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This Will Crack You Up!

Leaning Tower of San Francisco Update

Imagine that you are living in a multi-million-dollar condo 36 floors above the street in a building that has sunk more in the last nine years since it was completed than it was designed to over its 50 year or longer useful life. Imagine that you are already embroiled in a lawsuit with the building developer over the fact that a steel ball will roll on its own to the window wall because the tower is leaning.

Imagine that you look out your window one morning to see the horizon and see that the window has a large crack in it.

Imagine that the window washing crane on the top of the building is inoperable and that the inspector has to repel down the face of the tower to tape up the crack so that it doesn’t fail and shower down on the street below.

Imagine that the building developers have to build wood canopies over the sidewalk to keep pedestrians (and there are lots of them heading for the newly completed Salesforce Transportation Center next door) from being showered not with those San Francisco mists, but with glass shards from above should the windows begin to shatter as the frames torque as the tower shifts.

Imagine that the city has told the Condo Association that they are considering yellow or red flagging the building as uninhabitable, meaning that everyone who lives in the swanky 54 floor hi-rise tower would have to move out until it is repaired.

Imagine if cost estimates to right the tower whose piers do not extend to bedrock were higher than the original construction costs for the building.

No, this is not an imaginary story, it is all true for the residents of Millennium Tower in downtown San Francisco. According to a recent story in ENR, “A report from Oakland- based-architect-engineer Allana Buick & Bers is expected to be released this week. The firm is surveying all units in the 645-ft-tall residential tower to look for cracked glazing and signs of curtain-wall damage.”

This is an on-going challenge for everyone involved in the project. The developers have claimed that the “sinking feeling” is caused by the city’s subsurface work for the adjacent Salesforce Transit Center and Tower. Millennium Tower, as we have noted in previous posts, is built on fill of part of the San Francisco Bay that occurred in the early 1900s. The subsurface is not stable and the original tower design counted on friction of the piers to stabilize the building, but the weight of the building was too much, and the tower began to lean.

We will continue to monitor the story and update you as it develops and moves toward a solution and the resolution of the lawsuits.