Gov. Jerry Brown signs bill to improve transparency between license board, contractors

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Alvin Wu/File

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Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into legislation Thursday intended to increase transparency between licensed contractors and the Contractors State License Board, or CSLB, in light of the 2015 Berkeley balcony collapse.

Starting Jan. 1, 2017, SB 465 — authored by Senators Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, and Loni Hancock, D-Oakland  will mandate that licensed contractors report work-related felony convictions to the CSLB within 90 days. In accordance with the law, the California Department of Industrial Relations and the Division of Occupational Safety and Health will be required to transmit information to the CSLB about any actions taken against its licensees.

Previously, according to CSLB spokesperson Rick Lopes, licensees were not required to report work-related criminal convictions to the CSLB if they received their license prior to January 2006. Those licensed after 2006 were required to undergo a criminal background check prior to getting licensed.

“It’s such a critical step … that information not only be made available to make contractors accountable, but also to update state building codes so that buildings of California are built on much stronger balcony standards,” said Councilmember Jesse Arreguin.

Beginning in 2018, the law will require the CSLB to report to state legislature the results of a study investigating the possible merits of additional regulations, such as requiring licensees to report defect settlement cases and arbitration awards against them. It also stipulates that a working group formed to study recent exterior elevated element failures must submit a report including any recommendations for changes to the California Building Standards Code.

“Our view is that more information the regulator has is a good thing, so we’ll see what the study says and go from there,” said Nate Solov, Hill’s chief of staff.

The balcony collapse determined to have occurred due to wood rot killed six people and injured seven. Segue Construction Inc., the affected apartment complex’s lead contractor, previously had more than $26 million worth of settlements.

According to an email from Gregory Magofna, senior aide to Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, the city will not have a role in implementing the bill in regard to reporting contractors. Last summer, however, Berkeley City Council adopted amendments to local and state housing codes in response to the collapse.

Arreguin noted that there was more progress to be made in building laws and said that the California Building Standards Commission, which is the agency that adopts the state building code, is currently looking at statewide regulations about the materials used for building balconies. He added that he hopes that a mandatory housing inspection program be made to inspect every single unit to make sure that they are safe and habitable.

“These tragedies are repeat catastrophes that can be prevented,” said Jackie Donohoe, mother of one of the victims, in a statement.We must stand united against the construction industry’s special interest agenda to prevent these proposed changes.”

Contact Camryn Bell and Fionce Siow at [email protected].