City Inspectors Say Millennium Scaffolding Can Stay Down

The city appeared to blink Friday in the showdown over Millennium Tower Homeowners apparent defiance in taking down scaffolding around the building that the city had ordered remain in place until a cracked 36th floor window is replaced.

Millennium Tower crews on Thursday began to dismantle the scaffolding on the Fremont Street side of the tower, which was ordered by city inspectors to be installed to protect pedestrians after the window cracked over Labor Day weekend.

City inspectors later arrived at the Tower and ordered that the scaffold be put back up by 5 p.m., but the homeowners association balked. Instead, they authorized more scaffolding to be taken down on Fremont Street as of Friday morning.

“It doesn’t make any sense at all,” Debra Walker, a member of the city’s Building Inspection Commission, said in an interview Friday. She said the action amounted to Millennium thumbing its nose at the city, something she had not seen in 20 years on the panel.

The new and seemingly more combative stance was signalled Thursday, when newly elected association president Howard Dickstein flatly refused to put back any scaffolding. “No,” he told NBC Bay Area as to whether he would comply with such an order from the city.

“There’s absolutely no danger to pedestrians or any reason” to put the Fremont Street side structure back up, he stressed.

The same day the scaffolding started coming down, the city appeared willing to accept the findings of a Palo Alto consultant firm, Allana, Buick & Bers, hired by the homeowners, that the window cracked from being hit by an unspecified exterior force, not as a result of the sinking or tilting of the structure.

And late Friday, the Department of Building Inspection seemed prepared to accept Millennium’s word. In a statement, the department stressed that the home association officials, who had just recently assumed their roles, had admitted making a "mistake" in ordering that the scaffolding be taken down without seeking city permission.

The city indicated that the Fremont Street scaffolding would not have to be put back up as long as Millennium completes visual inspections of the windows by the end of next week. It said its own structural engineering advisor agreed with that approach.

But for Walker, the act of taking more of the scaffolding down Friday morning despite the city’s order was especially troubling. “They can appeal a notice of violation and the director’s decisions,’’ she said, “but you can’t just arbitrarily make your own rules.”

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