Berkeley Balcony Should Have Held, Engineering Professor Says

In Berkeley, inspectors are still trying to understand why a fourth-floor balcony separated from an eight-year-old apartment building. The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit spent the day looking at records on the building's owner and management company.

Documents from the City of Berkeley show that construction started on the 186-unit building in 2005 and it passed its final inspection in January 2007.

"We have inspectors who have been on site as soon as we heard of the event," said Matthai Chakko, assistant to the City Manager, at a press conference Tuesday.

The balcony suddenly collapsed during a birthday celebration just before 1 a.m. early Tuesday morning. Thirteen people fell four stories. Seven were seriously injured and six died.

"We are still looking at what they were doing on the balcony," Chakko said.

According to the city, the balcony was built to 1998 building codes, which required a strength of 60 pounds per square foot. Kurt McMullin, a San Jose State professor of structural engineering, said that should have been enough.

"Certainly, the number on the balcony is a lot, but not enough to collapse," McMullin said . "It should be stable even if the load is higher."

The building is owned by a subsidiary of BlackRock, a large investment company. BlackRock released this statement Tuesday:

We are in close contact with the building's management company and an independent structural engineer is being dispatched to conduct a through review of the situation.

The building was managed by Greystar, a multi-national property management company headquartered in Charleston, South Carolina. Greystar manages, but does not own, three other large apartment complexes near the University of California. When construction is completed in July, Greystar will also manage Varsity Berkeley Apartments.

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