The Berkeley City Council approved stricter standards for balcony construction and inspection Tuesday in a legislative effort to prevent accidents like the collapse of an apartment balcony last month that killed six people and injured seven others.
The proposed legislation was drafted by city staff who concluded the collapse was likely caused by dry rot in the wooden joists of the cantilevered balcony at the Liberty Gardens apartment complex. Moisture somehow infiltrated the enclosed and ostensibly waterproofed balcony, causing the dry rot.
The emergency ordinance, which will take effect immediately, is likely one of the toughest in California, authorities said.
The sudden collapse dumped 13 people from the fourth-floor balcony at 2020 Kittredge St. during a birthday party early on the morning of June 16, killing the six 21-year-old students, including five Irish nationals.
City inspectors found dry rot in the balcony below it as well and ordered it removed.
The amendments to the building and housing codes require balconies to be constructed with either water-resistant wood or corrosion-resistant steel. They also stipulate that enclosed outdoor construction must be built with ventilation and all balconies be re-inspected first in six months and then every three years.
At the meeting Tuesday, council members rejected the Structural Engineers Association of Northern California's request for a delay.
The council also decided to form a task force, which will feature structural engineers and other experts, to more thoroughly examine Berkeley's building codes.
Councilman Jesse Arreguin deemed the balcony collapse "one of the worst tragedies in Berkeley history" and said that after consulting with structural engineers he thought the staff's proposal should go further.
"We have learned that there are clear deficiencies in our existing building code," Arreguin said.