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Leaning Tower Settlement and Structural Solution Reached

Anyone who has worked for a time in the Architecture Engineering and Construction (AEC) business for any length of time knows that when the words, “A settlement has been reached,” are used by the parties in a lawsuit that the term sheet has been agreed to but the hard work of “papering the deal” lies ahead.

Such is the case on Millennium Tower in San Francisco, a luxury residential condominium tower that we termed “The Leaning Tower of San Francisco” after it began to sink at an unacceptable rate. The Homeowner’s Association filed suit against the developers to force them to fix the problem before it became a life-threatening situation during one of the earthquakes that seem to hit the Bay Area with some regularity.

Several weeks ago, according to an article in The Guardian, a confidential settlement was reached in the case that one of the attorneys for the homeowners termed, “This litigation exposed a lot of problems in the development of this particular building,” said Niall McCarthy, an attorney representing a group of homeowners. “It will be a roadmap for other downtown developments for what to avoid. This is a one of a kind situation we won’t ever see again in San Francisco.”

The solution that has been proposed for the luxury 163-unit tower finished in 2008, is that the foundation for the building, originally built on bay fill on piles that did not extend to bedrock, is to add 52 additional piles around the perimeter of the structure.

Those piles will extend to bedrock and will be placed on the sinking side of the building in a way that will allow the side opposite to sink a similar amount and then to be supported by piers that will create a solid foundation for the structure.

There continue to be issues and arguments surrounding this issue. Originally, when the issues first showed up, the Developers, Mission Street Development claimed that the de-watering of the construction for the Transbay Transit Center, itself the center of some major structural problems, caused the Millennium Tower to sink. Those accusations and denials between the Transbay Joint Powers Authority and the Mission Street Developers continue.

The proposed settlement terms supposedly included financial compensation for the owners of the residential units for loss of value, but that has since been denied. Hopefully, the construction of the new piers will be approved, and the construction can continue. Even though the solution has been agreed to, the details remain confidential.

The building will remain the subject of conversation of residents of the Bay area and of the tourists who come from around the world to see and use the Transbay Transit Center and its park and will continue to be known as “The Leaning Tower of San Francisco.”

Meanwhile, the attorneys and all the parties to the liens and claims will continue to “paper the final settlement.”