City Officials Fail to Follow Up on Millennium Tower Violations

Millennium Tower officials have until Friday to disclose whether they actually have a plan to deal with the high-rise’s sinking and tilting problem as well as justify their engineering conclusion that the high rise is safe.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who has chaired a series of hearings about the troubled tower, said he was assured by Millennium Partners that the firm will get back to the city by Friday.

The questions come as the 58-story building – which opened in 2009 -- has sunk as much as 16 inches and leans to the north and west. Owners have pressed city officials about how the tower’s sinking foundation will handle a quake.

In mid-December, Department of Building Inspection Director Tom Hui – apparently relating questions from three experts hired by the city – pressed structural engineer Ronald Hamburger about what led to his conclusion that the building is safe.

The scrutiny followed an apparent about face in Hamburger’s findings. His final report in October declared the building would sustain “acceptable” damage in a quake. Just two years earlier, in a draft report, he found that the sinking and tilting would trigger greater damage to the structure even in a moderate quake.

At the urging of Peskin, the city brought in an engineering expert from Stanford and private geotechnical and structural engineers to evaluate the basis for Hamburger’s findings.

At Thursday’s hearing, City Administrator Naomi Kelly told Peskin that the responses to the city’s questions about the extent of tilting, stresses and total weight of the building will help establish the next steps.

“As soon as we get more information, our consultants will have more to report on,” Kelly told Peskin, “and we will get back to you as to the safety of the building.”

After the meeting, an attorney who lives in the building and has filed suit against the developer said that the city should compel Millennium to come up with a plan to fix the structure.

“It’s time to stop requesting and time to order Millennium Partners to come up a plan for complete stabilization of the building – with a time line,” said the lawyer, Jerry Dodson.

If the developer fails to act, Dodson said, “the certificate of occupancy for the building should be revoked.”

In another twist at the hearing, city building inspection officials acknowledged that little has happened since the city cited the developer in October for having handicap ramps that are too steep and for basement water damage tied to the sinking building.

The assistant director of the Department of Building Inspection Ron Tom assured Peskin the developer is slated to come up with a plan to fix the illegal access ramps – now overly steep after the building has sunk – as soon as next week.

As for water damage in the basement, Tom said, “that is a little more complicated.” Tom said the city is working with Millennium to resolve the dispute.

Peskin pointed out a pattern that city inspectors follow up on issues the day before hearings are scheduled of the government oversight committee he chairs.

“We’ve got to keep holding these hearings to get these things fixed,” Peskin said jokingly.

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