It is not every morning that one wakes up to hear on the radio that five people were killed in the building you live in. But that is what happened after I woke up on June 16 and heard the report on KCBS that a party on the fourth floor of the Library Gardens Apartments in downtown Berkeley ended when five people died and seven were injured after a balcony they were on collapsed.
While I am traumatized by this tragedy as everyone else in the world is, I am more interested in doing what I can, as a tenant and responsible citizen, to prevent this tragedy from happening again.
And with that I am delineating my top recommendations:
(1) The immediate establishment of four on-site property managers and four on-site security guards for the whole complex, which is reasonable given that there are 160 tenants in a building which spans more than half of a full square block. There is a proven need to enforce the noise abatement rules and other policies that tenants are supposed to follow which are literally unenforced at night since there is no current physical security or management of the building at that time.
(2) Allow newer buildings like Library Gardens to be covered by city housing agencies that regulate older apartment buildings. Currently, such newer buildings are exempt from city regulation and thus there are structural-related code violations that have been pointed out by the media coverage following the Tuesday morning tragedy.
Such coverage could also improve the building maintenance in newer buildings such as this one where floors are not often cleaned and mopped for several days, delivered packages do not reach their true owners, and the problem of understaffing which causes the above issues. Such coverage could also discourage the high rents that are common to these so-called green buildings which have rental rates that are not affordable for middle class people.
(3) Increase police presence in the area through foot patrols, and make noise abatement by police a higher priority than it now is: news reports indicated that a tenant had reported a booming noise to police an hour before the incident occurred which drew no response from police. This is not surprising given that the neighborhood where Library Gardens is situated in is regularly trashed by vagrants and others who come from other areas and litter, smoke, and commit other vandalism and illicit acts near the building and often inside of the building whose entrances are unsecured — all while being regularly ignored by police.
(4) Install on-site cameras to monitor the common areas of the building for illicit activities and other activities like noisy parties that border on not being compliant with established tenant rules.
By no means is this list meant to be exhaustive. But it is a starting point for a broader discussion about improved safety and quality of living at Library Gardens and other modern apartment buildings citywide whose owners are allowed to get away with improper maintenance, lax enforcement of tenant rules, inadequate or non-existent security and other property management tasks that are common in many other similar properties.
Are the elected officials, property owners, and concerned citizens listening? Let us not let another tragedy like this happen without better preventive measures.
Berkeleyside welcomes submissions of op-ed articles. We ask that we are given first refusal to publish. Topics should be Berkeley-related, local authors are preferred, and we don’t publish anonymous pieces. Email submissions, as Word documents or embedded in the email, to firstname.lastname@example.org. The recommended length is 500-800 words. Please include your name and a one-line bio that includes full, relevant disclosures. Berkeleyside will publish op-ed pieces at its discretion.