Officials: Over 400 buildings in Berkeley need repair

 

BERKELEY (KRON) — Officials said more than 400 buildings in Berkeley need repair in order to avoid a similar fate as the six people killed in a balcony collapse last June.

That is according to a report released this week following a building inspection program launched last summer as a result of that balcony collapse.

KRON spoke with the city’s planning and development director about the unsettling findings and what’s next. Berkeley launched an inspection program about a month after the collapse and have been working to identify problem areas over the past six months.

Inspectors have found safety concerns at about 18 percent of the buildings inspected.

“This is the worst tragedy I’ve seen in my professional career,” Eric Angstadt said.

Six people were killed and at least a half dozen others were seriously injured when the balcony at Library Gardens toppled over.

“We wanted to, as best we could, make sure it never happens again,” Angstadt said.

Angstadt said with direction from the City Council, a task force was created last summer made up of building experts to make local changes to the state building code.

The goal is to make external elements, like balconies, wooden staircases, and decks safer.

“One, we required cross ventilation, so that in the event that water gets in from any source, it has a way to evaporate,” Angstadt said.

Angstadt said standing water can speed up decay and destabilize the structure. Vents would also make it easier.

He also called for future inspectors to identify problem areas.

“Second, we also are now requiring pressure treated or rot resistant materials, so treated wood or something for the use of building these elements,” Angstadt said.

Over the course of the past six months following the balcony collapse, the city sent letters out to more than 6,000 property owners of multi-family buildings, alerting that they need to comply with the new rules.

Angstadt said about 72 percent replied.

Close to 2,200 buildings were inspected and about 18 percent have reported needing some sort of repair.

“And, so those 400-odd buildings are now getting building permits and they have 90 days to get a building permit and correct whatever deficiencies were found,” Angstadt said.

The report findings and progress on inspections will be presented to the city council in less than two weeks.

It’s at that time where the council will discuss whether these inspections will continue every three years or every five years.

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