The Leaning Tower Of San Francisco


First of all, I don’t understand why you ought to take it so personally for a matter that is completely unrelated or influenced by you. Did you not laugh that the future lawsuits in this matter will easily fund many careers??? What I am appalled by is your insistence that the developer did no wrong when you don’t know anything more than what we know that was reported. No one is going to report accusations of this magnitude without considering if they are risking their organizations to be sued for libel. You should know that. It sounds like this building had obvious flaws from the get go and the reporters from the Chronicle investigated it. I still point to due diligence. You obviously know the term “CYA” correct? Cover your ass, if you don’t. The developer should have done that so that if there is any questioning about negligence about the building process later, there wouldn’t be anything that critics or lawyers can pick apart. I can’t help it if the developer was penny-wise and pound foolish. Please remember that people, many people, can die from developer’s actions or inactions. We are just trying to get to the truth of the matter and are not witch hunting developers just because we don’t want to chime in about H1B visas anymore…


I believe in the constitution. .innocent till proven guilty…Indictment in the news media or even worse on the internet is the modern day version of the Salem Witch trials…got no dog in this fight. .You asked my opinion and I gave it…I would be more concerned about the rusting bolts on the new Bay Bridge…I certainly dont think the developer is blameless but I have few facts…Unfortunately most of the facts wont come out until there are thousands of hours of discovery. …I have done forensic engineering. …tedious boring and drawn out. …and like all legal proceedings the truth will be the first thing sacrificed…


Uh, a bit dramatic don’t you think? I mean, YOU didn’t build this so why take it so personally? If you think it is your duty to defend all developers, ok, but I think you have much better things to do…

Again, I just want to know how much more it would have cost the developer to go to bedrock. Can you answer that question, Mr Big Time Developer? Give me a rough number, any number. I just want to get a sense of how stupid (or not) the developer was in being cheap.

Again, why did the neighboring development sell him out by declaring that their own building is to bedrock? They could have just stayed silent, right? Why haven’t we heard from the architect firm who advised the developer? You know why? Because it would be political and financial suicide to mention publicly that you were involved in this fiasco, that’s why.

I mean, you make it sound like I created the mess. Sorry, just reporting it.


This is always the case with limited scope news stories. Made worse these days by sensationalism that borders on yellow journalism. Why else do we even know who the Kardashians are?

It amazes me, and I’ve been baited into it myself at times, when people get into vehement arguments about some situation when they have only news reports to go on.

I’ve had the experience of having first hand knowledge of a serious, criminal situation and being able to compare real “facts” to the news stories that came out. It was so far wide of the mark that it was just… astounding.


Nope. Silence=guilt in our society.

They spoke out to protect their own interests. “Hey, that place next door is sinking but, no problems or chance of problems over here.”



Let the games begin. …Now they say it is leaning 15 inches. …If they were really concerned they would move out…If it really has sunk 16", I wonder what has happened to the utilities, driveways, stairs, elevators, entry doors…
I especially love the quote from a geologist. .why not ask a structural engineer…He will tell you the vast majority of pile supported buildings have piles driven to refusal not bedrock…


If I lived in SF I would be more concerned about the miserable weather this summer…one of the worst…Like whne I was a kid, when there were peasoup thick fogs all month…1962 was the worst summer ever. .


Not limited to San Francisco. CA overall.

Vallejo has been no better. It’s already down to 65 tonight. Marine layer in every morning for the last two weeks. Doesn’t clear until between 11:00 and noon. Needless to say, we haven’t eaten dinner outside on the patio this summer.

The positive is, I’d rather have this than the 100+ valley weather and day of the week. For me, it’s just much more comfortable. It makes me feel alive and helps me sleep better.


It has been an amazing summer in South Lake Tahoe, after a very snowy winter and rainy May…Warm and windy summer,75-85 everyday, coolnights, not any thunderstorms yet, great for sailing…not so good for waterskiing…lol


The saga continues…


The problem is not that the builder built cheap…It was designed for the loads given…And the weight difference between steel and concrete is small, even a 50% lighter building would still have settled 10"…Nor is it a seismic issue…The problem is the underlying soils that were not properly assessed by the soils engineer…

The cost difference between steel frame and RC frame is, on average, small. However, regional differences in labour & material often favour one system over the other.

Cost aside, we generally see faster construction times in steel frames. While the steel frame may rise quickly on site, what is not generally known, is that the procurement, fabrication, and delivery of steel may require 6 to 10 months of lead time. Concrete structures can go up without that excessive lead time and essentially start work on “day 1”.

Design wise, steel is definitely lighter (not always a good thing) and more flexible. To help counter this inherent flexibilty, designers often couple the frame with concrete or masonry infill panels and/or “cores”. Usually this works out well because most codes require some fire separation at the stairwell(s) and block or solid concrete does the job nicely.

Concrete frames really shine in super-slender structures because they can produce a very stiff system even within a small profile. Carnegie Hall Tower is such an example where the tower is 50’ wide in the upper portion. Designers rejected a steel frame only because they could not get it to develop sufficient lateral stiffness. The extra mass of concrete structures also produces better damping, meaning that it adsorbs energy quicker and produces better (generally speaking) dynamic performance. This is advantageous when controlling any movements - whether seismic or wind induced.

One should also recognise the newer composite systems (RC is itself a composite system) whereby conventional structural steel sections are either filled or encased with concrete. The overall performance of these types of frames are generally better than either of the constituent parts could offer individually. To take full advantage of these new hybrids we also ofter use “high performance” steels, concretes, polymers, composites, etc.


When I say, cheap, I mean the developer was cheap to not go to bedrock given the conditions of the area and the soil. Considering what is happening now with the lawsuits, I don’t understand why there is any debate over this. He goes to bedrock and uses steel, chances are no settling right??? Probably, no lawsuits that may pull in the taxpayers of SF, right? I mean, everyone and their mother know that the financial district (yes but this building is close enough and along the Embarcadero) is landfill. Since that is a given, why does the developer roll the dice and not go to bedrock again??? At least argue that it was too expensive to do that but again I just wanted to know what the differential in cost would have been but that has not come out yet. My buddy, the experienced retired architect, is being PC at the moment and saying the geological data that the developer relied may have been incorrect. He estimates (and it is only a guess) that it would have added anywhere from 3-6% to the total cost of the building to go the additional 120 ft but he did say don’t quote him on that. There is no reason (other than money again) that the developer couldn’t have just been safe and built to bedrock LIKE a lot of the neighboring buildings did or are doing. There is nothing wrong with making a building safer, is there? For one thing, people will sleep easier and lawyers will have to ambulance chase elsewhere…


This is what they did in the new One WTC in NYC. As explained on the Discovery Channel they used concrete for added support to protect from potential meltdowns of the steel frame as experienced during the 9-11 attacks. Of course, the pilings go down 200’ to bedrock (so this practice is definitely not obsolete) and there is the PATH transport system which also crosses the river and has a hub underneath.

I guess SF has its own conditions and rules. Even the Bay Bridge pilings do not reach to bedrock. :sweat: Don’t property owners in SF worry about liquifaction?


Not every one of them. I heard indirectly from an owner of a unit there that settlement is not so unexpected and basically that Nature Rules. The first article posted said it was leaning 2". I agree though that the developer and the rest of their team of archtects, engineers, etc is further damaging its reputation by basically pointing fingers at the city while their building continues to sink.


Bedrock is a name that unknowledgeables throw around…I worked on several heavy concrete pile supported structures, we never drove them to “bedrock”…I also worked for Webcor 30 years ago, they are one of the best contractors in the country…money was not the issue…bad data may have been…I am also a soils engineer…it is a science that relies a lot on guesses…


Hmmm, no wonder you were taking it so personally…

Shares of Obayashi Corp. fell for a seventh day after a unit of the Japanese construction company was found to have done work on a San Francisco tower that is sinking.
The shares dropped 4.9 percent to 956 yen at the close in Tokyo Tuesday after earlier falling as much as 8.6 percent, the largest decline since May 2013. The stock rose 80 percent in the three years before Tuesday’s slide, compared with a 46 percent gain in the 99-member Topix Construction Index.
The involvement of the Obayashi unit came to light after the award-winning Millennium Tower was found to have tilted. In 2007, Obayashi acquired a majority stake in San-Francisco based Webcor Builders for an undisclosed price. Webcor oversaw the construction of the 1.2 million-square-foot, luxury residential complex that consists of two towers of 60 and 11 stories, in October 2005.
While Webcor was the construction manager for the project, it didn’t build the tower, Obayashi spokesman Yoshihiro Kimura said.
Obayashi’s biggest shareholder is the Government Pension Investment Fund Japan with a 6.3 percent stake, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The decline in the stock may be temporary, said Singapore-based Reid Mackay, the managing director of EastGate Asia Pte, a real estate brokerage and advisory firm.
“It would be a short-term correction,” said Mackay, who has advised Japanese developers and builders on overseas acquisitions of buildings. “It is really isolated to that project. That building is just a legacy issue from that acquisition.”


Let the Games begin!!!


My architect buddy very roughly estimated that going to bedrock probably would have added up to maybe another 6% to the cost of the building. Ok, let’s go 10% to be conservative. It costed what 350M, so add 35M to go to bedrock and maybe a bit more to build it right with steel. How about 400-450M tops if done right??? And now, the FIRST class action lawsuit is asking for 500M???

Yeah, I guess I was completely wrong with my assessment that this was a classic case of penny-wise pound foolish.

And they’re seeking a big pile of cash: $500 million at least, if a judge grants the lawsuit class- action status on behalf of the building’s 400-plus residents.


Even crazier is that the developer of the Millienium and Transbay Terminal are one and the same:

" the largest approved public transportation project in the country, the $4 billion program will replace the current Transbay Terminal at First and Mission streets in San Francisco"
Transbay Joint Powers Authority

Pelli Clarke Pelli


Featured Projects, Government, Sustainable

October 2017


Webcor/Obayashi, Joint Venture is the CM/GC for Phase I including the construction of a new five-story Transit Center Building with one above-grade bus level, ground-floor, concourse, and two below-grade rail levels serving Caltrain and the future California High Speed Rail. It will also include a 5.4 acre public rooftop park.