58-Story Condo Tower Sinking & Tilting in SF

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — The tallest residential building in San Francisco, the 58-story Millennium Tower, is sinking and listing, residents say — “an alarming 15-inch tilt at the top of the building” — and they blame the developer and the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, which dug “the biggest hole the city has ever seen” right next door.
     Since the Millennium Tower was completed in 2008, lead plaintiff John Eng says, it has sunk 16 inches. In his Tuesday class action in Superior Court, Eng says the developer of the high-end condos skimped on the foundation, and the building could sink another 15 inches. He estimates it is sinking an inch a year. It’s also listing to the northwest, Eng says.
     He sued Millennium Partners 1 and the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, which he says “has made the problem worse by digging the biggest hole the city has ever seen in its construction of the Transbay Transit Center next door to the Millennium.”
     The giant hole removed lateral support needed to buttress the Millennium’s foundation, Eng says. “The tilt at the base of the building translates into an alarming 15-inch tilt at the top of the building,” according to the complaint. “Over time the tower most likely will sink and additional 8 to 15 inches into the landfill beneath the building. This means the Millennium could descend a total of 31 inches. The Millennium’s tilt also could get worse over time.
     Eng seeks class certification for all the homeowners in the 419-unit building. He says the developer disclosed potential foundation problems in June 2015.
     Transbay says the Millennium has tilted 6 inches, according to the complaint.
     Millennium Tower spokesman P.J. Johnston told Courthouse News: “We are focused on working with the homeowners’ association to monitor the situation and take appropriate next steps. We will not comment on pending litigation.”
     Compounding the risk posed by the settling foundation, the building is on what used to be the shore of San Francisco Bay, an area the residents say is susceptible to shaking and liquefaction in an earthquake.
     “To cut costs, the Millennium was anchored using a concrete slab and 80-foot piles into dense sand, rather than into bedrock 200 feet deep. Combine this with unstable man-made mud fill surrounding the building and you get the recipe for disaster,” the complaint states.
     Liquefaction can occur in an earthquake when loosely compacted soil turns, in effect, into a Jello-like mass. Buildings atop liquefied soil can tear themselves apart by their own weight.
     The Transbay Joint Powers Authority’s 60-foot deep hole, which will become the foundation for the new transit center, was started in 2010.
     A spokesman for the Transbay Joint Powers Authority did not respond to a request for comment.
     The residents say the problems have reduced the safety and marketability of their homes and forced them to hire engineers, geologists and lawyers.
     “The Millennium will continue to sink and tilt, thereby damaging homes and causing property values to drop in this building,” the complaint states.
     Eng et al. accuse Millennium Partners I of violating construction codes, unfair business practices, breach of warranty and strict liability for the defective foundation.
     They sued the Transbay Joint Powers Authority for inverse condemnation, nuisance and dangerous condition of public property.
     Their lead attorney is Ronald Foreman, with Foreman & Brassom, assisted by Patrick Catalano, Steven Blum in Los Angeles and Mark Garay in Tiburon.

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