Berkeley: Suspected dry rot previously found in apartment block

Local authority inspectors awarded ‘certificate of compliance’ to building in 2014

Suspected dry rot was found by inspectors who examined the apartment block in Berkeley, California, in which six students were killed, newly released reports show.

Inspection reports published on Berkeley city council’s website said wooden flooring in the building showed signs of suspected dry rot, a condition causing deterioration in timber.

The students were killed when the fourth-floor balcony they were standing on collapsed at a birthday party at the Library Gardens student accommodation block at 2020 Kittredge Street on June 16th. Seven other students remain in hospital in California after being seriously injured in the incident.

Preliminary investigations suggest the balcony, which was supported by timber beams, may have given way because of dry rot.


The housing code enforcement section of the planning and development department at Berkeley city council carried out inspections at the apartment block as part of the authority’s rental housing safety programme, documents show.

It wrote to the building’s owners, listed as Granite Library Gardens, c/o Paradigm Tax Group, on November 6th, 2013, raising a series of code violations, including problems with ventilation, electrical issues and suspected dry rot in a hall area. Inspections were repeated and further violation notices were issued.

The authority wrote again in January 2014 to inform the owners that a December inspection found each of the housing code violations had been corrected. It said as a result, the letter served as a “certificate of compliance”.

Ordinarily, all owners of rental housing are required to self-certify annually that their units meet housing safety standards. But if a city housing inspection finds they are cleared of all violations, they do not need to self-certify for three years.

Water damage

In a statement on its website, posted last Friday, the authority said it would be posting as many documents online as possible for public examination, as part of its continued investigation into the balcony collapse. The documents include building inspection history, building permits, housing code enforcement files and zoning files.

The authority said planning and development records were being posted to “allow simultaneous access from as many people as possible, regardless of location”.

“Our staff is working hard to further investigate and address the tragic collapse,” it said.

Separately, the San Francisco Chronicle has reported that Segue Construction, the company responsible for waterproofing the Library Gardens apartments in 2007, also worked on a complex where a dozen balconies were undermined by water infiltration and had to be rebuilt.

Extensive renovations are under way at the Park Broadway building in Millbrae, California, because of structural damage, the paper said.

The California firm also paid out $3 million (€2.6 million) last year to settle a case over alleged defects in The Pines apartments in San Jose. The legal action alleged water damage on balconies and windows.

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland is a crime writer and former Irish Times journalist