San Francisco’s Millennium Tower is notorious for its sinking and tilting foundation – but residents say that foul odors also routinely permeate their luxury condos.
“I am furious -- I don’t want to be here,” said Paula Pretlow, who has lived on the 31st floor of the troubled 58-story building since 2012.
It’s not just the furor over the sinking foundation that leaves her feeling trapped. Pretlow told NBC Bay Area that she is surrounded by strange smells that regularly invade her unit.
“I’ve smelled soup, I have smelled barbecue, I smelled dirty diapers, I have smelled chemical smells,” she says. “The list goes on and on, and none of it is mine.”
Pretlow says she has been complaining about the problem since she moved into the unit, but until recently, nothing had been done. “I’ve been told for years that it was me, not the building – and finally I have proof that this is a defective unit that I live in," she said.
Just recently, crews hired by the homeowners association cut open her walls and the walls of a unit directly below her in search of the source of the leaks. They even set off smoke bombs inside the open walls. “Smoke billowed up into my unit, choking smoke," Pretlow said. "It was as if that smoke bomb had been set off here.”
The draft report they prepared identifies stray odors seeping from gaps in her walls and getting sucked up into the air conditioning system from at least two locations within her unit.
“There are areas in my apartment, which were not sealed during construction,” Pretlow says. “There are holes that are allowing for the transfer of odor from one unit to the next, directly into mine.”
Prelow says she has had headaches, coughing and other symptoms she believes are tied to the bad air and odors.
“I firmly believe this has affected my health," she stressed.
Pretlow also pointed to a section of the report that dealt with findings about her unit but was blacked out.
“Part of it is redacted, I have no clue as to why,” she added.
According to Pretlow, an attorney for the homeowners association warned her about sharing the findings of the report with her Millennium Tower neighbors. But Pretlow says people should know what is going on.
“That’s why I am talking to you” she said, “because I don’t think I should keep this secret. I want people to know what’s going on with me – it may be happening to them as well.”
At least four of Pretlow’s neighbors have recounted suffering odor problems, to some degree. One of the residents we talked to described the overpowering stench of mold or algae. But none of the building's residents wanted to be named or interviewed on camera in light of the building’s other troubles.
One resident, Pat Dodson, confirmed, however, that she has heard several neighbors complain about the odor issues after the Millennium Tower’s now notorious sinking problem became public last year.
“I think a lot of people are now talking to each other when that hadn’t happened before,’’ she said.
While Dodson says she does not suffer from foul odors, she said she is troubled that building management would censor the report about Pretlow’s problem.
“If it were the CIA, it wouldn’t be puzzling,” she told us, “but the fact that management in our own building -- it’s shocking to me that there would be something we couldn’t know about our apartment where we live.”
Pretlow says she complained to the developer for years, without any action. Only recently did the homeowners association pay for the testing that confirmed that her unit has a problem.
“They didn’t want to fix it,” she said of the developer, Millennium Partners. “That’s the bottom line.”
She says her problem is still unfixed and there is no timetable for the work needed to keep the smells from drifting up from the unit below her.
Both the Millennium Tower homeowners association and the developer declined NBC Bay Area's requests for comment. However, Pretlow said the building's management contacted her late Friday with an assurance that a fix is in the works.