Long before its opening in August, the Salesforce Transit Center was a major source of controversy in San Francisco.
In the eight years since breaking ground, the center has been embroiled in a number of legal battles, including a longstanding feud with Millennium Tower, a 58-story luxury skyscraper that opened in 2009. The tower is now sinking and tilting, and its developers say the transit center is to blame.
Meanwhile, the Salesforce Center has seen its own structural flaws: In late September, the terminal was closed due to a cracked beam on the third floor deck, generating concerns about the building’s safety.
This reality is a far cry from what developers envisioned more than a decade ago. As the Bay Area’s main bus terminal, the center was once touted as the “Grand Central of the West,” a place where travellers and locals could dine and shop before heading off to their next destination.
In addition to its 100,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, the center features a 5-acre rooftop park with an 800-seat amphitheater, jogging track, and space for exercise classes and cultural events. Officials are also putting the finishing touches on a public gondola, which would transport people from the street level to the rooftop. Even the fountain is impressive, with jets that are programmed to shoot water every time a bus passes by.
Now San Francisco supervisors worry that the project is haemorrhaging funds, while officials remain silent on when the terminal will reopen.
Here’s a timeline of everything that’s gone wrong since the project’s inception.
In 1989, an earthquake damaged the old Transbay Terminal, prompting plans for reconstruction.
The building opened in 1939 as a hub for commuter and railway trains, but was converted into a bus terminal in 1958.
Demolition began in 2010 and was completed less than a year later.
The new structure — then known as the Transbay Transit Center — was expected to open in late 2016.
Shortly after breaking ground, the agency responsible for the center — the Transbay Joint Powers Authority — hired a consulting firm to see how their construction might affect the nearby Millennium Tower.
In September, an apartment owner found a large crack in his window on the 36th floor. The damages are a stark contrast to the building’s high-end amenities, which include a 20,000-square-foot clubhouse and temperature-controlled wine locker.
Their report found that the tower had sunk 10 inches into the ground, beyond what builders had predicted for the entire lifetime of the structure.
Residents now report that they’re assuming million-dollar losses for their condos. At the end of last year, a two-bedroom, three-bathroom unit went for 30% less than its sale price in 2013.
The discovery soon led to a massive feud with the tower’s developers, Millennium Partners, which claimed the Transbay construction had contributed to the problem.
To build the transit center, the Transbay Authority had to dig a massive hole on land shared with the Millennium Tower. The tower’s developer claims that Transbay construction workers pumped too much water out of the ground, causing the sand to compress and the tower to sink.
The Transbay Authority has fired back, saying the tower was built on an unstable foundation.
Things took another turn for the worse in 2016, when Millennium homeowners began suing the Transbay Authority.
One of the biggest legal actions occurred in 2017, when the Millennium homeowners association named the Transbay Authority in a $US200 million lawsuit. The homeowners allege that “those who knew of the high rise’s troubles kept it secret for years.”
The agency is now expected to pay millions of dollars in legal bills due to an agreement it signed in 2009.
The Transbay Authority agreed to protect Millennium Partners from “all claims, expenses, and liabilities” related to the shared land.
In May 2016, the project accepted a $US260 million bailout from the city after overspending on construction.
The following year, the software company Salesforce signed a 25-year, $US110 million sponsorship deal with the transit center, resulting in its name change.
Amid a backdrop of accusations and court proceedings, the Salesforce center had a grand opening in August 2018.
A month later, a walkway along the rooftop garden started crumbling.
Two weeks after that, workers discovered a cracked beam on the third floor deck.
Commuters were diverted to the Temporary Transbay Terminal, which operated while the Salesforce Center was still under construction.
By the afternoon, city officials had shut down the terminal and a few of the nearby streets.
A second cracked beam was discovered a day later.
In October, the general contractor filed a $US150 million lawsuit against the Transbay Authority, which is being accused of skimping on payments.
That same contractor is also being sued by the subcontractor for steel installation, Skanska.
On October 18, the city said it was taking a “time out” from funding the project, withholding $US9.6 million that was supposed to finance the terminal’s expansion.
The Transbay Authority has hired experts to look into why the steel beams cracked.
In December, a lead investigator said that holes were cut into the beams, which likely caused the cracks.
The president of the company that cut the holes, Herrick Corporation, said that they were not part of the initial design plan, but did not clarify why they were added.
The executive director of the Transbay Authority said everything had been built to code, but admitted there were “a lot of unanswered questions.”
The center remains closed indefinitely.
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