San Francisco

Lawyers Fear SF's Millennium Tower Could Tilt 10 More Inches by 2019

At its current rate, San Francisco's troubled Millennium Tower could tilt another 10 inches toward the Salesforce Tower in the next two years, lawyers for the homeowners warned in a legal filing urging a speedy trial over the sinking building.

Owners of condos in the listing tower hoped to impress upon Judge Curtis Karnow the need to push for a trial by mid-2018 and to fund a fix.

But at a hearing on Monday, Karnow put off key decisions in the complicated case until October to give the many parties – the developer, builder, engineering consultants as well as homeowners and the city – time to plot out how best to proceed.

The homeowners association wants the court to endorse its plan to drive about 150 concrete and steel piles through the tower’s 10-foot-thick foundation all the way to bedrock.

In court papers and as reported last month by NBC Bay Area, the latest data shows the tower has tilted about 2.5" west to the Salesforce skyscraper since January.

That’s “more than twice the historical tipping rate,’’ the owners’ lawyers argued to the judge.

They noted that the building tilted a total of 11.5 inches in the eight years since it opened in 2009 and the end of last year.

“At the current rate of tilt, even a two-year delay could add another 8" to 10" of tilt to the west," the homeowner lawyers said in the filing. "Prompt corrective action is required to limit further damage to the Tower.”

The homeowners called their plan “feasible, appropriate, and will stop the sinking and tilting.”

Noting that the current tilting is “likely impossible to reverse,” the homeowners conclude that each month it continues amounts to “additional serious harm” to the tower and owners. “Nothing stands in the way of saving Millennium Tower from further tilting except the unwillingness of the responsible parties to pay for the required repairs.”

But no money for that fix, expected to cost $150 million, has so far materialized. As a result, homeowners want a trial the middle of next year.

But in its response, the legal team for the Millennium emphasized the recent findings by its consultant that the building “remains structurally and seismically safe." Homeowners would be better off going after tall buildings nearby such as Salesforce, they contend, as there is “ample evidence” that their construction and removal of water around the tower is “a significant cause of the tilt” of the building.

Millennium called the homeowners’ plan a “self-selected remedy,” that has yet to be approved or even been “meaningfully evaluated.”

“Neither the relevant authorities with jurisdiction nor those alleged to be at fault could be expected to simply accept” such a remedy on its face.

Jerry Dodson, a lawyer who lives in the building, worried Monday about the prospect the building could tilt as much as 2 feet by 2019.

“That unexpected tilt, I think, is very alarming and something that needs to be addressed more than a report from millennium partners saying that everything is safe because they have done a model and tweak it to get the result they wanted.”

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