Public Comment

New: Berkeley Continues Construction in Wake of Balcony Disaster

Charlene Woodcock
Friday July 10, 2015 - 11:32:00 AM

Concerned citizens wish to know who in the city government is tallying the ever-growing number of large new buildings and their cumulative impact on city resources and services such as streets and transportation, water, electricity, sewer, and fire and police protection. Given the fatal consequences of the collapse of the Library Gardens balcony, now we must ask if the city employs enough building inspectors to assess rigorously the quality of construction and adherence to code and the safe maintenance of these many new large buildings going up simultaneously, a phenomenon probably unprecedented in Berkeley's history. Someone needs to investigate the history of the contractors for large buildings to make sure they haven't been sued for shoddy work on previous projects, as is the case with the Library Gardens firm. We need to know the cost to city residents and taxpayers of this radical increase in construction in the city, in terms of infrastructure stress, increased traffic, and increase in greenhouse gases? Has an emergency preparedness plan been established to account for the special needs of emergencies in large buildings? This significant increase in housing units strains both physical, natural, and human resources, already aging, overburdened, or inadequate.  

Several of the Downtown developments under consideration are so detrimental to the interests of Berkeley residents that no significant benefits the developer could offer would compensate for the loss to the community that they would entail. I refer to such highly-valued local businesses as Ace Hardware (Acheson Commons), Berkeley Vacuum & Sewing Machine Center (1951 Shattuck@Berkeley Way) and The Missing Link Bike repair cooperative which by repairing bikes helps reduce auto pollution in Berkeley, (1951 Shattuck), and the Shattuck Cinemas and Habitot (2211 Harold Way). These businesses provide significant services to Berkeley residents and pay taxes to support the city. If a developer proposes to demolish a building that houses a successful business, surely the city must require that developer to provide for the temporary housing of the business nearby and then include on the ground floor equal or greater space to rehouse the business. To do less would be a huge disservice to the residents of Berkeley. 

It seems time to call a moratorium on new large building proposals in order to assess the financial and infrastructure impact of the many new buildings already approved and to examine the extent to which they will or will not address Berkeley's urgent need for inclusionary low-income and family housing.  

And surely the city should require posted weight limits on all balconies. 

Attached is a probably incomplete list of the many new large residential buildings currently under construction or recently completed in Berkeley.