SAN FRANCISCO — A tenant of the Millennium Tower recently lost
an eviction action by the building’s owners, but the victory in
court spotlights the continuing issues faced by the reportedly sinking building.
The building’s owners feel the nearly 60-story building is fine
despite sinking by more than a foot and is slightly tilting since it
opened for business in 2009.
Bornstein Law represented the owners of the Millennium Tower in
the eviction suit, the decision of which was announced in a news
release on Feb. 15 in favor of the building’s owners,
Millennium Partners. The law firm successfully represented the
building owners in a lawsuit filed in 2016 against a tenant who
refused to pay rent for six months, claiming the building’s sinking
made it uninhabitable and breached the rental agreement. The attorney
for the tenant claimed
"the leaning and sinking of the building is a structural issue
in breach of the implied warranty of habitability."
The owners won a monetary judgment
of $42,716 and took back possession of the apartment.
According to a report
by Forbes, the European Space Agency released data in late 2016
showing that the sinking of the building can actually be seen from
space. It is sunken into landfill by 16 inches, and tilts to the
northwest by several inches.
Numerous lawsuits have been filed regarding the Millennium Tower,
according to the San
Francisco Business Times. San Francisco lies
in an earthquake zone, part of the San Andreas fault.
Hal Cook, president of Cook Commercial in Calabasas, California, a
firm that specializes in commercial leasing and sales on behalf of
the tenants, said that perhaps the recent victory by Millennium
Partners against the tenant came about because the tenant may have
not wanted to pay rent.
“In my opinion, if the tenant really felt like he was in danger
he would have gotten out,” Cook told the Northern California
The court’s ruling in favor of the owners says nothing about the
spate of lawsuits filed by the city itself, Cook said.
“Possession of the premises and failure to pay rent are entirely
different issues,” he said.
Cook thinks the city is likely suing the owners for “failure to
build the building correctly.” However, he said, “If the city
approved the plans, I don’t know what recourse they would have. If
the building was not built to plan, that would be an entirely
different ball of wax.”
He opined that the judge granted a victory to the Millennium
Towers owners rather than the tenant because “[t]he tenant remained
in occupancy. Therefore it appears the tenant was making a claim for
economic reasons rather than personal safety reasons.”
“The crux of it remains that the landlord tenant dispute is a
separate issue from the construction defect. It may have resulted
because of the construction defect, but it still is a separate
issue,” Cook said. “Bottom line, the judge probably felt it
wasn’t fair for the tenant to claim safety issues in order to live
there for free.”
Buildings all over California may be in for a wave of
court-ordered retrofits in the next few years, Cook said, because the
city of Santa Monica recently passed an ordinance requiring a
retrofit of more than 2,000 buildings, calling into question the
readiness of that city’s buildings to withstand an earthquake
without significant loss of life.
“It is not economically feasible to design buildings that can’t
be destroyed in a quake. The goal should be to design so the
occupants survive,” Cook said.