Millennium Tower Litigation Settled, Engineering Upgrade of Building to Start Next Month
With Lawsuits Resolved and Retrofit on the Horizon, Famed San Francisco Residential Tower Begins Promising New Chapter
Contact: Doug Elmets
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 7, 2020
SAN FRANCISCO – The Millennium Tower Association, the homeowners’ association for Millennium Tower, announced today that litigation over the building’s settlement has been fully resolved and that an engineered upgrade to prevent any significant future settlement of the skyscraper will begin next month.
The announcement officially concludes a legal dispute that began after the building at 301 Mission Street began settling at an unexpected rate. After many years of complex litigation, the Association is being fully compensated for retrofitting the building and homeowners are being compensated individually.
The construction project, scheduled to begin by mid-November, involves the installation of 52 concrete piles that will anchor the building to bedrock 250 feet below ground. Known as the Perimeter Pile Upgrade, the project will relieve stress on soils that have compressed beneath the building, contributing to its unanticipated movement.
“This has been a long journey for our Association and Millennium Tower homeowners, and we appreciate the efforts of everyone who helped bring this difficult chapter to a close,” said Association President Howard Dickstein. “We are pleased with the settlement terms and confident that the upgrade will restore our building’s reputation and the value of condominiums while putting to rest any lingering questions about the Tower’s stability.”
Dickstein also acknowledged the efforts of the private mediators, led by retired Judge Daniel Weinstein, Judge Ronald Sabraw, and mediator Gerald Kurland, who assisted the parties in resolving all claims. In addition, Dickstein praised the invaluable contribution of the Association’s lawyers, Roger Grant and Charles Litt of the law firm Fenton Grant Mayfield Kaneda & Litt, LLP.
Millennium Tower’s original developer, Mission Street Development, an affiliate of Millennium Partners, provided invaluable support in the development of the Perimeter Pile Upgrade, and founding partner Phil Lovett worked tirelessly to help secure approval of the retrofit with city agencies.
“We also wish to recognize the City of San Francisco for working cooperatively and efficiently with the Association to permit the retrofit,” Dickstein said.
Under the agreement, the settlement funds will fully fund the building upgrade as well as other community needs, including title to space that houses two commercial establishments on the Tower’s ground floor. The two spaces are currently leased to Michael Mina and Ayesha Curry’s International Smoke restaurant and the Bank of the West.
The Engineering Upgrade
During the past two years, after excavations and construction activities at adjacent properties ceased, Millennium Tower’s movement has virtually halted, with settlement during that period measuring less than one-half of one inch. That rate is consistent with the normal and long-term compression of soils that occurs beneath nearly all buildings in San Francisco’s Financial District. The engineering retrofit will provide long-term assurance of the Tower’s performance in the event of any future construction nearby and will potentially reverse a significant portion of its tilt.
The upgrade involves installing new concrete piles into bedrock beneath the compressible soils that caused the settlement, and structurally connecting the new piles to the Tower’s existing foundation. That connection will transfer a portion of the Tower’s weight to bedrock, ensuring that there is no substantial future settlement.
The plan was designed by internationally recognized engineer Ronald Hamburger of Simpson Gumpertz & Heger. Hamburger has more than 45 years of experience in civil and structural engineering and is an internationally recognized expert in earthquake-resistant design and structural performance evaluation.
The project is expected to cost nearly $100 million and will be funded by the multiple parties who settled the homeowner claims and their insurance companies. Construction is expected to last about two years. All significant components of the government permitting process have been completed.
“This plan halts settlement along Fremont and Mission Streets while allowing the building to level itself over time,” said Hamburger. “As an independent team of engineering experts concluded after reviewing the plan over a period of seven months, it is an effective and practical approach to the settlement and tilting issues, and it preserves and enhances the building’s safety.”
Despite the Tower’s unexpected settlement, an independent panel of experts convened by the City and County of San Francisco concluded in 2017 that Millennium Tower is seismically safe under the City Building Code. The same panel also concluded that settlement had not changed Millennium Tower’s capability of resisting major earthquakes and the upgrade will increase that capability.