Fixes Proposed for Millennium Tower


The leaning tower of San Francisco might finally have a fix—assuming an agreement can be reached.

The Millennium Tower—which has become notorious for its sinking, leaning problem—has sunk another inch in the past seven months, according to a new report. A team of engineers from two consulting firms says the problem can be rectified by adding piles that would connect the building’s basement to the bedrock.

Since construction began in 2005, the building has sunk 17 inches, city officials and other sources told the San Francisco Chronicle. The building still continues to descend into the bay fill, and its decline is much more pronounced along the northern side, the direction the building is leaning in. According to the Chronicle, sources had to speak on condition of anonymity due to the ongoing litigation involving the tower.

Repairing the Leaning Tower

Along the building’s roof, the lean sits at 14 inches, an additional 2 inches greater than what was revealed in January’s measurements.

According to the LERA firm and DeSimone Consulting Engineers, the problem can be both stabilized and somewhat reversed by adding 50 to 100 new piles down to the bedrock, beginning from the building’s basement. Each individual pile would be 10 to 12 inches in diameter, the Chronicle notes.

The current estimated price tag for the repair sits in the $100 million to $150 million range, even though some experts originally feared it would exceed $1 billion.

But with the ongoing legal issues involving the tower, it is hard to determine who would pay the bill. Involved parties include: developer Millennium Partners, the Millennium homeowners’ association and the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, which built the nearby Transbay Transit Center.

Residency During Repair

For those who live in the tower’s condominiums—which run from $1.6 million to $10 million—the good news is that they will likely be able to remain in their units while the building is undergoing repairs.

“Conceptually, it’s workable, but they need to vet it out,” one source told the Chronicle.

Another source noted that the vetting had to be done quickly. “There is a sense that we need to start doing something sooner rather than later because of the continuing sinkage.”

The Sinking Saga Continues

According to an engineering report from the Arup Group, the rate of sinking remains steady for the Millennium Tower. There have also been new cracks continuing to form in the basement, noted the Chronicle.

“It’s approximately the same rate of sinking and tilting as before,” said one source.

When the Chronicle reached out to P.J. Johnston, spokesperson for Millennium Partners, he declined to comment on the talks or the findings of the latest engineering report, but said that for Millennium Partners, the priority has always been the building.

“We’ve been working closely with the [homeowners’ association] throughout the mediation process, and we’re optimistic that we’ll reach an agreement on the fix,” Johnston said. “To do so, it’s imperative that we respect the confidentiality of the mediation process. Any proposed solutions are preliminary until an agreement is reached.”

Jack Gallagher, a spokesperson for the San Francisco city administrator’s office, told the Chronicle that no repair plan had yet been submitted to the city for repair permits. Bill Strawn, spokesperson for the Department of Building Inspection, noted that his own office had just recently received the latest engineering report, which the department had passed on to the city’s data engineers for their review.

Previous Problems

The Millennium Tower’s other recent problems also include an ongoing odor problem, which was indicative of gaps in the walls of at least one unit. Upon investigation, it was discovered that these gaps were not protected by the appropriate fire-resistant caulking.

An investigation conducted by the city in January concluded that the tower is safe to live in, but the fact remains: the structure is still sinking at a rate of two inches per year, double what was originally estimated by engineers, according to The Associated Press.   

Millennium Partners has largely blamed the Transbay Joint Powers Authority for disturbing the tower while building its Transbay Transit Center on an adjacent lot. Others argue the blame should go to the developer. Multiple lawsuits have been filed.


Tagged categories: Architecture; Condominiums/High-Rise Residential; Health and safety; Maintenance + Renovation; North America; Residential Construction

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