Millennium Tower 2016

With the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) having already been named as a defendant in three lawsuits related to the sinking of Millennium Tower, the TJPA has engaged Jones Day to provide litigation support.

The TJPA’s engagement with Jones Day is for an initial five-year term with an option to extend for another three. And in terms of who’s going to foot the substantial legal bills: “It is anticipated that the costs of the 301 Mission litigation will be paid or reimbursed by insurance companies for the TJPA’s contractors and/or by the contractors themselves with a duty to indemnify TJPA,” at least in the eyes of the TJPA.

In addition to the three suits which have already been filed related to the movement of the 301 Mission Street tower, there are now another four potential suits of which the TJPA is aware.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by matteo

    a decade is optimistic, litigation of this magnitude will go on and on and on…….

    • Posted by sfdragonboy

      and all because of a developer who went cheap…. I take it going to bedrock sounds really, really good about now? Dude, we in earthquake country and it is landfill yet you decide to go with an even heavier construction design? God, even an unlicensed handyman probably would have gotten this right…

      • Posted by anon

        Is that a joke? The sinking is caused by the big dig next door, plain and simple

        Many other buildings in the area have the exact same foundation type and have no issues: Marriot hotel, intercontinental, embarcadero center, 101 california, St. Regis, Meridian, etc…..

        • Posted by SFRealist

          You have a good reason for why it started sinking before the dig next door, right?

          • Posted by SocketSite

            Other than the fact that it was fully-expected expected to settle/sink? The issue is the rate, amount and unevenness of the settling to date.

          • Posted by SFRealist

            Do you know that the article you cited said that it was supposed to sink 6 inches over its lifetime and had sunk more than 8 inches before the dig began?

          • Posted by SocketSite

            Yes. Once again, “the issue is the rate, amount and unevenness of the settling to date.” And the “good reason for why it started sinking before the dig next door” is that it was expected.

          • Posted by SFRealist

            it sank by MORE than the expected amount even before the dig started. So Anon’s comment, that the sinking was caused by the dig,can’t be correct (because it had sunk beyond the expected amount even without the dig)

          • Posted by SocketSite

            You’ve now shifted from “a good reason for why it started sinking” to…the amount and rate. And twice again, the issue to be litigated is whether the adjacent dig has exacerbated the sinking and tilt.

          • Posted by SFRealist

            Sorry, I’m not the one who is shifting. I pointed out that Anon’s logic cannot be correct because it sank before the dig started. The dig could not have caused the sinking which happened before the dig began.

            [Editor’s Note: See our response above.]

          • Posted by Orland

            Given the expected successful use of such pilings in so many other similarly-situated major developments in that area, I have to believe that even if it can be said that the adjacent activity did not contribute to this building’s settling greater/faster than anticipated, it is some sui generis reason particular to this project rather than the commonly accepted piling system.

            “Cheap bastards shoulda gone to bedrock!” seems the simple, thoughtless “solution.”

          • Posted by SFRealist

            …but not on buildings this heavy

          • Posted by Keepitup

            TJPA began pumping millions of gallons of ground water out from their site prior to the MT basement excavation. Building a slurry wall next to the MT development did not mitigate the problem of having large voids in the soil next door. It’s not rocket science to figure out that a void was created next door to the MT and the weight of the MT caused the sand under the weight of the building to migrate.

            MT LLC should buy all the owners out, vacate the building and fix the problem. Then resale the entire building.

        • Posted by Stop Driving

          Embarcadero Center has tons and tons of piling that goes to the bedrock. Not sure where Anon gets their information, but it’s completely bogus.

          • Posted by sfdragonboy

            Oh, did people not see the developer come out on his latest project where he declared, yes, it will be to bedrock? Look it up…

        • Posted by js

          Unlike those other buildings, Millennium is the heaviest building on the US west coast.

      • Posted by moto mayhem

        totally agree. if i were a resident, i would be suing the crap out of developer. to not go to bedrock in an area built on sand next to Bay in earthquake zone is just totally irresponsible. Did the owners have this disclosure before they bought?

  2. Posted by ohmy

    How about just piling the legal documents on the opposite side of the building, that should stop the sinking.

  3. Posted by AnonAnon

    Because they are going to be so thick it would make the tower lean the other way.

  4. Posted by Jake

    The added weight would accelerate the sinking, but the placement might correct the tilt. Fine agenda item for next HOA meeting.

    • Posted by Notcom

      But a lot of arguments are all hot air…it could provide lift.

    • Posted by Jake

      yeah, and given the inherent repulsive forces at work the dynamics could be unstable…better call tiltbusters

    • Posted by Notcom

      I’m more worried about the legalities than the engineering (though, admittedly no one has looked good in this case): I think it’s a tall order for Millennium to prove their case, but if Jones Day isn’t up to speed, and the litigator is aggressive, the TJPA could end up getting railroaded

  5. Posted by Mark

    Should have thunk it through before putting a 50+ story building on landfill.

    • Posted by redseca2

      Too late for that. Everything east of Montgomery Street is on land fill.

      • Posted by Tony

        That’s not a problem when you drill into the bedrock like the other buildings did.

        • Posted by SocketSite

          The majority of other buildings in the area do not have foundations that reach bedrock. Then again, the minority abut the TJPA’s big dig as well.

          • Posted by Chris

            The majority of nearby high-rise buildings were constructed with structural steel skeletons making them significantly lighter than the reinforced concrete Millennium Tower. The structural design of the Millennium Tower may have made it more susceptible to sinking in the sandy soil and more likely to have its sinking exacerbated by the TJPA’s big dig, though this issue should have been consider by the TJPA before it began excavating near the tower.

            I suspect the sinking is due to a combination of factors, and once the litigation is resolved, there will likely be fault apportioned among multiple parties.

    • Posted by Dave

      Doesn’t that argument apply also to the surrounding towers? Is Parcel F landfill? Is it just a landfill issue or a landfill and foundation issue? As in this tower not going to bedrock in anchoring its foundation.

      • Posted by Notcom

        It’s both: it’s a “building too heavy for the soil” issue, which has to do both with (1) the weight of the building, and (2) the squishiness of the soil.

        • Posted by Dave

          Yes. It will be interesting if discovery determines the box is a factor in the instability. If so could it potentially affect other towers over time and would HSR trains coming into the box further aggravate the problem? The potential for additional lawsuits is huge.

  6. Posted by SureWhyNot

    Don’t worry, building will stop sinking once it hits bedrock, hopefully it’s a level patch of bedrock where all the laggers magically settle on an even plane. Hmmm…I wonder how much tilt renders the high-speed elevators non-operable.

    • Posted by Mr Pants

      A very slim chance it is a level bedrock. There is probably a long ways of sinking to hit that considering the sunken pylons use the friction method. If the distance was just 2 feet from the end of the pylon foundation and bedrock, they would have pounded them down the rest of the way.

    • Posted by Mr Pants

      And a few minutes later on google, I have the answer as to ‘how far’ bedrock is.

      If end-bearing piles were used for the Millennium Tower, they would have needed to be approximately 200 feet (60m) deep to bear onto bedrock, up to three times longer than the existing friction piling solution used.

  7. Posted by SFRealist

    Way more then ten years if you count the appeals. Get me some popcorn!

  8. Posted by Joel S.

    I haven’t read an engineering evaluation that claims that the subsidence or tilt poses a threat to the safety, integrity, or habitability of the structure. Is there one that exists? All buildings settle as they age. This one, from the articles I read, has sunk at a rate higher than typical for a building of its age. Who has been harmed by real damage? So far the only harm I have observed is the harm caused by the perception that the building is flawed.

    • Posted by Jake

      I don’t think anyone has published an engineering evaluation of the threat posed by this unexpected settling. But we know the developer did not expect it to settle as it in fact has. At the least that brings doubt on the engineering and/or construction done to date and the competence of those responsible. Undoubtedly, that has reduced the value of the property.

    • Posted by Dave

      Didn’t an existing owner of a unit purchase another unit at a steep discount very recently?

      [Editor’s Note: Legendary VC’s Millennium Tower Penthouse Fetches $13M.]

    • Posted by Notcom

      No, there was some serious cracking and spalling of concrete in the basement levels, which sets up the possibility of (increased) water infiltration and corrosion of the rebar. It’s possible it’s correctable – I’m not offering a professional opinion here – but it was beyond a perception issue.

      And of course the building is continuing to sink (or at least it was when we discussed it last month)

  9. Posted by Dave

    I think the builder is saying the dig made the settlement worse than it would have been. So, was the building sinking too fast to begin with? It seems so as it was noticed before the dig. But have things accelerated because of the dig? Even if it is determined they have, it seems the builder will be partially liable anyway and that they are trying to have the TJPA share in the liability.

    I’d guess the court will order a full evaluation of towers built near the dig and whether their settlement so far is “normal” or not. If not, that would work in the builders favor. Maybe this evaluation has already been done?

    • Posted by shza

      It’s not the court’s place to order that any studies be done, but I’m sure the parties to the litigation will both be hiring experts to carry out studies like that (and presumably reach precisely opposite conclusions as to what the results mean).

  10. Posted by SFRealist

    It looks like IF you’re going to build an unusually heavy building THEN you really ought to sink your foundation to the bedrock

  11. Posted by Dick

    The litigation will stop when the money runs out.

  12. Posted by Orland

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the “worse case scenario” (settling up to twice+ what was anticipated with barely perceptible tilt) is really NBF’nD. Way more ado than is warranted which is the actual reason anyone has suffered “damages.”

    • Posted by Jake

      Uh, “worst case scenario” would be if it couldn’t survive the series of major earthquakes that are expected in the lifetime of the building. Redtag or collapse are the sorts of “worst cases” to consider. Unless you are an expert and have done a thorough expertian study it would be foolish to speculate on something that technical and complex. Fools rush in where experts get paid large to tread.

      • Posted by pablito

        There are going to be a lot of unhappy Bay Area property owners when the next truly big local earthquake hits. Loma Preita was not a big earthquake. It was only medium size and it was 60 miles away at that.

        • Posted by SFRealist

          When the truly big one hits, people will die. One would hope that we will be more concerned with the number of deaths than property values.

      • Posted by Orland

        The worst projection I’ve seen is sinkage of up to 36 inches which would certainly have to be addressed superficially but hardly the portent of seismic "failure." Do you have "expert" information to the contrary? If not, get in line with the other hysterians and pandering hucksters.

        • Posted by Jake

          How could you possibly know if the as yet undiscovered/unadmitted error(s) in engineering and/or construction that have caused the excess sinking and the unexpected tilting “portends seismic failure” or not? Do you have “expert” information not available to the public? If not, then why don’t you relax, accept that you don’t know how safe this building will be in a major earthquake or three, get a longterm popcorn subscription so you can comfortably wait for the various experts of the stakeholders to enlighten us, thereby sparing yourself the further humiliation of adding to your string of knownothing pronouncements about the structural integrity of this building?

          • Posted by Orland

            Yeah, right. That building ain’t going nowhere!

          • Posted by Jake

            It is moving down and westward, while you ignore these few facts widely reported and continue to embarrass yourself with uninformed and unfounded conclusions.

          • Posted by Orland

            Oh, just take a brake Jake. I’m feeling pretty comfortable out here on this limb

          • Posted by Jake

            Of course you are Orland, thereby providing a living example of the old adage that ignorance is bliss. Unfortunately, many of those with a stake in the outcome neither share your comfort nor can afford your ignorance. Meanwhile, the building itself is leaning towards the intersection of Mission and Fremont, reportedly. And the lean is increasing, reportedly. And no one knows how far it will lean, reportedly.

            As you may recall from those physics classes…a leaning tower such as this can be approximated as a non-leaning tower with a cantilever extending in the direction of the lean, at least for the static case which seems to be the only one you’ve contemplated. Therefore the tilt is similar to the building having grown a limb, upon which apparently a decade of dispute may weigh and upon which undoubtedly many fools will weigh in and some rest. Gonna need a durable popcorn maker for this one.

  13. Posted by Dixon Hill

    Are any banks offering financing for units in this building? I can’t imagine this building is capable of obtaining reasonable-cost seismic coverage at this point.

  14. Posted by Bob

    The spalling in the basement is certainly a concern, but if the building has sunk several inches since the TB dig, how is it possible that the ground floor doors still operate and the sidewalk still drains away from the building? I’ve walked around the 3 accessible sides of MT and the “evidence” of sinking is some cracks in the sidewalk at one corner and a chip in the stone facing. Shouldn’t this drop be noticeable in the finish floor vs sidewalk? Just wondering.

    • Posted by Notcom

      I did the same thing a few months ago, but you’ll notice the windows at the corner – I believe it’s a bank – don’t come down all the way to the floor, so it’s not possible to gauge the relationship of the floor to the sidewalk…and, of course, without knowing the relationship of the floor(s) to the sidewalk before the sinking started, it’s not possible to know how far they’ve moved; one might think they started out at the same level, but since the building was expected to settle, they may have been a few inches higher.

  15. Posted by BrianB

    One of the biggest issues is that MP’s never disclosed the fact that the building had already sunk more than the projected max when they sold the first unit.

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