The tallest residential butt of jokes in San Francisco will supposedly finally get fixed, as its permits and approvals for repairs are at long last complete.
The spectacular sinking from grace of the Millennium Tower has been a long been a source of schadenfreude for those of us who cannot afford multimillion-dollar condominiums, but the infamous “sinking tower” also posed some serious safety risks. Completed in 2009, the high-end skyscraper condo initially won prestigious awards, until the bombshell 2016 revelation that the tower was sinking and tilting, so much that you could see the tilt from outer space. Follow that with reports of mysterious terrible smells percolating within the building, and of course the lawsuits galore that even included Joe Montana as a plaintiff.
But with parts of the building now 18 inches deeper into the ground than when it was built, SFGate reports that the permits have been approved for a $100 million fix that’s scheduled to begin in November, but could start as early as October.
“The city and state had a plethora of permit requirements for us,” outside engineer Ronald Hamburger told the Engineering News-Record, explaining the lengthy delay of a building underpinning solution that his firm is handling.
The story of the 58-story towering embarrassment made national news in 2016 when buyers discovered that developer Millennium Partners had hid the issue from them, and promptly filed a $500 million lawsuit. Turns out the developer had built into sand instead of drilling down to bedrock as a cost-cutting measure, but tried to deflect blame towards the new Transbay Terminal as prices were slashed on the building’s units. Then came a litany of other problems like the mysterious odors, gaps in the walls that presented enormous fire risks, and windows cracking in the middle of the night.
In the 11 years since the tower was completed, multiple other high-rises including Salesforce Tower have been built over similar bay mud conditions, but developers all drilled down to bedrock for these other tall buildings.
The fix took two years to get approved, as it need OKs from various agencies like the Board of Supervisors, the Port of San Francisco, the State Lands Commission, and of course the CEQA reviews. Per the Engineering News-Record, the “perimeter pile upgrade calls for transferring 20 percent of the building’s weight to bedrock from its existing foundation system,” and “relies on drilling and jacking 52 concrete piles—socketed more than 30 feet into bedrock that starts 220 feet below grade—under the north and west sidewalks.”
This is all obviously quite complicated, and the initial part of the project is expected to take two years. Even then, though, this drama won’t be over, as engineers estimate it will take another ten years for the tilt to even out, at which point the other side of the building will be shored up in similar fashion.
Image: Frank Schulenburg via Wikimedia Commons