A large crack formed in a window at the sinking and tilting Millennium Tower over the Labor Day weekend, prompting officials there to block off part of the sidewalk on Mission Street as a precaution, NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit has learned.
City inspectors issued a notice of violation on Tuesday, giving the Millennium management 72 hours to report back on the extent of the problem and the soundness of the building’s façade in light of the failure.
Residents started hearing creaking sounds followed by a loud popping noise at 2:30 a.m. Saturday. Soon afterward, one owner found the crack in his window in a 36th floor unit in the north western corner of the 58-story high-rise. The tower is currently tilting some 18 inches when measured at the top.
San Francisco City Supervisor Aaron Peskin notes the failed window was supposed to withstand hurricane force winds.
“When you have a window at the 36th floor that cracks in the middle of the night that is a big wake up call,” says Peskin, who has held a series of hearings into why the tower has been sinking so dramatically.
In a bulletin about the latest problem sent to owners on Labor Day and obtained by NBC Bay Area, building manager Michael Scofield assured them a team of experts would soon assess what he described as “a large piece of glass that cracked.”
Scofield acknowledged it’s “possible that this incident is related to other issues in the building.”
A string of problems may have been triggered by differential settlement of the structure -- everything from cracks in the basement walls to strange odors permeating some units.
The issue of who is to blame has become mired in a legal morass. As the building continues to sink and tilt, NBC Bay Area has detailed concerns by experts about the possibility the façade of the building, known as the curtain wall, may be separating from the interior structure.
That could pose a risk, they say, that a fire could spread through gaps between floors. The failure of the 36th floor window could be evidence of strain on the steel lattice that forms the façade.
For now, Millennium manager Scofield told residents the barrier will remain out front along Mission Street until repairs are made.
“This is a public safety hazard,” Peskin says of the window failure, adding that the city Department of Building Inspection must act immediately to assure the safety of thousands of people who walk by the building every day.
“The real question is do we need to limit pedestrian access on the sidewalks beneath the Millennium?” he says. “I want our Department of Building Inspection to make that decision and pronto.”
Department of Building Inspection spokesman William Strawn said in a statement late Tuesday that per the building engineer’s comments to the city inspector, “It does not appear to present any sidewalk safety issue at this time. We will be following up.”