Millennium Tower Enduring Earthquake Safety Questioned

A Stanford structural engineering professor told the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Tuesday that while the sinking and tilting Millennium Tower is currently seismically safe, he would not go so far as to say it will be going forward.

“The settlement itself, while it is a serious concern, hasn’t effected so far – with the settlement to date – the ability of the building to withstand a large earthquake,” Professor Greg Deierlein told a packed hearing at City Hall.

Deierlein was the head of a three member, city commissioned panel of experts charged with reviewing the findings of Millennium’s structural engineer Ronald Hamburger.

Based on advanced computer modeling, Hamburger has repeatedly concluded that the building will not collapse, even in a magnitude-8 quake. In a review of those findings issued late last month, Deierlein’s supported Hamburger’s findings.

At the hearing on Tuesday, city Supervisor Jane Kim pressed Deierlein to answer whether the building was safe going forward.

But Deierlein wavered, saying he did not feel comfortable with making such a declaration given that the building has not yet stopped sinking.

Supervisor Kim said she understood that it was not an easy yes or no answer, given that tower has sunk 17 inches and continues to settle about an inch a year.

“Right, that’s why our report stops short of that,” Deierlein told Kim.

But that was not the message that frustrated tower residents, who packed the hearing, wanted to hear.

Paula Pretlow, whose complaint about unexplained odors led to the discovery of a potential fire safety issue throughout the building, pressed city officials to intervene on behalf of beleaguered residents.

“I bet you to pay attention and help us address these issues,” she said. “I don’t feel safe.”

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