured seven others.
Following a unanimous vote by council members, the emergency ordinance takes effect immediately and mandates all existing balconies, decks, stairs and other weather-exposed elements of properties in Berkeley to be inspected within six months.
The new laws requires repeat inspections every three years, and enforces new safety standards, which include that all balconies, and other weather-exposed elements, in the city to be properly ventilation in an effort to safeguard against dry-rot.
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The proposed legislation was drafted by city staff who concluded the collapse was likely caused by dry rot in the wooden joists of the cantilevered balcony at the Liberty Gardens apartment complex.
The findings stated that the number of people on the balcony at the time was not an issue.
The tragic collapse that killed five Irish students and one Irish-American student occurred around 1am on 16 June. Several other Irish students were injured.
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At the meeting on Tuesday, Berkeley councillors rejected a request from the Structural Engineers Association of Northern California's for a delay in introducing the new regulations.
Councilman Jesse Arreguin deemed the balcony collapse "one of the worst tragedies in Berkeley history" and said that after consulting with structural engineers he thought the staff's proposal should go further.
"We have learned that there are clear deficiencies in our existing building code," Arreguin said.
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Several council members wanted to see new requirements on developers and contractors, forcing them to declare if they have been involved in any lawsuits or settlements relating to other developments.
The council also decided to form a task force, which will feature structural engineers and other experts, to more thoroughly examine Berkeley's building codes.