A Pleasanton-based construction company has been identified as the contractor of the Berkeley apartment complex where six people died following a balcony collapse last Tuesday.
The company, Segue Construction, Inc., is headquartered at 7139 Koll Center Parkway. Previously based in Richmond, it has built more than 6,000 multifamily units in the Bay Area since the company formed in 1992. It has about 30 employees.
Last Wednesday, a second balcony at the downtown Berkeley's Library Gardens apartments at 2020 Kittredge St., where the six were killed and seven others injured, was removed. That balcony was deemed structurally compromised Wednesday and ordered to be removed from the building, which Segue built about eight years ago.
Two other balconies at the 176-unit complex have been red-tagged, which means that access to them is prohibited while they are scrutinized.
Berkeley city inspectors are still conducting a thorough investigation of the balcony collapse and will announce its results when it is completed.
Five of the six people who were killed were in the U.S. on a J-1 visa, which allows visitors to participate in work and study-based exchange programs. The other victim was 22-year-old Ashley Donohoe of Rohnert Park.
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said early Wednesday that water damage appears to be the chief cause of the fatal balcony collapse but he later issued a statement admitting, "It was speculation on my part about possible water damage to the wood supports for the balcony."
Bates said, "That is not an official conclusion. I am not a structural engineer and am not qualified to make a judgment. We are still awaiting the outcome of the thorough investigation that is underway."
The architect for the apartment complex, which is next to the main Berkeley City Library, was Thomas P. Cox and the contractor was Segue Construction, which completed its work in early 2007.
Segue spokesman Sam Singer said Wednesday that the construction company "has built more than 6,000 apartment units in its 25-year history and has never had anything like this happen before."
"Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the deceased and those injured in this tragic incident," he said. "Segue is fully cooperating with the investigation so we can find out the cause of this tragedy."
Burlingame attorney Niall McCarthy, who has represented victims in six Bay Area balcony collapses, admitted that he hasn't visited the Library Gardens complex but said that based on his experience he believes that balcony collapses are "100% avoidable" and are due to the inadequacy of inspections.
McCarthy said, "Landlords treat balconies like appendages that aren't part of a home and don't treat balcony maintenance as a life-and-death issue."
He said he believes balcony collapses are caused by a combination of apathy and the unwillingness of landlords to spend money to replace balconies that have problems.
McCarthy said that even though Library Gardens is a relatively new complex, its eight-year history is "more than enough time" for there to be water leakage that could cause the deck's wood to rot and become weak.
Berkeleyside, an online news site, reported that Segue has been fined and sued in connection with its work in other locations.
Berkeleyside reported that Singer said the company has been sued just once in relation to balcony work and water issues. That lawsuit, which related to a San Jose apartment complex, involved balconies Singer described as very different in design from the Berkeley balcony that collapsed Tuesday at the 176-unit Library Gardens apartment complex.