Berkeley balcony-collapse bill advances to Gov. Brown’s desk
By KEVIN McCALLUM | Sep 2, 2016

State legislators Wednesday passed a bill aimed at increasing oversight of the construction industry in the hopes of preventing another tragedy like the Berkeley balcony collapse that last year killed six people, including a popular young Rohnert Park soccer coach.

Senate Bill 465 would require contractors to disclose to regulators within 90 days any felony work-related convictions.

It also calls for the Contractors State License Board to study requiring builders to report any settlements or judgments related to faulty workmanship.

The bill by Sens. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, and Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. He has until the end of the month to sign it. Jackie Donohoe of Rohnert Park is doing everything she can to make sure that happens.

She and her husband, George, lost their 22-year-old daughter, Ashley Donohoe — a Rancho Cotate High School graduate and student at Sonoma State University — and their 21-year-old niece, Olivia Burke of Ireland, when the balcony they were standing on June 16, 2015, gave way. The women and 11 others attending a 21st birthday party at a Berkeley apartment complex who were on the balcony at the time fell 50 feet to the street below.

Building inspectors concluded that dry rot created by water damage weakened the structure. The state license board blamed “poor workmanship.” In a statement, Jackie Donohoe said she hoped the bill would increase oversight and prevent another tragedy.

“We hope that this bill will ultimately force contractors who build defective structures to publicly disclose their settlements,” Donohoe said. “Secret settlements only help contractors hide their negligent conduct.”

Following the collapse, it was reported that the general contractor, Segue Construction of Pleasanton, secretly settled multiple construction-defect lawsuits totaling $26.5 million in previous years. An earlier version of the bill, which sought to prohibit such confidential settlements, was opposed by the construction industry.

The new bill, which does not mandate the change but only that the state study it, is a “steppingstone” toward what the family hopes is the passage of the original bill, said Donohoe’s attorney, Eustace De Saint Phalle.

Ashley Donohoe, 22, of Rohnert Park was killed early Tuesday along with five 21-year-olds from Ireland after a balcony they were standing on at a Berkeley apartment building collapsed.