In extraordinary legal claims filed Tuesday, Millennium Tower owners accuse officials with the San Francisco building inspection department and the next-door Transbay Transit Terminal of conspiring with the high-rise’s developer to hide evidence that the building was sinking.
“The assertion is that both the city and Transbay knew about the sinking and tilting of this building and did absolutely nothing about it,” said Millennium condo owner Jerry Dodson, a patent attorney who filed the claim. “They conspired with Millennium Partners to both conceal it from the public and from homeowners here.”
Dodson, who lives with his wife Pat on the 42nd floor, is now an advocate for owners who are living in a tower that has sunk 16 inches and is leaning northwest.
“It is fraud,” he says of the conduct of the developer, city and Transbay.
As evidence, Dodson cites a February 2010 confidentiality agreement between Millennium and Transbay Joint Powers Authority that was also signed by two San Francisco city attorneys.
NBC Bay Area uncovered the agreement and revealed a document showing that the Transbay agency had indeed labeled sinking data “not for public release.” Transbay authorities have since admitted that one set of data had been marked confidential by mistake.
But Dodson says the evidence suggests the publicly funded agency intentionally kept the public in the dark about the sinking problem until forced to reveal the data this year.
“They kept it secret for six years and did not disclose it,” he said. “That’s wrongful, it’s fraud and they are guilty of it.”
But it was officials with the Department of Building Inspection, he says, who were reckless and repeatedly failed to protect the safety of the owners.
“They really let people down in what they did,” Dodson says. Not only city building officials fail to heed an early warning about Millennium’s foundation design, he says, they did not evaluate the sinking risk and then failed to alert homeowners for years after being told about the problem.
San Francisco City Attorney’s office spokesman John Coté dismissed the Dodsons’ conspiracy claim as “completely baseless.” He says the couple would be better off going after “the developer who essentially sold them a lemon.”
The city has said in its defense that owners waited too long to sue and that the city was immune from liability. Transbay officials did not respond to a request for comment.
Dodson acknowledges that proving such a conspiracy case will indeed be difficult.
“That’s a very serious allegation, I know,” he said, referring to his 15-page claim. “But I detail it here, and I look forward to presenting it in a courtroom.”