By Max Darrow

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — The latest plan to fix San Francisco’s sinking and tilting Millennium Tower was the focal point once again of a city-run hearing on Thursday.

The hearing comes a week after the project’s engineers revealed they’ve come up with a plan they think is a better way to fix the tower that would require less work.

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The newly proposed plan to help resolve the tower’s sinking and tilting calls for reducing the number of piles needed along Mission Street and Fremont Street from 52 to 18 that can support heavier loads.

“Why should we believe that removing two-thirds of your original fix is going to be safe and effective?” San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin asked during the hearing.

That was just one of several questions he brought up during the hearing.

The project’s lead engineer, Ron Hamburger, explained he thinks the new plan is more optimized and will be able to accomplish the project’s objectives.

“We have submitted this reduced build because we believe it is important to stop the tilting that is ongoing, and to do this quickly,” he said. “There’s actually a benefit in installing fewer piles. We are providing less stress on the existing foundation. We are doing a less-intrusive retrofit.”

As he did in the first hearing, during Thursday’s meeting, Hamburger shared his belief the building is safe.

“The building remains safe and in fact, can tilt more without becoming a safety issue,” he said.

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Millennium Tower is currently tilting about two feet towards the corner of Mission and Fremont Streets. Greg Deierlein, with the city-appointed Engineering Design Review Team (EDRT), said he wasn’t concerned about the building’s tilt affecting its safety during an earthquake.

“The current tilt, 24 inches, has had negligible impact on earthquake safety,” he said.

However, Deierlein was not ready to comment on the revised scope plan during the hearing, as the EDRT is currently reviewing it.

Peskin remained skeptical. When asked after the hearing if he felt satisfied with the answers provided Thursday, he replied, “not really.”

“I have trouble buying this notion that reducing the fix from 52 piles by two-thirds to 18 piles is going to work,” Peskin said.

This isn’t the first time the Millennium Tower has been the focal point of city-run hearings. Peskin doesn’t think Thursday’s hearing will be the last one.

“I held these hearings all through 2016 and into 2017. I’m sad to be holding them again, but I suspect this will not be the last hearing,” he said.

The city has not approved Hamburger’s proposed 18-pile plan yet.

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“We believe we can complete this reduced scope project this year, stop the building from tilting, and allow the residents to return to normal life,” Hamburger said.

Max Darrow