Condo Collapse Puts Spotlight on SF's Leaning Tower

Engineer says building is safe amid repairs
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 6, 2021 8:41 AM CDT
Condo Collapse Puts Spotlight on SF's Leaning Tower
This September 2018 file photo shows a window that cracked in the Millennium Tower Building in San Francisco.   (Department of Building Inspection via AP, File)

The deadly collapse of the condo building in Surfside, Fla., has some fearing a similar disaster in San Francisco, where the tilting 58-story Millennium Tower is still without a fix. The city's tallest residential building has sunk 18 inches and leaned several inches, prompting cracks in the foundation and in windows, since opening in 2009, reports CNN. The issue lies at the base of the tower, built on soft soil. Following the Florida collapse, engineers also suggested a foundation issue with the 13-story Surfside tower. The San Francisco Chronicle notes similarities in the locations, some 3,000 miles apart. "Both the Miami region and Bay Area have significant numbers of structures near ocean water, which can affect soil quality, and both regions grapple with natural disasters"—tropical storms and hurricanes in the case of Miami, and earthquakes in California.

A 2018 survey of the Surfside tower found cracks in "concrete columns, beams and walls," "exposed, deteriorating rebar," and major structural damage below the pool deck. Repairs were planned before the tower crashed down. One ground-floor resident tells CNN that she saw the pool deck and the building's underground parking garage collapse. Several engineers tell CNN that the failure appears to have begun near the foundation. But "it is far too early to speculate about what caused that disaster and any potential comparisons with Millennium Tower would be reckless and premature," Millennium's engineer, Ronald Hamburger, tells the outlet. He maintains the tower is safe and notes a $100 million fix requiring the anchoring of the building to bedrock to "prevent further settlement and recover some of the building's tilt" is set to be completed next year. (Read more Millennium Tower stories.)

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