The City Attorney's office is suing Millennium Partners, the developer of the Millennium Tower, alleging that they neglected to disclose to buyers their knowledge of the building's excessive settling — the tower now tilts two inches and has sunk 16 inches overall, 10 more than anticipated, as publicly revealed in August.
In a news conference this morning, City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced the lawsuit, though he was careful to clarify that the litigation concerned monetary damages for potential violations of civil law rather than prosecution for criminal action. "As we've reviewed this to date, we see violation of civil law, and in the event that we felt that there were elements of a crime, we would refer it [to the District Attorney], but we do not see any evidence of criminal activity," Herrera said with KTVU cameras rolling.
“That’s not just a bit of information prospective homebuyers would like to know,” Herrera also said according to a press release. “It’s information Mission Street Development LLC was legally required to provide," he added, using what appears to be an alternate name fro the developer or the name of its parent company. "And it is at the heart of the case that the homeowners themselves had filed against the Transbay Joint Powers Authority and the City and County of San Francisco.”
Homeowners in the tower filed a class-action lawsuit seeking $500 million in August, and the Chronicle explains that Herrera's is a cross-complaint specifically alleging that Millennium Partners knew by February 2008 that the building had sunk far more than expected.
The City Attorney's Office subpoenaed the developer in September, gathering more than 1,000 pages of disclosure documents, none of which indicated that buyers were informed of the tower's excessive and uneven settling. Herrera seems inclined to believe that Millennium Partners knew full well their legal disclosure responsibilities: "Here in California... there are such robust and protective disclosure laws, you'll find in most developments that there's lots of disclosure." That would make the behavior of Millennium Partners an outlier. "I would not say that this [lawsuit] is to send a message, because most developers are aware of their responsibilities," Herrera said.
Millennium Partners has pointed to the "reckless behavior" of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, the developers of the next door Transbay Transit Center. Their work, which began in 2010, is according to the Millennium Partners the root of their tower's excessive sinking problem: A dewatering process, they say, caused a drop in the water table, hence the uneven settling
Not to worry: We'll get to the bottom of this, or sink even further if we have to. The tower is already a hot political topic, with Supervisor Aaron Peskin intent on finding fault within the city's approval process for the tower or discovering who knew what when. As Herrera put it today, "this is unprecedented in terms of the attention it's getting here in the city." It's a pretty big tower (for SF).