After news broke that the 58-story, 419-residence Millennium Tower, completed in 2009, had sunk 16 inches in height and tilted two inches northwest, pissed and panicked homeowners were pretty sure to sue, and you know what? They did just that, filing a class-action lawsuit against both the developer of their shifting building and the public entity developing the neighboring Transbay Transit Center.
The Chronicle's Matier & Ross report that the charge is being led by one resident, John Eng, who is working with four law firms on behalf of the homeowners association. If granted class-action status, the suit would seek at least $500 million.
The aggrieved group is going by the name the Millennium Towers Litigation Group, made up of the law offices of Blum Collins LLP, Catalano & Catalano, Foreman & Brasso, and Mark M. Garay, Esq. From their press release:
The Millennium Towers in San Francisco is built on landfill. It is the heaviest concrete building built in this seismic zone and, unlike other neighboring buildings, it is not anchored into the bedrock below. It has been reported that the building was expected to settle evenly to the depth of approximately 6 inches over its lifetime, but has now settled 12 - 16 inches and is leaning 15 inches at its top to the northwest. We are informed that some owners are reporting problems with uneven floors, difficulty opening and closing doors, windows, and cabinets, and that some interior wall cracks have been observed. To date, none of the potentially responsible parties have accepted any responsibility for this problem nor have they offered any assurance that this condition will not continue to deteriorate.
Developer Millennium Partners has been eager to shift the blame to the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, the agency that began work on the neighboring Transbay Transit Center in 2010. “301 Mission exists in a location where major underground construction work was subsequently performed by others, who were obligated to monitor and protect existing structures, and to mitigate any impacts of their work,” Millennium Partners said in a statement to the Business Times. Not so, says the Transbay Joint Powers Authority. “The residents’ claims against the TJPA are misplaced; as demonstrated by data collected over more than seven years, full responsibility for the tilting and excessive settlement of the building lies with Millennium Partners, the developer of the Tower,” read a TJPA statement. “Millennium Partners’ poor design decision is the cause of the tilt and excessive vertical settlement of the Millennium Tower.” The Millennium Towers Litigation Group will go after them both, and by targeting the TJPA, a public entity, will involve the city and taxpayer dollars.
Stanford's Earthquake Engineering Center's Greg Deierlein, an independent consultant, originally determined that the tower had sunk far more than expected. And, further, a geotechnical engineering expert hired by the homeowners' association predicts that the building might sink another 15 inches in the coming years for a total of almost three feet.