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The Leaning Tower Of San Francisco

Posted by Michelle Moquin on August 24th, 2016

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 Good morning!

From our local SF Chron:

SF’s landmark tower for rich and famous is sinking and tilting

920x920

Photo: Michael Noble Jr., The Chronicle

The Millennium Tower, a leading symbol of San Francisco’s new high-rise and high-end living, is sinking — setting the stage for what could be one of the most contentious and costly real estate legal battles the city has ever seen.

Rated by Worth magazine as one of the top 10 residential buildings in the world, the Millennium at 301 Mission St. is home to such A-listers as Joe Montana and Hunter Pence. Until his recent death, it’s where venture capitalist Tom Perkins owned a penthouse. Condos sell for anywhere from $1.6 million to north of $10 million.

However, since its completion in 2008, the 58-story building has sunk 16 inches, according to an independent consultant hired to monitor the problem. It has also tilted 2 inches to the northwest.

“That’s significant … and of concern,” said Professor Greg Deierlein, director of the John A. Blume Earthquake Engineering Center at Stanford University, who has been called in to evaluate the designs of a couple of San Francisco’s newer downtown high-rises.

Deierlein noted that the 88-story Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia — which were the world’s tallest buildings when they opened in 1998 — have sunk less than 3 inches. Their tilt, or “differential settlement,” is less than half an inch.

920x1240

This isn’t just an issue for the Millennium’s owners and wealthy inhabitants: It could be a headache for taxpayers as well. There are potentially big public dollars at stake, with the owners alleging that the massive hole dug next door for the new Transbay Transit Center is to blame for the building’s issues.

The problem first came to light in 2010 when the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, the public agency constructing the transit center, hired the consulting firm Arup to gauge how the excavation could affect the tower.

According to the consultant’s initial report, by the time excavation began — two years after the $350 million Millennium was completed — the tower had already settled 10 inches. That was 4 inches more than its builders had predicted for the life of the high-rise.

Since then, “the building has continued to settle vertically, now 16 inches,” representatives of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority said in a statement in response to questions from The Chronicle.

At the same time, geotechnical reports show that since 2009, the settling has been uneven — resulting in the 2-inch tilt.

And while Stanford’s Deierlein doesn’t consider the sink or tilt a safety issue, he did say, “I would be concerned for my investment.” That’s because a shifting building can cause walls to crack, elevators to malfunction and all manner of other annoyances.

P.J. Johnston, spokesman for tower builder Millennium Partners and its principal owner, Sean Jeffries, said a nine-month, independent structural safety review in 2014 “determined the settlement has not significantly affected the seismic performance of the building, and does not represent a safety risk.”

An attorney for the Millennium homeowners association’s board, John Gill, recently sent a confidential letter to some of the more than 400 residents saying the board was “actively engaged in negotiations with Millennium Partners to resolve building settlement issues.” The letter also said the association was “sensitive to the concerns of everyone about any issue which could impact the value of their units.”

In a statement Friday, homeowner representatives said they had “retained a number of engineering consultants to investigate the causes and long-term impact of these settlement conditions” and were evaluating their legal options. They cited any number of parties that could be held “legally accountable” — including the developer, the high-rise’s designers, the contractors and the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, which is run by San Francisco, AC Transit, Caltrans and the agency that operates Caltrain.

For his part, Millennium spokesman Johnston wasted no time blaming the transit center authority. He insisted that the tower’s settling had been within normal range until excavation began on the bus and rail center next door.

“They built a half-mile tunnel 60 feet underground and next to our building, and they were supposed to (protect the Millennium) — and they didn’t,” Johnston said.

The authority also signed an agreement with the Millennium developer in 2008 “to repair, at its own cost and expense … any damage to the development substantially caused by TJPA’s construction activities,” according a copy of the agreement on file at San Francisco City Hall.

Records show the Transbay Joint Powers Authority pumped more than $58 million into an underground buttressing system to shore up the Millennium before beginning excavation in 2010. That’s one of the many reasons for the new transit center’s spiraling costs, which are now at $2.4 billion and counting.

In its statement, the transit center authority said it “bears no responsibility for the tilt and excessive settlement.”

Unlike some downtown high-rises, the Millennium isn’t steel-framed. Instead, the developer chose a concrete design more common to residential buildings. It relies on huge columns, shear walls and beams, and it’s much heavier than steel. What’s more, the building is located on unstable mud-fill, just off the bay’s original shoreline.

The Millennium’s engineers anchored the building over a thick concrete slab with piles driven roughly 80 feet into dense sand. “To cut costs, Millennium did not drill piles to bedrock,” or 200 feet down, the transit center authority said in its statement. Had it done so, the agency said, “the tower would not be tilting today.”

Johnston countered that “virtually all other buildings in that part of the city have their foundations at the same subterranean level,” citing skyscrapers that include the St. Regis and Intercontinental hotels.

He added that the Millennium’s design was state of the art for residential buildings and that concrete can be preferable to steel for several reasons, including sound insulation.

“In any case, this was not a cost-saving decision, but the preferred design,” Johnston said.

While there have been reports of cracks appearing in the Millennium’s underground garage, there’s no word of residents complaining about damage to their condos. Instead, the shifting and sinking of the concrete platform beneath the building has necessitated what Johnston called “minor repairs to sidewalks and connections at the ground level.”

Experts tell us it’s uncertain exactly what, if anything, can be done to fix the problem or straighten the tower. There has been talk of pumping cement underneath the base and drilling new piles — complicated and expensive undertakings.

An assessment, no doubt, that offers little comfort to those living in the building.

🌇

Readers: Don’t you love how the Millennium spokesman Johnston is blaming the excavation of a tunnel as being the reason the tower is settling? I’m not an architect or a builder but it seems pretty clear to me that if you needed thick concrete slabs driven down 200 feet into bedrock, and you only went down 80 feet into dense sand (Hello!) to save costs, it really doesn’t matter if a tunnel was excavated next to the building, because it seems pretty obvious it’s probably gonna sink sooner than later.

The bottom line is, what was required wasn’t done. Whether it was out of a cost-saving decision (aka: greed) or preferred design (I hope the “beauty” was worth it!), someone is going to pay for the stupid mistake.

It didn’t take long. About 10 days after this write was written, another article was written about the law suit filed:

And they’re seeking a big pile of cash: $500 million at least, if a judge grants the lawsuit class- action status on behalf of the building’s 400-plus residents.

What’s your opinion?

Blog me.

Lastly, greed over a great story is surfacing from my “loyal”(?) readers. With all this back and forth about who owns what, that appears on my blog, let me reiterate that all material posted on my blog becomes the sole property of my blog. If you want to reserve any proprietary rights don’t post it to my blog. I will prominently display this caveat on my blog from now on to remind those who may have forgotten this notice.

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39 Responses to “The Leaning Tower Of San Francisco”

  1. Zen Lill Says:

    Wow, this story takes construction cutting corners and shoddy workmanship to a much deeper level.
    80 feet down and KNOWING it needed to be 200?? #nowords

    I didn’t mean they wholeheartedly believed in R just that they voted w party bc they funded their jobs, what they believe it vote outside of any bar and away from their peers is clear by all your comments and I’m grateful and thankful for your responses. I’d hoped that that would be the case so your responses are much appreciated.

    And one thing I cannot stand about this country’s ‘funding’ is the lack of cash and compassion for the fallen.

    It’s disheartening to see an ex-military man in the streets in a wheelchair or suffering serious PTSD just left to their own devices. And VA hospitals are not the best nor are they equipped as they could be or should be.

    I’m not sure why PTSD is not attended to better, our services for our ex military doesn’t even skim the surface of their aftercare needs, no man can go into combat situations (once or repeatedly) and not be deeply affected by that scene.

    comrades falling or seriously injured takes its permanent toll on the psyche, even in men who appear to be fine.

    If you have no life experience with it (like me) … Think ‘Band of Brothers’ and ‘Hurt Locker.’

    Few walk away “just fine” even if they appear to be functional (hold other jobs, cut tomatoes for the wife, etc)

    I say this because I had the privilege to work with some willing ex military (and ex-inmates) while in hypnotherapy practicum hours/year.

    Mischa, I’m so glad you expose everyone to the underbelly of what really goes on to the extent that you can and that’s pretty deep! I’m sure there’s much backstory to many things that we won’t ever know because sources and security (homeland or otherwise) buries much of the true stories because it exposes politicians for their horrifying decisions and not for the security of seal and operatives.

    6 Patrick I didn’t mean they wholeheartedly believed in R just that they voted w party bc they funded their jobs, what they believe it vote outside of any bar and away from their peers is clear by all your comments and I’m grateful and thankful for your responses. I’d hoped that that would be the case so your responses are much appreciated.

    And one thing I cannot stand about this country’s ‘funding’ is the lack of cash and compassion for the fallen.

    It’s disheartening to see an ex-military man in the streets in a wheelchair or suffering serious PTSD just left to their own devices. And VA hospitals are not the best nor are they equipped as they could be or should be.

    I’m not sure why PTSD is not attended to better, our services for our ex military doesn’t even skim the surface of their aftercare needs, no man can go into combat situations (once or repeatedly) and not be deeply affected by that scene.

    comrades falling or seriously injured takes its permanent toll on the psyche, even in men who appear to be fine.

    If you have no life experience with it (like me) … Think ‘Band of Brothers’ and ‘Hurt Locker.’

    Few walk away “just fine” even if they appear to be functional (hold other jobs, cut tomatoes for the wife, etc)

    I say this because I had the privilege to work with some willing ex military (and ex-inmates) while in hypnosis practicum year.

    Mischa, I’m so glad you expose everyone to the underbelly of what really goes on to the extent that you can and that’s pretty deep! I’m sure there’s much backstory to many things that we won’t ever know because sources and security (homeland or otherwise) buries much of the true stories because it exposes politicians for their horrifying decisions and not for the security of seal and operatives.

    6 Patrick yes during service I understand and that makes sense and Bush did that and that’s sickening.

    8 Steven yes the care of ex military is sorely lacking.

    9 Juan yes it was clear that the sharp eyes of any seal there were sharpest amongst OTW’s probably bc you’re on your own even amongst your own. SMH.

    10 Gary yes I wondered if they are really buying it or buying it bc they had to in public due to defending the ‘funding party’ the mystery has been cleared by all of your responses.

    12 William, I’m glad you don’t support that party for putting you in harms way and sorry to hear you’ve lost many comrades along the way.

    13 Teddy, you’re right it doesn’t give you any special knowledge and it’s the job to do as your told and likely it’s explained on a ‘need to know’ basis.

    14 Ira & 15 Ruben thank you I’m relieved to hear all these responses.

    16 Neil you bring up a good point, social media has exposed much info we didn’t have privy to before (including places like this blog)

    18 Keisha, I don’t blame you and totally see why you wouldn’t.

    Thank you all again for your responses and for your service to this country (even in the face of knucklehead led decisions that put you all in harms way and often for not good reasons).

    during service I understand and that makes sense and Bush did that and that’s sickening.

    8 Steven yes the care of ex military is sorely lacking.

    9 Juan yes it was clear that the sharp eyes of any seal there were sharpest amongst OTW’s probably bc you’re on your own even amongst your own. SMH.

    10 Gary yes I wondered if they are really buying it or buying it bc they had to in public due to defending the ‘funding party’ the mystery has been cleared by all of your responses.

    12 William, I’m glad you don’t support that party for putting you in harms way and sorry to hear you’ve lost many comrades along the way.

    13 Teddy, you’re right it doesn’t give you any special knowledge and it’s the job to do as your told and likely it’s explained on a ‘need to know’ basis.

    14 Ira & 15 Ruben thank you I’m relieved to hear all these responses.

    16 Neil you bring up a good point, social media has exposed much info we didn’t have privy to before (including places like this blog)

    18 Keisha, I don’t blame you and totally see why you wouldn’t.

    Thank you all again for your responses and for your service to this country (even in the face of knucklehead led decisions that put you all in harms way and often for not good reasons).

    Luv, Zen Lill

  2. Zen Lill Says:

    Amendment to above …** To the psyches of all military women and men, apologies on that mistake, I’m not sure how many women are seals (probably few and I’m sure would be prevented on gaining favor based on herd mentality amongst the ranks) but I wanted to mention because many women are in active military duty. Forgive me. ~ ZL

  3. Zen Lill Says:

    Wow sorry that repeated like that ^ not sure what happened there. ~ ZL

  4. Zen Lill Says:

    Apologies again, I’m soooo jet lagging (excuses excuses) but just realized the seal service has no women candidates currently unlike army and marines where a few have joined and excelled.

    ~ ZL

    Apologies also for taking up so much space here so far today.

  5. Holly Says:

    OMG, no one told me about this. I’m calling all my friends and telling them.

  6. Scott Says:

    Thanks for the concern Zen Lill. I’m a vet and I must say the VA has gotten a lot better. The difference is so profound that I think something or someone should stand up and say it.

    So from this vet I have to say, my experience this year has be profoundly good.

  7. Debbie Says:

    Yes, Michelle someone is going to pay. My building is full of high profile dwellers. We are not going to standby and allow anyone involved in this debacle to escape our lawsuit.

  8. Donald Says:

    I agree with you Michelle. My building had already settled 10 inches before the Transbay Joint Powers Authority had started constructing their transit center.

    Considering that 10 inches was 4 inches more than the builders of the Millennium Towers had predicted it would for the life of the building. That leaves those builders solely responsible for those 4 inches.

    There may be some joint harm from both parties for the additional 6 inches and counting of settling but I say sue the Millennium Partners and let them indemnify their loses from whomever they figure they can.

  9. 4G Says:

    This is crazy! Has any other modern building anywhere moved this much? Also, what does it actually mean that it has sunk 16-inches? Surely, the entrance isn’t 16-inches below the sidewalk now, is it?

  10. Helena Says:

    I agree Michelle, only greed could make anyone think that building a 58-story tower with piles driven only into DENSE SAND was a sound idea?

  11. Sam Says:

    Nearly EVERY new high rise being built right now in San Francisco is also being built on dense sand, no bedrock. Greed is all about saving money. New comers, with no education of the geography of San Francisco are sadly unaware they are buying an eventual nightmare.

    Greed keeps developers building expensive castles in the sand. When one falls, then the value of those others will drop almost as fast.

  12. Gloria Says:

    Michelle, you are right greed was at play during the building of the Millennium Towers. I bought at the 181 Fremont building.

    They drilled 200 feet to bedrock. http://sf.curbed.com/2016/8/2/12345734/millennium-sinking-tilting-181-fremont

  13. Bud Says:

    Why didn’t this post? Trump says only he can fix this.

  14. Ariel Says:

    I can’t image what they could do besides straightening the thing with mudjacking and then driving new piles to bedrock like they should have in the first place.

  15. CV Says:

    What I find unbelievable is that they hid this from the homeowners for years. I had heard rumors and it was clear something was going on from walking by – cracked sidewalks frequently being repoured and the lobby on the
    Mission St. side is clearly lower than the street.

    This should have been in the sales disclosures for the units but I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t. Lawyers will be swarming around this for years.

  16. John Says:

    CV#15, it wasn’t in the sales disclosures because the price would have been way lower witness the decline of the price .

    Millennium Tower condo, most expensive one-bedroom in S.F., cuts price. http://sf.curbed.com/2016/8/17/12522744/millennium-tower-sf-sinking-expensive-sale-tilting

  17. Lucy Says:

    One good earthquake and this building is history! Lawyers everywhere are salivating!

  18. Jeff Says:

    Lucy #17, not to worry, if engineers in 1860 could jack half of a city block up 4 feet, I’m pretty sure engineers in 2016 can find a way to fix this.

  19. FA Says:

    San Francisco Building inspectors signed off on the design and construction.

  20. SF Says:

    FA#19, Developers pushed this through, as they are now with other new construction, this is NOT inspector’s blame 100%, I think you know that. Inspector’s told them 200 feet pilings to bedrock, the developers CHOOSE to ignore.

    I understand the lawyerly way is to plant seeds of blame i.e. inspector’s fault, not to worry, we see through that

  21. Cal Says:

    What do the contractors have to do with it? They didn’t design the building or do the calculations to engineer it.

    Unless the drawings showed the piers going down to bedrock instead of just 80 feet, the contractor has no fault here… and typically contractors won’t suggest new design as it opens them up to liability for said design.

    They might say “you want to reconsider this”, but they won’t go beyond that.

  22. Sally Says:

    Michelle, I say let’s let the billionaires fight each other for a change instead of us.

  23. Anonymous Says:

    Saudi morals enforcer calls for more moderate Islam

    http://nyti.ms/29NMIES

    Good luck with that !

  24. Mary Says:

    Joseph where are you? Jesus called What happened ? He said your contact got thrown into a new location. How ??!

  25. Almas Says:

    Anonymous#23, Ghamdi is correct any serious reading of the Quran about the Prophet Muhammad and his companions would reveal that most of the restrictive rules quoted or taught by the clerics are cultural additions to Islam.

    The clerics use Islam to gain wealth and power. They claim the power to torture, arrest, and kill from the Quran. They are not unlike the inquisition and terror that the catholic priests used to control the western world.

    The arabic world needs to grow up as the christen world did and throw the bums out of their secular lives.

  26. Tooraj Says:

    Most of the rules that control the behavior of women are set so restrictive to gain favor from the men of Saudi Arabia.

    Men whether islamic or christen will use religion to control the female. When used correctly it guarantees that their women will remain chaste while they go out and enjoy the fruits of other women.

  27. Baheejah Says:

    Most arabic men couldn’t get a wife if it were not for the forced marriages sanctioned by islam. They have no social skills.

    They will do anything to appease their tiny penises. Hence holy war is so appealing to them because the koran sanctions rape, torture and murder.

    Those are things that appeal to young uneducated adolescence males. Tell them their religion says it is okay and you have a ready and willing army.

  28. Vida Says:

    Most islamic clerics are as sick as the pedophile priest of the catholic church. They use religion to prey upon arabic women.

    We can be raped and we dare not reveal it less our families resort to an “honor” killing while the perpetrator goes on to rape other females.

    Only a sick religion would give “honor” to any killing. God is not about murder.

  29. Fatima Says:

    In SA we are forced to hide our faces to defend ourselves against the lust of men. Actually in SA females are but sex toys for men.

  30. Yashar Says:

    Those of you who use this blog to shame Islam will answer to God and His servants.

  31. Tarsa Says:

    Yashar#30, If you think your threats will stop the advancement of women, then you are very mistaken. Intelligence and a true reading of the Quran will show that you are but an ignorant follower of lies.

  32. Ajaweed Says:

    You all should be declared takfir. Allah will smite you with His servants.

  33. Vashtee Says:

    Ajaweed#32, go suck on a lemon. You are either a cleric whose job of being a cleric is in danger or an idiot who has been indoctrinated by one.

  34. Saba Says:

    Baheejah#27, You have made the most accurate statement about arabic men. Most marry a cousin who sees her for about a minute sometime before he accepts her as his wife.

    While the men get to check out the faces of their potential brides, the females(as young as 11) has no say in who she is forced into a sexual relation with.

  35. Aqsa Says:

    Most arabic women hate and fear the religious police. It is made up of a bunch misogynists and perverts. They go around terrorizing women and forcing their disgusting religious beliefs upon everyone.

    They remind me of some of the very strict religions in the West, except these manics have the power to torture or kill in the name of god.

  36. Anam Says:

    It is a shame that halal permits the Commission to abuse females. Islamic men accept this because they get to be our lords and masters.

  37. Tanis Says:

    Any advancement of women is viewed as haram because it will lead to the “destruction of societies.”

    I for one wish that in my life time I get to see the entire religion of islam declared a cult of pedophilia and sexual abuse of women.

    I don’t expect that this will happen because the catholics still accept that cult which basically does the same to women.

  38. Zen Lill Says:

    26 Tooraj, you make a correct statement, religious use (or not), men sell women into believing that we ‘respect’ them by remaining chaste (i.e. on their terms) meanwhile doing what they want, whether that’s chasing others or just going and living life on their terms and you fit into it somewhere/some way of their determination (and part of that is making you believe that “if you’re my special one you would want to keep your chasteness out of respect for me and to prove your trustworthiness” utter nonsense if I ever heard it, next up is telling you what you can and cannot talk about…controlling BS even the best of western women fall for, total crap)

    I comment on all religions the same bc they are started by men and perpetuate that, and that overall indoctrination runs deep, so much so that even secularist women will say but if he’s a ‘good man’ I’m ok with that …

    Hmm, I question anyone who infers I must behave how they want me to, to be deemed acceptable (under their terms) good man or not.

    It all goes so deep even other western women will subtly if not openly slut shame each other, it’s pathetic and runs very deep and most women end up with ‘low self esteem’ over not thinking that through very well, and of course, most low level men love low self esteem females here bc they’ll do what’s necessary to seek that mans favor/approval.

    Religions (males in charge) have done a horrifyingly good job of controlling women, in Islam it’s a threat to life and body and family honor, here in the west, it’s psychological and most women here never stop to bother and examine any of that ^ maybe it’s fear of losing their ‘good man’ bc we’ve been told we need one? I’m not sure…

    And I’m not sure how gay men/women see that viewpoint, I’m hetero so that’s how I see it.

    And being a ‘good man’ doesn’t have nearly the list of criteria being a ‘good woman’ has…

    I’ll stay bad (and free ; ) thank you very much.

    ~ ZL

  39. Michelle Moquin's "A day in the life of…" » Blog Archive » Burkini Ban In France Says:

    […] Baheejah, Vida, Fatima, et al: It has been some time since the subject of Islam has been broached on my blog. I look forward to the day when western men will refuse to do business with a country whose men follow not a religion, but a cult that terrorizes, rapes, tortures, and murders their women. Considering how long it took us to elect a female president, I’m not counting on that happening any time soon. But hey, who knows what a female president can do. We haven’t had one yet so I’m not putting any limits on her. […]