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Sinking Tower Sparks Suit

Thursday, August 25, 2016

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A resident of San Francisco’s pricey Millennium Tower condos has filed suit over the 58-story building’s documented sinking and tilting.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Millennium condo owner John Eng has filed what could become a class-action lawsuit against both the building’s owners, Millennium Partners, and the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, whose nearby construction may have affected the building.

Millennium Tower
By Daniel Ramirez – CC-BY 2.0, via Flickr

Millennium Tower condo owner John Eng has filed what could become a class-action lawsuit against both the building’s owners, Millennium Partners, and the Transbay Joint Powers Authority.

The suit as filed is seeking “at least $500 million” for the residents of the building, who number over 400. The documents indicate that, in addition to the owners and Transbay, the suit will eventually also name entities that were involved in the design and construction of each.

The lawsuit is being pursued by a group of four law firms, operating as Millennium Towers Litigation Group. The firms are Blum Collins LLP, Catalano & Catalano, Foreman & Brasso, and the Law Offices of Mark M. Garay.

Home Damage, Values Drop

In the claim, filed Aug. 9, the plaintiff says that “over time the building most likely will sink an addition 8 to 15 inches into the landfill” over which it is built, and the tilt, currently measured at about 2 inches toward the northwest, could also get worse. Cracking and buckling is already visible in individual units and the building’s commons area, according to the suit.

Transbay Center construction
By Sergio Ruiz, CC-BY-2.0, via Flickr

Defendants who may be named later include those involved in the construction of the Transbay Transit Center (pictured).

The plaintiff argues that not only will the residents of the building incur costs in trying to mitigate damage to their homes, but they also have suffered blows to the marketability and value of their homes in the building due to the sinking.

In the complaint, the plaintiff calls the building “defective,” and claims Millennium Partners “knew that the Millennium and Subject Homes were not of marketable or habitable quality. The suit notes that the building sits on a man-made “mud fill” in an area that was once underwater, and asserts that the decision to build on a concrete slab and 80-foot piles instead of piles anchored into the 200-foot-deep bedrock was made “to cut costs.”

Designers, Builders as Defendants

In addition to Millennium Partners and Transbay Joint Powers Authority, the complaint notes up to 200 “Doe Defendants” whose identities are still being determined by the plaintiff. These include those involved in the “planning, development, design, construction, warranting, repair, selection of materials, supply of materials, installation of materials and/or sale of” the building and the condos within. Also included are those involved in the construction of the Transbay Transit Center.

The tower, which opened in 2008, was designed by Handel Architects, with structural engineering by DeSimone Consulting Engineers. Webcor Builders was the general contractor on the job, according to the Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute. 

   

Tagged categories: Architecture; Commercial contractors; Condominiums/High-Rise Residential; Construction; Contractors; Engineers; General contractors

Comment from john lienert, (8/25/2016, 7:27 AM)

the bottom-feeders didn't include the lenders in their suit....maybe "to be determined"...


Comment from Jesse Melton, (8/25/2016, 8:53 AM)

I like how the suit provides a long term structural stability forecast when absolutely nobody knows what's actually causing the problem.


Comment from David Johnson, (8/25/2016, 10:38 AM)

The problem is simple. Poor engineerng decision. Big heavy things should be floated in soil. They need to have foundations on the rock. Steel piles would have easily solved this problem to begin with, and frankly, will be the buildings only hope.


Comment from Jesse Melton, (8/26/2016, 10:35 AM)

Flood control is simple too. All you have to do is keep stuff from getting wet. Buildings, aircraft and nuclear reactors are all good examples of highly engineered things where any single decision involves a considerable number of people concurring on the direct effects of the decision as well as potential side effects. A bunch of people from different companies and agencies looked at the plans and agreed it would be acceptable to not sink steel piles. It isn't a question of assigning responsibility, it's a question of how lots of disparate stakeholders with ample capacity to assess design performance arrived at the conclusion things were all good. There are elements in this story we aren't aware of and it seems a lot of capable people were unaware as well. Is there a flaw in the design approval process? Are certain accepted notions of design safety and stability wrong? Even good old fashioned bribery can't float something this big through the system. There are simply too many people involved. What's done is done, how can it be prevented going forward? That's the important part.


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