Pleasanton contractor that built apartment balcony in deadly collapse could have license revoked

State board says Segue Construction 'willfully disregarded' construction plans, leading to deaths of 6 students

A state regulatory agency is seeking to revoke or suspend the license of a Pleasanton contractor that oversaw construction of the Berkeley apartment balcony that collapsed last year, killing six students and injuring seven more.

In an 11-page accusation filed Tuesday, officials with the Contractors State License Board alleged that Pleasanton-based Segue Construction Inc. willfully disregarded or departed from its construction plans without the consent of the building's owner, disregarding accepted

trade standards for good construction in the process.

Problems in the construction of the balcony in 2005 and 2006 later caused the June 16, 2015, collapse of the balcony at the Library Gardens apartment complex at 2020 Kittredge St., according to the licensing board.

The deck of Unit 405 was sheared from the side of the building while the 13 students were standing on it during a birthday party early that morning. Five of the people killed were visiting Irish students.

Forensic analysis later determined that moisture intrusion had caused severe dry rot in the deck's joists. The incident prompted the city of Berkeley to pass stricter building codes for decks and balconies, followed by statewide legislation that increased oversight for contractors.

While the Alameda County District Attorney's Office found that the incident didn't warrant criminal charges, the licensing board Wednesday announced its findings that if the balcony had been built as designed, the deaths of the sixth students could have been averted.

Segue was hired to construct the 176-unit complex early in 2005 and completed the project in 2007. A subcontractor was hired to do rough carpentry and framing work, which included installing floor joists for the balconies.

But while the building's framing plan called for pressure treated joists for the private deck at the top floor, such as Unit 405, the joists in that balcony were not pressure treated, according to the accusation. The collapsed deck's joists were installed in October 2005.

The building's plans also called for a sacrificial membrane to be constructed before final waterproofing, but that wasn't installed either. Before final waterproofing was finally done in August 2006, the joists had been exposed to 38 inches of rain.

"The imposed load of 13 students was well within the design limits of the balcony structure," licensing board officials wrote in the accusation.

They said the deviation from the design led to the extensive dry rot in the balcony's joists.

Lawsuits filed by the victims and their families allege that there were signs of issues with the balcony for years, including mushrooms growing

on it, indicating the moisture intrusion, and the balcony leaning when people were standing on it.

Segue has been a licensed contractor since 1992 and its current license is set to expire in 2018, according to the licensing board. The company has 15 days to file a notice of defense and after that the case could be settled or go before an administrative law judge, according to the licensing board.

Scott Morris, Bay City News

— Bay City News Service

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