Berkeley Structural Tragedy

Students' Comments on Poor Construction, Terrible Maintenance and Bad Management

Berkeley — The horrible structural failure of a 5th floor balcony that killed six and injured seven students, most of them Irish citizens, this morning, has brought to the forefront the issue of safety in the frantic construction of apartment buildings mushrooming the city.

According to Pacifica Evening News actual building codes requires balconies to support 100 pounds per square foot. The apartments were built in 2007 when the code required only 60 pounds of support per square foot. The site of the tragedy was the Library Gardens apartment complex located on 2020 Kittredge St. and managed by Greystar, a company that charges $4,000 for a small two bedroom apartments.

According to various comments by former student residents’ on the web site Yelp, the complex was plagued with problems of all sorts. Their testimonies, dated from 2009 on, not only offer a shocking glance at the managerial rudeness and foot-dragging but also provide a hint of what could be serious structural problems.

“Poor construction, terrible maintenance,” wrote S. R. from Los Angeles. “…reading all the horror stories about it on other apartment review sites, I’m convinced Library Gardens (and Stadium Place down the street) exist to serve one market: Parents of Berkeley undergrads who are horrified by the dorms and old apartments and will pay any price to put their kids up somewhere nice… Too bad this company preys on them by creating a building that looks nice and new after that first visit, but suffers from poor construction, terrible maintenance, security problems and bad management. Great for Library Gardens, not so great for the Berkeley student population.”

Filth, slim walls, broken elevators and leaking roof made Nicole Y. of Berkeley feel unsafe: “The walls were pretty thin, and since I lived on the side of the building facing Berkeley High it got pretty loud sometimes. Also, there was often trash in the hallways (sometimes even a nasty trail leading all the way down the hallway to the trash chute) and nasty stuff (a moldy tupperware container on top of a light, trash, clumps of hair??) in one of the stairwells. Oh, which reminds me, I used the stairs as much as possible to avoid the slow and sometimes broken elevators. Another gross/unsightly thing while I was there: during winter, when it was raining a lot, there was a leak in the roof in the hallway on my floor (4th)…which then turned into a huge gaping hole. It was so unsafe/nasty looking, you could see the various layers of material in the ceiling sagging out of the hole. It took several months for them to fix it.”

Vehemently, Ricky L. of Berkeley tips off prospective renters: “When you call maintenance, they lie and say that they’re coming the same day or the next day.  I’m still waiting for the next day to come after over three weeks of waiting for something to be fixed. When my roommates and I first moved in the apartment complex seemed well kept.  Now there’s dog shit everywhere, garbage in the hallways, nasty washrooms, newly discovered roaches, and vomit and piss in the stairwells. I’ve even seen rats around the building. The rent is way too high.  As soon as our lease is up we’re getting the hell out of here. Take my advise, don’t move here!”

“…Mostly miserable. Management is unreliable. Doesn’t take care of any maintenance issues in a timely manner… Building owner is greedy and cares about no one not even the staff which is sad since they do all the hard work. This place is a huge rip off in just about every way.” wrote Chan N. of Berkeley, who also posted several pictures on the Yelp site.

Another renter gives an inside look at the managerial deficiencies “…after our first year’s lease ended, the management enticed us to renew with various perks to help ease the pain from the significant raise in rent. Turns out we never received these perks until half a year later after we fought tooth and nail for them. Then later we discovered that the management was having problems finding renters at their high price and thus significantly dropped the rent to much lower than what we were paying….Thus not only was management crap, but the elevators were slow as hell, parking was an extra $100 per month, and you could hear absolutely every noise in the courtyard and from other people’s apartments facing the courtyard. Not worth your troubles,” wrote Lily L. from El Segundo.

Student Megan D. of Fremont, describes the burden of negotiating the lease and the rent hikes: “… a lot of issues with management raising our rent by ridiculous amounts, and then going and making offers to new tenants a good 50% less than what we were paying… We fought with them for over 5 months because they were arguing that an agreement wasn’t valid as the person who signed it was terminated.  The hell is that?… I feel that the management of this place really killed it.  All they care about is sucking money out of the tenants, and fighting with management is not something you should have to worry about while getting through school.”

“And this place is loud, I mean you can close all your doors and windows and you would still hear people playing music at 2am in the morning,” wrote Joseph L. of Berkeley. “… their heater smells like crap and you will need to be an eskimo to endure the cold winters here. Finally, the fire alarm has a very annoying tendency to go off for no apparent reason, so if you were able to sleep despite the ear pounding noise, you will be waken up by the constant and random fire alarm that goes off in god forsaken hours. STAY away!!!!!!!”

Fernando Andres Torres is a short-story writer, poet and journalist. He is associate editor and U.S. correspondent for the web magazine and member of the ExposeFacts Advisory Board. Under the dictatorship of General Pinochet, Torres joined the Chilean resistance. In 1975 he was arrested by the regime’s secret police. While imprisoned, he recited poetry and handwrote messages with quotes about optimism and hope to pass among fellow prisoners. He can be reached at: Read other articles by Fernando.