Berkeley City Council Adopts New Balcony Codes

Scott Morris (BCN)
Wednesday July 15, 2015 - 02:19:00 PM

The Berkeley City Council unanimously passed new standards for construction of outdoor balconies Tuesday night in response to findings that severe dry rot likely caused the deadly collapse of an apartment balcony last month. 

The revised housing and building codes will also require inspections of all existing balconies in the next six months and again every three years. 

City inspectors discovered that the fourth-floor cantilevered balcony at the Liberty Gardens apartment complex at 2020 Kittredge St. had been infiltrated by moisture, causing severe dry rot in the wooden joists supporting it. 

The balcony collapsed during a birthday party early on the morning of June 16, killing six people, including five Irish nationals, and injuring seven others. 

Inspectors examined another cantilevered balcony immediately below that one and discovered it also had dry rot and ordered it removed from the building the next day. 

To prevent a similar accident, the amended city codes now require all balconies to be constructed using water-resistant wood, or corrosion-resistant steel. Enclosed balconies will need to have ventilation in case of water intrusion and include access panels for the regular inspections. 

City staff had recommended inspections every five years, but the council decided to require more frequent inspections at the suggestion of City Councilman Jesse Arreguin, who argued that dry rot can spread quickly and five years might not be enough time to catch it. 

The council also established a task force comprised of experts from several building organizations to examine what further steps might be taken.