Millennium Tower May Be Sinking, Tilting Even More Than Expected

Millennium Tower May Be Sinking, Tilting Even More Than ExpectedPhoto: Allan Ferguson/Flickr
Brittany Hopkins
Published on August 08, 2016

A week after breaking the news that the Millennium Tower is both sinking and tilting only eight years after opening, the Chronicle's Matier & Ross are back with more disturbing news.

According to their latest update on the drama at 301 Mission St., the 58-story condo tower may be tilting even further than previously reported. 

While the tower's developer, Millennium Partners, has already confirmed that the tower is tilting two inches to the northwest, due to uneven sinking, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority told the paper that the tower is tilting even more than that—six inches at its base.

A geotechnical engineer hired by the Millennium Tower's homeowners association and paid for by the developer has also estimated that that amount of lean at the building's base translates to a 15-inch lean at the top of the tower (an estimate with which Millennium Partners disagrees), and that the tower is likely to continue sinking at the rate of about an inch a year. In a worst-case scenario, the tower could sink as much as 31 inches in total. 

While Millennium Tower residents have been assured that the building remains structurally sound, some have begun taking legal action against the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (run by the city of SF, AC Transit, Caltrans and the agency behind Caltrain). They—as well as Millennium Partners—blame the tower's expedited sinking and tilting on the hole that was dug next door for the future Transbay Transit Center.

The Transbay Joint Powers Authority, which spent $58 million on an underground buttressing system to shore up the Millennium before beginning the excavation, denies that claim. But if they're found responsible, taxpayers will likely be on the hook for the repair bill. 

However, Matier & Ross also spoke with a couple of Millennium Tower homeowners who are preparing to sue Millennium Partners over the tower's "flawed design." Their argument hinges on the fact that the developer anchored the building 80 feet down into landfill, rather than 200 feet down into bedrock. 

Meanwhile, at City Hall, District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin is expected to introduce legislation that aims to protect the city from footing the cost of any bailouts, which Matier & Ross called "wishful thinking," given that the city holds three of five seats on the Joint Powers Authority's board.

We'll keep you posted as the drama continues to unfold.