Supervisor's Report

Leaning towers/gleaning solutions

The Millennium Tower could become the priciest land submarine in the world. Photo: FLICKR.COM/27966213@N08

The recent revelation that San Francisco’s premiere luxury high-rise, the Millennium Tower, has sunk almost three times as much as originally projected into the landfill it’s built on has raised concerns from homeowners and policymakers alike. A class-action lawsuit has been filed against the developer, Millennium Partners, and the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, which is overseeing the public infrastructure project next door. The legal dispute will no doubt last for some time, with the building’s homeowners’ association and tenants worrying about the potential continued deterioration of the tower’s condition and safety, along with their property values.

The geotechnical engineer hired by the homeowners’ association and paid for by the developer has projected that at the rate that the Millennium has been sinking, it could descend a total of 31 inches, which would only exacerbate the tower’s northwesterly tilt. While the Millennium evaluates its options for how best to address its present problems, the city should be asking what we could do to ensure this does not happen again.

Most of San Francisco’s downtown, including much of South of Market, was once a part of our beautiful bay, and that requires special consideration when developing on the existing landfill — particularly the dramatic towers now dotting our skyline. There are certainly questions about the seismic health of nearby existing high rises where developers chose not to pile-drive deep into bedrock and anchor their buildings.

This month I’ll be calling a hearing on the building standards in seismic zones like the Transbay neighborhood and what steps we can take to require stronger protections for residential and commercial tenants alike. While leaving legal determinations to the appropriate experts, I think the city can take this opportunity to require greater scrutiny of our development processes and enforcement for the future. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts and insights.


Speaking of hearings, I’m also kicking off our fall legislative session with a series of hearings on the governance and oversight of the operations of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF), with an emphasis on how public and private monies are allocated and through what accountability processes.

By now, you may have heard about former FAMSF Board President and Executive Director Dede Wilsey’s decision to step down from her post after allegations that she made the decision, without board approval, to hand out a $450,000 payment to Bill Huggins, an engineer assigned to the museums until he retired after suffering a heart attack (he receives an annual pension of nearly $60,000). Huggins’s wife, Therese Chen, served as director of registration at the de Young and had a reputation for doing personal favors for Wilsey. There appear to be many issues that have plagued the esteemed public institution over the past decade, from the abrupt departure of key upper management and board trustees to a city controller investigation. The de Young Museum and the Legion of Honor are two of the city’s most beloved treasures — with over a million visitors a year — and elected officials should be safeguarding the public’s assets and ensuring that we are governing these treasures responsibly and preserving their legacy for generations to come. We fund both museums out of our city’s general fund, and the public deserves to know how and why those dollars are being spent.

Finally, please be on the lookout for upcoming show times of A Company Town, a feature documentary that covers our grassroots November 2015 supervisorial campaign. You will no doubt recognize some familiar faces from the neighborhood, as the documentary filmmakers, Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman, paint a picture of what happens when community members fight to preserve the integrity, diversity, and soul of a San Francisco that many see eroding at a frightening pace. I hope you like it and spread the word.

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Hope you had a wonderful summer — I'm looking forward to seeing you around the neighborhood. As always, don't hesitate to reach out to my staff and me with any thoughts, questions or ideas. You'll find us at City Hall, room 244. You can also call us at 415-554-7450, or e-mail me directly at [email protected].