You may remember how earlier this year, piling on top of the many troubles facing the sinking and tilting Millennium Tower, several residents were complaining of odors drifting into their units from elsewhere in the building, including cooking smells, dirty diapers, and the like. One of the first residents to report on the problem and bring it to the attention of the Homeowners' Association and the news media, Paula Pretlow, is back talking to NBC Bay Area now that a report from an outside consultant has concluded that gaps along the building's curtain wall and other spaces within the walls of at least some units were not properly sealed, and could present risks in the event of a fire.
The report was prepared at the behest of the HOA by the firm Allana, Buick and Bers, and they specifically focused on Pretlow's unit, conducting smoke tests from areas below that illustrated how smoke and other fumes are able to spread to Pretlow's condo from elsewhere. Gaps surrounding various pipes and ducts, which should have been sealed with fire-retardant caulk, were left unsealed within the walls of Pretlow's unit, and likely others as well.
Retired San Francisco fire captain John Damanin calls it a "failure" on the part of the builder if it happened even in one unit, though reports from other residents indicate that the lack of proper caulking is not isolated to Pretlow's unit alone. Such porousness between units could cause smoke damage from even a small fire to effect units around it, and could help a fire spread more easily to units above it.
City inspectors would have been responsible for checking some of these seals, but Damanin says it's ultimately up to the developer and contractor to make sure the work is consistent on all 58 floors. Referring to the contractor responsible for sealing these gaps around Pretlow's unit, he tells NBC, "Did someone have a bad day that day? Let’s hope But if there are other units that are complaining of odors, and no one is investigating because they are afraid of what they might find out? I have a real problem with that if I’m a tenant or if I’m in the fire department."
Lawsuits continue to pile up against both the developer and the city, with high-profile Millennium resident Joe Montana being one of the most recent to file suit.
In addition to the open question of how to keep the tower from sinking any further and how to shore up its foundation and whose insurance company will bear the brunt of that cost we further learned in March via a structural engineer's review that the building's earthquake fitness models may not be entirely reliable, adding one more item to the growing list of fixes in store for this high-rise.