Alas, a new detail has emerged in the as-yet-not-fully-disclosed settlement of multiple lawsuits related to the sinking and tilting Millennium Tower in downtown San Francisco, and it's the fact that SF taxpayers will be footing a piece of the overall bill.
The disaster of San Francisco's "leaning tower" that began unfolding nearly a decade ago but which was only made public in 2016 is coming to a close, legally speaking with the settlement of nine separate lawsuits involving some 400 individual parties. We don't yet know the full amount of this settlement, which involves individual payouts to condo owners in the tower to compensate for loss of property value. But we do know that the proposed fix to the tower itself will cost $100 million.
Supervisor Aaron Peskin assures the Chronicle this week that none of the settlement price tag is coming from the city's general fund, but the paper explains that $30 million is still being chipped in by a city entity, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA). The money is coming from the "Phase 1" budget of the Transbay Transit Center, the construction of which was blamed by Millennium's developer for destabilizing nearby soils and causing the tower to sink and tilt.
The TJPA never accepted responsibility for this, but along with the developers of Salesforce Tower and 350 Mission Street they are chipping in to the settlement in exchange for "complete release of claims against it relating to the movement of the tower, claims that were alleged to total a billion dollars or more."
A spokesperson for the TJPA, Donald Pollitt, tells the Chronicle that the $30M settlement "minimized the risk to the public from pending claims," and it will come from "federal and state grants, sales taxes, property taxes, special taxes, land sales, impact fees, toll revenues, loans and bonds backed by tax revenues."
The TJPA has long maintained that the "dewatering" process that occurred in the muddy SoMa soil prior to pouring the foundation of the Transit Center came after Millennium Tower had already begun sinking. And it came to light quickly that unlike Salesforce Tower and other adjacent new buildings, Millennium Partners had opted not to drill piles for their tower down to bedrock — which they now will have to do in order to prevent the tower from sinking further, and to correct its tilt.
That construction process, which is set to begin in a few weeks, will involve the drilling of 52 new piles under the building, and is expected to take two years. As the Chronicle reports, the city has granted an easement for the project, which will involve occupying city streets like Mission Street and temporarily moving overhead Muni lines.
Parts of the building have reportedly sunk 18 inches since construction was completed in 2009. And fully fixing the tilt of the building, through settling, is expected to take ten years.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images