Millennium Tower Is Going Down: San Francisco Files Lawsuit Against Sinking Skyscraper

Millennium Tower is so askew it's been dubbed, "leaning tower of San Francisco."

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit against the developers behind the famously sinking Millennium Tower. The 58-story structure has sunk 16 inches since its construction in 2008 and threatens to sink further, displacing more than 400 residents.

Herrera’s lawsuit against Millennium Partners, Millennium Tower developers, which was filed on Thursday, alleges that the company knew about the sinking tower a full year before rental units were available to the public. Although the developers knew about Millennium Tower sinking, they did nothing to warn future renters, which is in direct violation of their legal obligation to warn perspective buyers.

San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit on Millennium Tower developers on Thursday.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Herrera said this case is beyond “buyer beware.” “Part of my responsibility as city attorney is to protect San Francisco residents and taxpayers from unfair or unlawful business practices,” Herrera said. “Before they had sold a single condominium Mission Street Development LLC (Millennium Partners’ affiliate) knew it had sunk more than it was supposed to and that it was still sinking. Yet they didn’t tell homeowners as they are required to do so under the law. It’s that simple.”

Millennium Tower represents a number of issues with both the housing market and technology boom in San Francisco. Completed in 2008, Millennium Tower was created to be a luxury residence for people living and working in the wealthy Silicon Valley. However, Millennium Tower is a perfect example of hubris in the face of quick development. As Herrera argues in his lawsuit, the tower is sinking at a far more accelerated rate than initially anticipated and the building even slants. This unfortunate structural deformity has christened Millennium Tower the “leaning tower of San Francisco.”

The New York Times reported that engineers have questioned the development plan behind Millennium Tower. The 58-story tower is in San Francisco, an area vulnerable to earthquakes, and it was built on foundation of mud and clay. The soft earth is literally what’s sinking Millennium Tower now as the ground gives in under the massive weight of the skyscraper.

Millennium Tower is sinking at a measurable rate, so it appears as if Herrera and the city of San Francisco’s case should be easy to make in court. However, Millennium Tower’s developers have said that there is “no merit” to Herrera’s claims and has even begun blaming a neighboring structure for the tower’s collapse.

The developers cite the construction of Transbay Joint Powers Authority as the reason Millennium Tower is sinking at an alarming rate. Millennium Partners argue that Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) has weakened Millennium Tower’s foundation by pumping millions of gallons of groundwater from the area.

P.J. Johnston, a spokesman for Millennium Tower and Millennium Partners, said Herrera’s lawsuit has “chosen to take the focus off finding a fix for the building and is instead attempting to divert attention from the real culprit here — a government agency that has behaved recklessly, caused damage to a previously existing building and still refuses to take any of the steps that are necessary to fix the problem.”

The lawsuit entangles a number of different parties including the Millennium Tower developers, the city of San Francisco, and the residents in the building. Initially a lawsuit was filed against TJPA for damaging Millennium Tower’s structural integrity, but Herrera has filed his lawsuit against Millennium Partners as a cross-complaint. Herrera seeks to prove that condo owners should sue the developers and not the TJPA.

A Millennium Tower resident's view looking over the San Francisco bay.

Residents of Millennium Tower are in their own legal bind. A representative from Millennium Towers Association, which represents more than 400 owners living in the skyscraper, said that they are currently evaluating their legal options. Millennium Tower remains structurally unsound while residents live there.

[Featured Image by Eric Risberg/AP Images]