millennium tower 4 Photo: Vanguard Properties

Times have certainly changed since a few months ago, when we were telling you how you could buy the highest penthouse in the Millennium Tower for under $9 million.

Now, San Francisco’s tallest residential building is at center stage for a much different reason: it’s sinking and shifting. It’s been widely reported that the 58-story structure has sunk 16 inches since being completed in 2008, much more than the lifetime expectation of 6 inches; it’s also tilted 2 inches to the northwest.

millennium tower 2 Photo: Vanguard Properties

millennium tower 3 Photo: Vanguard Properties

The Millennium Tower is thought to hold the most luxurious condos in San Francisco, and perhaps even in all of California, and current homeowners are unsurprisingly not happy it’s having problems. They are threatening to sue, and as the building has already raked in $750 million in property sales, a devastatingly expensive legal battle could be in the works.

At least some experts think legal action would be justified. As Professor Greg Deierlein, director of the John A. Blume Earthquake Engineering Center at Stanford University, told the San Francisco Chronicle, “I would be concerned for my investment.” While he doesn’t see the building’s movement as a safety risk, it could lead to elevators malfunctioning or walls cracking.

millennium tower 1 Photo: Vanguard Properties

Some have blamed the building’s issues on the fact that it was anchored in dense sand, not bedrock, but developer Millennium Partners has said that was “the preferred design.” The company has instead put the Transbay Joint Powers Authority on the hook for the tower’s problems, with spokesperson P.J. Johnston telling the Chronicle that the building had settled “within a normal range” until excavation started on a nearby bus and rail center.

“They built a half-mile tunnel 60 feet underground and next to our building, and they were supposed to (protect the Millennium) — and they didn’t,” he said. The Transbay Joint Powers Authority has also denied responsibility for the tower’s issues, and San Francisco residents fear that in the end, taxpayers will be the ones most likely to pay for the mistake. 

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