Condo owners at the leaning and tilting Millennium Tower are getting big payouts as the developer and the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) look to be settling around 200 lawsuits this week.
The lawsuits, some 125 in all, date back three years, to the August 2016 revelation that the ten-year-old residential tower had sunk over a foot in seven years, and tilted two inches. The tower has continued to move in the years since, but just yesterday an independent panel of engineers signed off on a proposed fix — a $100 million project that will involve inserting 52 new piles beneath the building's foundation that reach down to bedrock. As part of the tentative settlement with developer Millennium Partners and the TJPA, the two will equally share the cost of the fix, as the SF Business Times reports.
In a statement, Millennium Partners spokesperson PJ Johnston says, "[The developer] has made clear from the beginning that its top priority has been to address and resolve the conditions that caused the building’s past problems. The agreement announced today is consistent with that priority and assures that the building will continue to set the standard for urban living in San Francisco."
Niall McCarthy, an attorney representing the homeowners, says that they are all "incredibly pleased with the result" of the settlement, which is said to involve "very significant payments" to each of them.
The TJPA and Millennium Partners began pointing fingers at each other back in 2016, after it was revealed that the 58-story tower was settling far faster and further than it should be. The developer pointed to "reckless behavior" by the TJPA in its Transbay Transit Center project next door, which began excavation in 2010. The belief at the time was that the dewatering process for the soil at the Transit Center site had an outsize impact on the ground beneath Millennium Tower, leading to the excess settling and tilting. Others also pointed out in the media at the time that all the subsequent towers that went up in the neighborhood, including the taller Salesforce Tower, drilled their pilings down to bedrock, while Millennium Tower did not. (The area is primarily landfill over what was a shallow and muddy edge of San Francisco Bay.)
Now, the homeowners' attorneys say, the condo residents are holding both parties "equally liable," and that's for not disclosing what was going on with the building in the years between 2010 and 2016.
The story made national headlines back in 2016, and was widely mocked as the "Leaning Tower of San Francisco." Homeowners believed, probably rightly, that their property values were permanently impacted by the story, even if the tower remained structurally sound and supposedly earthquake safe.
The “perimeter pile upgrade” retrofit plan to stabilize the building will "stave off bigger problems in the future," as the Chronicle reported Tuesday. The project, which is now set to begin at some point in the not-too-distant future, will involve sinking 22 two-foot-wide, steel-reinforced concrete piles along the Mission Street side of the tower, and 30 piles along the Fremont Street side.