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Science

A San Francisco High Rise Is Tilting… And Sinking

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Pamela Buttery noticed something peculiar six years ago while practicing golf putting in her 57th-floor apartment at the luxurious Millennium Tower. The ball kept veering to the same corner of her living room.

Those were the first signs for residents of the sleek, mirrored high-rise that something was wrong.

The 58-story has gained notoriety in recent weeks as the “leaning tower of San Francisco.” But it’s not just leaning. It’s sinking, too. And engineers hired to assess the problem say it shows no immediate sign of stopping.

“What concerns me most is the tilting,” says Buttery, 76, a retired real estate developer. “Is it safe to stay here? For how long?”

Completed seven years ago, the tower so far has sunk 16 inches into the soft soil and landfill of San Francisco’s crowded financial district. But it’s not sinking evenly, which has created a 2-inch tilt at the base—and a roughly 6-inch lean at the top.

By comparison, Italy’s famed Leaning Tower of Pisa is leaning more than 16 feet. But in a major earthquake fault zone, the Millennium Tower’s structural problems have raised alarm and become the focus of a public scandal.

Several documents involving the downtown building were leaked in recent weeks, including exchanges between the city’s Department of Building Inspection and Millennium Partners, the developer. They show both sides knew the building was sinking more than anticipated before it opened in late 2009, but neither made that information public. – READ MORE

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