Soil Engineers Begin Tests on Sinking San Francisco Millennium Tower - NBC Bay Area
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Soil Engineers Begin Tests on Sinking San Francisco Millennium Tower

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    Crews began to bore the first of three test holes, each more than 200 feet deep, outside the Millennium Tower on Monday to better assess soil conditions in the areas where the building is sinking and tilting along Mission and Fremont streets. Mark Matthews reports. (Published Monday, Sept. 26, 2016)

    Crews began to bore the first of three test holes, each more than 200 feet deep, outside the Millennium Tower on Monday to better assess soil conditions in the areas where the building is sinking and tilting along Mission and Fremont streets.

    The tests – conducted by a consultant who has evaluated sinking around hundreds of buildings worldwide – will help the owners learn the forces has caused the building to sink some 16 inches and lean to the north and west.

    The chief engineer on the project, Pat Shires, says that based on early data, the building could sink as much as 31 inches. But, he said, no one will know for sure until the test holes are dug and the data is evaluated.

    Shires said the holes will go as far as 260 feet down into bedrock, but the building’s foundation piles go to less than half that depth.

    Crews on Monday began sinking the first hole along Mission; the second will be at the corner of Fremont and Mission and the third will be bored on the west side of the building on Fremont, he said.

    He showed one device known as a “spider magnet” that has arms that spring out and grab into the soil at various depths. The magnet in the device allows its exact level to be measured.

    “You pull a string, and it releases these legs,” Shires said. A second device, which resembles a microphone on a long wire, measures the pressure exerted by the water that fills the bay mud.

    The current range of estimates for that sinking are 8 inches to some 30 inches.

    “I certainly would’ve never bought here if I’d known that,” said Jerry Dodson, who bought his $2.1 million condo on the building’s 42 floor back in 2009.

    Dodson has been leading the fight to learn more about the troubled building. He says it is now clear that the Millennium building developers knew back then that the building was sinking.

    “The homeowners were not told this until May 10, 2016, and it was a gut check for all of us,” he said, adding that his current concern is that the building’s sewage system lines may break under the force of the leaning building.

    Dodson showed NBC Bay Area one hallway in the building, where the floor slopes so badly that a dime rolls down the marble. From Dodson’s unit, there are no signs that the building is leaning. But, he says, owners simply cannot sell or decide their future as long as the foundation issues are unsettled.

    “We’ve really relied on Millennium Partners, and they’ve failed to disclose anything that’s been going on here,” Dodson said.

    Last week, the City Attorney’s Office levied subpoenas on Millennium seeking disclosure documents to see what, if anything, was told to prospective buyers.

    Dodson, who is both a patent attorney and mechanical engineer, has put together a website for residents to review documents. On Tuesday, he said, there will be a vote on who will serve on the association board.

    Dodson also wants the FBI to get involved to investigate what he believes to be fraud by the developers for failing to disclose the problem.

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