State Lawmakers Advance Bill Inspired by Berkeley Balcony Collapse

A little more than a year after a balcony collapsed in Berkeley, killing six students, state lawmakers are considering legislation that would increase oversight on building contractors.

An amended Senate Bill 465, which stalled at the committe level last July, advanced through an Assembly committee Tuesday. It would require contractors to notify the state licensing board when they are convicted of felonies or other crimes related to their work.

The bill, authored by Sens. Jerry Hill, of San Mateo, and Loni Hancock, of Berkeley, advanced in a 12-0 vote by the Assembly Business and Professions Committee.

Jackie Donohoe, mother of one of the six people killed, testified at Tuesday's hearing in support of the bill. Her daughter, Ashley Donohoe, 22, died when a balcony at the Library Gardens apartment complex on Kittredge Street gave way and plunged four stories to the ground.

"I don't want this to happen to anyone else," Jackie Donohoe said during the committee hearing. "How many more balconies have to come down in California?"

Ashley Donohoe was a dual citizen of Ireland and the United States. The other five students killed were from Ireland, in the U.S. on a work-exchange program.

Investigators found that wooden beams anchoring the balcony to the building sustained dry-rot as a result of moisture seeping under the balcony's concrete floor and into the beams. Five companies involved in the construction of the apartment building were cited by the state board in April for performing inferior work that led to the collapse.

On the one-year anniversary of the collapse last Thursday, a fresh memorial emerged outside Library Gardens, as family and friends remembered the victims. The previous night, a Mass was held at the Irish Immigration Pastoral Center in Berkeley to celebrate the lives of those lost in the collapse.

The city of Berkeley has since implemented new balcony construction and inspection rules. City leaders say more than 400 balconies are being repaired or will be repaired as a result of the new rules.

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