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Thursday 29 September 2016

Fresh attempt to pass construction laws in Berkeley

Published 21/08/2015 | 02:30

Six timber balcony support beams failed due to dry rot
Six timber balcony support beams failed due to dry rot

California will be asked a second time to back new construction oversight regulations to avoid any repeat of the Berkeley balcony tragedy in which six students died.

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The California State Senate refused by a single vote to pass new oversight regulations last month, but it has now emerged that a revised bill will be brought forward in January.

Six students, five of them Irish, died when a fourth storey balcony failed and collapsed on June 16 in the San Francisco suburb of Berkeley.

Seven other Irish students were badly injured when the timber-supported balcony at the Library Gardens complex collapsed during a 21st birthday party, throwing 13 young people on to the concrete pavement below.

Six timber balcony support beams failed due to dry rot, despite the fact the complex was built in 2007.

Central to the proposed new California regulations will be the mandatory reporting of all legal settlements by construction firms and sub-contractors.

Three separate investigations are under way.

There are twin-track civil and criminal investigations by Alameda County District Attorney Nanci O'Malley, while the Contractors State Licensing Board (CSLB), which regulates California's 300,000 building firms and operators, is also reviewing what happened.

The proposed new mandatory state reporting regulation is linked to the fact that the CSLB was totally unaware that Segue Construction, which built the Berkeley complex at which the six students died, had paid out €23m ($26.5m) in lawsuit settlements linked to construction complaints over the previous five years.

California State senator Jerry Hill had said it was clear that construction review regulations introduced in 2001 were not working as intended.

His Democrat Party colleague Loni Hancock vowed to continue to work on the proposed regulatory overhaul.

However, the Assembly Business and Professions Committee in the Sacramento-based Senate was concerned that the proposed regulations were being brought forward before the investigation results had been published.

Further, the new oversight measures attracted vehement opposition from powerful construction industry lobby groups.

Irish Independent

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