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Residents of high-rise question their safety as it tilts

Here's something you don't think about every day: An apartment complex tipping over. One woman living on a 57th floor apartment noticed that the Millennium Tower wasn't standing as straight as it should have been. In fact, she was putting in her room when she realized that the ball always rolled into the same corner. That was only the first sign that something was wrong.

The tower was completed only seven years ago and has sunk as far as 16 inches into the soft soil that is below the San Francisco Financial District. At the base, the building is only tilting slightly at around two inches. However, at the top, the lean is more pronounced, to the point that residents have begun to question their safety.

What's most shocking about this situation isn't that the building is having trouble in the soft ground. The shock comes from the fact that the developer and the city's Department of Building Inspections knew that the building was sinking more than it was supposed to before it ever even opened in 2009.

In 2009, a chief building inspector wrote to the engineering firm that created the tower to state that there had been a larger than expected settlement. The building had unexpectedly settled 8.3 inches in 2009 alone. The inspector asked what was going to be done to help keep the building safe and if the building would have its structural safety compromised. The engineer's replied that the structure was safe, but residents now aren't so sure.

The question now is, "when will this building stop sinking?" It could take several months to determine why the building is sinking, because soil samples have to be taken from deep holes that must be drilled around the building. It's been suggested that the tower could sink up to 31 inches in total, but no one knows for certain.

In the meantime, lawsuits are beginning to come in. Residents believe that this is a flawed design and that they should have been told about the potential for sinking before they moved in. A founding partner at Millennium Partners stated that it is not their building that is the problem. Transbay Joint Powers Authority has been building a transit hub that has made the soil under the tower weaker.

Regardless of the cause, if your home was sinking, you'd want answers and to be compensated. If you find yourself in a real estate dispute like this one, your attorney can help you review your contract and look for ways to seek compensation.

Source: KRON, "Tilting, sinking San Francisco high-rise raises alarm," The Associated Press, Oct. 24, 2016

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