Engineer Declines to Testify After Signing off on Now Sinking Millennium Foundation - NBC Bay Area
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Engineer Declines to Testify After Signing off on Now Sinking Millennium Foundation

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    The 58-story Millennium Tower is sinking and tilting in the SoMa neighborhood of downtown San Francisco. (Sept. 14, 2016)

    One of the two structural engineers who certified the now sinking Millennium Tower’s foundation is apparently refusing to testify at Thursday’s hearing in front of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

    UC Berkeley professor Jack Moehle had previously told Supervisor Aaron Peskin that he was willing to appear at the hearing of the government audit committee.

    Peskin intended to question Moehle about his role as a peer review expert on the foundation of the Millennium building — a role in which he vouched for its soundness in 2006.

    "I understand that you are no longer willing to attend the hearing," Peskin wrote Moehle on Wednesday. "As I relayed to you in our phone conversation earlier this week, I have directed our City Attorney to draft legislation allowing the Board of Supervisors to subpoena you and any related documents in your possession."

    Peskin then urged Moehle to reconsider. Moehle told NBC Bay Area earlier that he was surprised there was no geotechnical review of the foundation. He did not respond to a call Wednesday seeking comment.

    Besides the Millennium project, Moehle who served as a chair of the peer review panel that reviewed a proposed building at 80 Natoma Street.

    Outside experts warned that the Natoma project — which like the Millennium was to be built on a concrete slab supported on piles that stopped shy of bedrock — could sink about 11 inches, more than double the geotechnical engineering estimates from the firm Treadwell & Rollo.

    The Natoma project was scrapped after city officials halted it for permit questions and the sinking danger.

    Records show that in June 2004, with construction halted at 80 Natoma Street, Moehle was hired by DiSimone Consulting Engineers for the Millennium Tower. He later declared the foundation as structurally sound as a peer reviewer for the city’s Department of Building Inspection.

    On Jan. 29, 2006, just as Millennium construction was about to begin, Moehle declared: "On the basis of my review, it is my opinion that the foundation design is compliant with the principles and requirements of the building code, and that a foundation permit can be issued for this project."

    Moehle’s peer review colleague, Hardip Pannu, wrote a separate letter vouching for the foundation design but specifying that the peer review did not include an evaluation of the Transbay Terminal, the massive project that Millennium now blames for the worsening sinking.

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