Governor Signs Bill in Wake of Deadly 2015 Berkeley Balcony Collapse

September 15, 2016

East Bay Times
By Tom Lochner

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed a bill aimed at strengthening oversight of building contractors in response to the 2015 collapse of a balcony at a Berkeley apartment complex that killed six young people, including five from Ireland.

Senate Bill 465, sponsored by Senators Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, and Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo is intended to give regulators access to information about building contractors such as work-related criminal convictions and other critical information.

Early in the morning of Jan. 16, 2015, the fifth-floor balcony at the Library Gardens apartment complex on Kittredge Street collapsed, killing Olivia Burke, Eimear Walsh, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster and Lorcán Miller, all 21 and from Ireland, and Ashley Donohoe, 22, of Rohnert Park; Donohoe and Burke were cousins.

“This bill is an important step toward preventing another tragedy,” Brown said in a news release. The new law will take effect Jan. 1

The lead firm that built Library Gardens, Segue Construction Inc. of Pleasanton, had paid more than $25 million in construction defect-related settlements in the three years before the tragedy. Yet the Contractors’ State License Board apparently did not know about the settlements, which involved water infiltration problems.

“The new law provides the Contractors State License Board with the tools to take action against bad actors in the construction industry,” Hill said in a statement. “My colleagues in the Legislature and I are deeply grateful to Jackie Donohoe, Ashley’s mother, and Aoife Beary  and her mother, Angela, for their testimony on behalf of SB 465 and their courage in sharing how their families’ and friends’ lives have been forever changed by a preventable construction failure.”