City Council to discuss balcony regulations, community benefits at final meeting before summer recess

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On Tuesday, Berkeley City Council will deliberate on proposed structural regulations to balconies, a plan to determine community benefits packages for all buildings more than 75 feet tall and a plan to underground utility wires on major Berkeley streets, among other items on the agenda.

In response to the balcony collapse at Library Gardens on June 16 that killed six and injured seven, City Council will discuss a plan to require steel reinforcement of balconies. A report by city officials cited dry rot as the cause of the collapse.

“We expect a lot of attention on the balcony issue,” said Anthony Sanchez, chief of staff for Councilmember Jesse Arreguin. In consultation with structural engineers, Arreguin will propose amendments to the regulations that will refine the plan brought to the council.

In addition to the proposed balcony reinforcement, the city manager has proposed “more stringent standards” on the materials and building practices involved in the construction of “weather-exposed elements,” such as balconies, in addition to a regular inspection schedule.

Arreguin will also propose an amendment to these regulations that would increase the frequency of inspections based on the materials and design of the balcony. The regulations will go to a vote at the meeting.

City Council will also vote on a resolution that will outline the required significant community benefits to be provided by Downtown Berkeley development projects more than 75 feet tall. This framework will allow for these buildings to provide either affordable housing and hire local labor or pay a per-square-foot fee determined by third-party consultants.

Councilmember Kriss Worthington said he plans to propose a low-income housing unit requirement of at least 20 percent of the built units.

On June 25, the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board approved the environmental impact report for the contentious 2211 Harold Way project, and City Council decided at a special meeting that the developers will pay a predetermined square-footage fee for the residential portion of the building.

A plan for the undergrounding of utility lines, which proposes to bury utility wires on major streets, will also be discussed. In the case of an earthquake or other natural disaster, aerial lines can ignite fires and delay emergency vehicles.

The proposed plan would distribute funding more evenly across all major Berkeley streets, in response to requests from community members for a citywide approach.

“Undergrounding funding has been unfair — almost all the money has been going to only two districts,” Worthington said.

The council is also expected to confirm the appointment of Dee Williams-Ridley for the position of interim city manager.

The City Council meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at Old City Hall and will be the last meeting before the council’s summer recess.

Contact Austin Weinstein at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @aweinstein5.