The Truth Behind Library Gardens

Tiny - Posted on 04 August 2015

As someone who once lived in substandard constructed Section-8 project-based housing in Berkeley, California for six years, I can assure you that all so-called ‘affordable housing’ built and/or refurbished with HUD (U.S. Government Housing for Urban Development) funding for low-income communities was built with many corners being cut in order to meet the limited financial budget of the HUD funding building subsidy. This is true of the ‘Library Gardens’ apartment complex in Berkeley which was actually built in 2003, where 12 years later on June 16, 2015, thirteen J-1 Visa summer work program young adults from Ireland would tragically fall, six of them to their untimely deaths and seven of them seriously injured, from a faulty balcony. It collapsed as a result of substandard low-budget HUD funded faulty construction.

What the mainstream media is failing to tell everyone is that the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley was first built in 2003, not in 2006.  How do I know this?  Well…  In 2003, I was a full-time student attending Vista Community College, which today is known as Berkeley City College, working on my Associate’s Degree in Multimedia Digital Imaging. There were many other students in my class like myself who were low-income and during this time, several of them were trying to get into affordable housing at Library Gardens as during this time, Library Gardens was being built to be project-based low-income affordable housing, not market rate housing.  

This part of Library Garden’s initial history to how it was built and funded has been intentionally kept out of the mainstream media, away from the public ear, therefore the truth has not been told about its history of when it was built.  Mysteriously, sometime between 2004 and 2006, Library Gardens silently changed hands of ownership without any public input nor notification of any sort after it had sat dormant for a couple of years until a new owner quietly acquired it.  Almost immediately, this new owner would rent to primarily market rate paying tenants and students only.

However, Library Gardens had been initially ‘quickly’ built with a HUD funded cheap, substandard construction materials with many ‘short-cuts’ made in the overall construction work to stay within its tight budget, including a low-bid construction contract with Segue Construction who has a track record for faulty construction practices, which in turn would later render multiple problems with Library Gardens, as it was initially built for low-income communities. It’s obvious that the City of Berkeley in its entirety had intentionally turned the other way on this issue, failing to research Segue Construction’s bad history of multiple problems with their construction of balconies at other properties, but then again…this apartment complex (Library Gardens) was being built for poor communities, right?

Unfortunately in 2006, after Library Gardens was bought by an out-of-state real estate developer with offices based out of both Delaware and New Jersey, calling themselves Library Gardens LLC Delaware and Library Gardens International and California (I am unable to now find their contact information online since the balcony collapse incident), with the property being managed by Texas based Greystar Real Estate Management, who specializes in renting properties at top dollar to starving students in college towns across the United States, nearly all of the rental units turned into market rate units.  Eventually, Library Gardens rental prices skyrocketed with a two-bedroom/1-bath costing $3,600.00 a month for 719 sq. ft. which forced many struggling young college students, including visiting J-1 visa international students to bunk up in these cramped over-priced apartments in large numbers due to the extremely high rent.

Since 2006, there has been minimal construction maintenance work and inspection done on the Library Gardens property although there were multiple complaints about structural problems from the tenants over the years with no inspections made on the balconies. The balconies were cheaply made with substandard construction and building materials, including the lack of waterproofing the structure around the balcony areas of the apartment complex.  

In all truth, this unfortunate tragedy could have been avoided by all means.  And, the fact that the property was virtually ‘flipped’ to become a ‘for profit’ apartment complex after remaining dormant for 1-2 years was intentional so that it would no longer be mandated to remain primarily low-income affordable housing, instead turned for profit despite the low-budget construction which would result to the balcony collapse tragedy for these young Irish J-1 visa students who most likely come from working-class families.  

And on top of that, I can only imagine that nobody has really stepped out to ensure that those young adults from Ireland who came to the U.S. on J-1 visas affected by this horrible and preventable tragic incident were informed about the ‘HealthPAC’ Medi-CAL program in Alameda County (Berkeley is in Alameda County), which is a low-cost/free State run medical insurance program made specifically for immigrants/undocumented immigrants in the United States. This could surely help those injured and their families who have been adversely affected by this tragedy to avoid being faced with astronomical medical bills for being a victim of some big real estate conglomerate’s excessive greed and neglectful practice.

Yet, let’s not forget that this apartment complex ‘Library Gardens’ was originally built for low-income communities, which only tells me as someone who once resided for six years in an apartment complex in Berkeley that also had multiple structural problems due to HUD budget cutting limitations, that our lives don’t matter as these contractual privatized real estate developers don’t truly care about our overall well-being. Instead they are only out to grab government subsidized funding from HUD to build their property development for ‘cheap’ just to later, ‘flip’ the property for a huge profit after getting rid of the low-income tenants through a ‘new owner’ along with new bogus rental contracts that include discriminatory policies intentionally designed to disqualify us.  However, in the case of Library Gardens, this horrible balcony collapsing incident has truly shed light upon the frivolous and wrongful practices in which big money real estate developers are partaking in, their lies in disguise and how we in the end pay the ‘price’.



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