Listing Millenium Tower prompts City Hall hearing


The developer of a skyscraper in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood and city officials both knew the building was sinking and leaning before any units were sold but failed to notify buyers, Supervisor Aaron Peskin alleged Tuesday.

Speaking at a press conference at City Hall Tuesday, Peskin said he planned to subpoena officials in the Department of Building Inspection and hold a hearing next week to determine “who knew what and when they knew it” about the troubled Millennium Tower.

The 58-story luxury highrise at 301 Mission St., which was completed in 2009, has sunk as much as 16 inches and is leaning around 15 inches to the northwest at its peak. Current projections suggest it could ultimately sink more than 30 inches.

A lawsuit filed in August by lawyers representing homeowners alleges that the building, which sits on landfill, was built using a concrete slab and piles into sand rather than into bedrock “to cut costs.” The lawsuit also names the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, and alleges that excavation on the Transbay Terminal project next door has contributed to the Millennium Tower’s subsidence.

Peskin today said documents show that city officials were raising concerns about the structure as far back as 2006, and asking questions about the settlement of the building in 2009 just months before signing off on the final certificate of occupancy that allowed Millennium Partners to begin selling units. He said there were troubling gaps in the record, however, that left it unclear how the developer had responded.

“It is incontrovertible that the Millennium Corporation knew before they sold their first unit that the building was sinking more than they projected,” Peskin said. “I have contacted individuals who own units, they were not informed of the fact that the Millennium Corporation knew and should have discussed that the building was sinking.” Peskin said he believed there was some level of “political interference” in the decision making process of the Department of Building Inspection, but did not specify who might be responsible.

P.J. Johnston, a spokesman for Millennium Partners, today said the building remains safe and that its settlement had remained within projected limits until the Transbay Terminal project began construction in 2010. Johnston rejected the suggestion that political influence played any role in the building’s approval.

“To suggest that Millennium Partners asked for or received any inappropriate treatment by city agencies, at any time in this process, is simply outrageous.”

The company is working with the homeowners to make any necessary fixes, Johnston said.

The Millennium Tower Association, representing homeowners in the luxury building, issued a statement Tuesday saying it was troubled by reports that Millennium Partners and the Transbay Joint Powers Authority were meeting as much as six years ago to discuss the settling of the building.

Association spokesman Charlie Goodyear said:

“The Association also finds troubling — as should the public — the allegations that a public agency sought to keep secret the building’s condition. … The Association continues its investigation to get to the facts of these matters.”

While Mayor Ed Lee did not offer a comment Tuesday, he did write a letter to U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein earlier this month responding to her query about the project.

In the letter, Lee said that the tower’s design, which was approved before he was elected to office, went through a peer review process by a panel of experts and the project was designed and constructed according to standards and codes in place at that time.

The letter said:

“That said, the Department of Building Inspection has suggested the Homeowners Association make corrective actions to improve the joints, plumbing and other operational parts of the building.”

Lee said that the Department of Building Inspection has “enhanced and clarified” its peer review process for skyscrapers since the tower was approved. He is now also asking city staff to examine other safety measures for buildings considered to be at high seismic risk.

The Board of Supervisors’ Government Audit and Oversight Committee will hold a hearing on the Millennium Tower project Sept. 22 at 10 a.m.

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