A nightmare for parents anywhere

The balcony that collapsed at an apartment building on Kittredge Street in Berkeley, killing six.
The balcony that collapsed at an apartment building on Kittredge Street in Berkeley, killing six. AP

The Berkeley accident that so far has claimed the lives of five young people from Ireland and one from Sonoma County is a parent’s worst nightmare. Your son or daughter sets off on a worldly adventure, only to be injured or worse in a place you thought would be safe.

It’s too soon to know why the top balcony of the Library Gardens Apartments collapsed Tuesday, killing at least six and seriously injuring seven. But the clues littering its aftermath make the heart ache.

At least 13 people at a 21st birthday party were on the balcony when it sheared away from the building. The party was raucous enough for the police to have been called, and close enough to the UC Berkeley campus for them to initially ignore the complaint.

Though the building was less than 9 years old, the wood supports for the balcony appear, at least in news photos, to be rotten. And the complex, where units rent for up to $4,000, had lots of online reports of poor maintenance in a market where skyrocketing Bay Area demand created little incentive to address them.

The original developer, who opened the complex in 2007, reportedly told a Berkeley website that Library Gardens was built by “a reputable local general contractor” who had used union labor. It was later sold to the real estate unit of the asset manager BlackRock, which manages the investment fund that holds it.

Another non-local, Virginia-based Greystar, manages it, along with at least five complexes in Berkeley, a half-dozen in Sacramento and hundreds of thousands of other apartments nationally.

Parts of the building are now red-tagged. And as the investigation develops, litigation is sure to come.

This much is clear though: This accident shouldn’t have happened, not in such a new building, not in California, which is such a mecca for adventurous young people. Our hearts go out to the parents of those lost and injured, who, in this global village, could have been anyone’s daughter, anyone’s son.