In what could end up becoming the most expensive real estate legal battle in SF history, the Millennium Tower sink-and-tilt debacle deepens with a further look by the Chron's Matier & Ross, who spoke to a couple of current homeowners in the building about the "settlement" issue. According to at least one expert, Los Gatos-based Patrick Shires who's described as "a 40-year veteran in the field" of geotechnical engineering and who was hired by the homeowners' association, the building could end up sinking another 15 inches in years to come, which would mean a total settlement of 31 inches, or nearly three feet into the mud.
This is no joke to the 419 homeowners who purchased units in the 58-story luxury tower, which was completed in 2009, and they are now roaring mad about the fact that the developer, Millennium Partners, essentially hid the issue from them until 2015, and no disclosure about the building's apparently rapid settlement was made, despite the fact that it had been documented as early 2010.
Shires addressed the homeowners in May, setting off the current round of panic and the beginnings of what could be hundreds of lawsuits, telling them the building was settling at a rate of an inch a year now and shows no signs of slowing down. He and others have suggested that given that the building was constructed on landfill in what was once the watery shallows of San Francisco Bay, the developer should have used 200-foot piles down to bedrock in order to prevent this situation, instead of following suit with what some other buildings in the area have done, digging only 80-foot piles to anchor the building's foundation.
Also, an expert with the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, who are constructing the Transbay Transit Center next door and who agreed to help shore up Millennium Tower before they began construction, claims that Millennium Tower's tilt is now six inches at the base, which translates to a full 15 inches at the top far more than the two inches originally disclosed by the developer, which is already more than should be expected.
And while some homeowners are already suing or about to sue Millennium Partners for what they expect will be a loss of resale value the building remains structurally sound but cracks in walls can be expected as well as negative perceptions among new buyers others are suing the Transbay Authority, which essentially amounts to suing the city and potentially impacting public coffers in what's already a wildly expensive project.
Millennium Partners seems intent on shifting the blame to the TJPA, claiming that the excavation for the Transit Center, which began in 2010, and the subsequent years of construction caused their tower to sink faster.
Patent lawyer Jerry Dodson, a Millennium Tower resident who is already preparing to sue Millennium Partners and who spoke to Matier & Ross, says that not only were he and his wife not informed of the settlement concern when they closed on their unit in April 2009, but they were also not informed of the 2008 agreement Millennium Partners signed with the TJPA to monitor how the next-door construction project would affect the tower.
The situation is probably worst, however, to owners in the building whose units are on the market now, just after this story broke. Curbed SF takes a look at those units, now listed for between $2M and $3M, and one realtor tells the site, "I’ve been selling for 14 years, I’ve dealt with homes with much bigger problems than this."