Millennium Tower stands at Mission and Fremont Streets in San Francisco's SoMa neighborhood Tuesday September 13, 2016. (Dan Chambers/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Second cracked window on Millennium Tower was known to window washers ‘for years’

Residents of the sinking Millennium Tower can’t seem to catch a break – but their windows are.

Just weeks after city officials accepted an engineering firm’s finding that a cracked window on the 36th floor was an isolated incident caused by an “exterior impact,” the existence of a second broken window between the 9th and 10th floors was disclosed to the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection on Tuesday.

But unlike the window on the 36th floor, the newly disclosed crack has been known to the building’s window washers for years, according to a report the Home Owners’ Association provided to DBI, said Bill Strawn, a DBI spokesperson.

“They talked to the operator of a swing stage used for window washing,” Strawn said. “That person said it had been like that for more than the past two years.”

The window is part of the exterior skin of the building. Because it is located between floors and not associated with a unit, it was not noticed by residents.

Millennium Tower was completed in 2009, but in 2016 residents learned their building was sinking and tilting to one side. The discovery has led to a series of lawsuits, with the developer and the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, which built the Salesforce Transit Center next door, blaming each other for the problem.

Typically broken windows are considered routine maintenance and not reported to DBI, but its disclosure was included in a report ordered in connection with the broken window on the 36th floor amid concerns that the damage was caused by the tower’s sinking.

DBI ordered scaffolding installed over the sidewalk to protect pedestrians from any falling debris after the window on the 36th floor broke over Labor Day weekend. But the HOA removed the scaffolding a month later without permission from DBI.

“On October 10th, the HOA under new leadership decided they didn’t think there was a safety hazard along Fremont Street, so they summarily removed all the protective scaffolding that (we) ordered since Labor Day,” Strawn said. “We said to them you need to inspect all the other windows to reassure us there aren’t other cracked windows.”

That report included the disclosure of the second cracked window.

In response, DBI on Tuesday ordered the protective scaffolding be reinstalled by Friday. But less than a half hour after the order was issued, the HOA contacted the department informing them they planned to replace the glass on Wednesday, Strawn said, and asked the order to be withdrawn because the repair would remove the safety hazard.

The report found no visual signs of structural problems but said the cause of the broken window is as yet unknown.

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