San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has filed a civil suit against Millennium Tower's developer alleging that it did not disclose to buyers that the 58-story building was sinking more than expected, even though management allegedly knew about the troubles more than a year before sales began, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Herrera claims that Mission Street Development, a Millennium Partners company, was obligated by law to reveal the building's structural issues. Not doing so, the suit says, unfairly gave the developer an advantage over competitors and put prospective tenants at a disadvantage.
A spokesperson for Millennium Partners said that, according to the company's designers and engineers, the tower had settled as expected when sales began and that it provided all required information to potential buyers.
The tower was supposed to sink four to six inches over its lifespan, but officials said it has already settled 16 inches and leans 2 inches at the base to the northeast. The building could eventually sink as much as 30 inches.
Herrera said Millennium Partners and Mission Bay have turned over almost 2,000 pages of buyer disclosure-related documents, but none of them mention the settling problems. Developers maintain that crews building the $4.5 billion Transbay Transit Center next door pumped millions of gallons of groundwater out of the soil, weakening it and causing the building to settle in excess of what was expected. Millennium representative P.J. Johnston said the Herrera suit is simply an attempt to cover for the Transbay Joint Powers Authority error, according to the Chronicle.
The TJPA previously responded to those allegations by claiming that the skyscraper's sinking and leaning issues were not caused by dewatering but by the failure of engineers and designers to choose an adequate foundation design, as the piles are 100 feet or more short of reaching bedrock. According to the Chronicle, some homeowners have sued developers based on that theory, and the Millennium Towers Association, representing approximately 400 homeowners, said it is contemplating legal action as well.
San Francisco officials only launched an investigation after a concerned citizen called the 311 non-emergency government hotline to express concern about the building. Prior to that, city investigators said since the structure was built to code and passed all inspections, they couldn't take action.
Millennium has redesigned the foundation of another San Francisco high-rise under construction. The company has reportedly opted for piles that anchor into the bedrock below. The Millennium Tower predicament has also spurred San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee to request more stringent building regulations and a review of the city's 30-year earthquake plan to ensure the safety of its buildings and high-rises.