Inspectors issue warning over broken windows at San Francisco high rises

A violation notice by the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection states that the Salesforce East tower at 350 Mission Street had at least 20 broken or cracked windows.

It is one of a half dozen high rises that had falling or broken windows following Tuesday's bomb cyclone storm, a day volatile wind gusts and rain lashed the Bay Area.  

On Thursday, San Francisco building inspectors found another high-rise building with a damaged window, making a total number of six buildings with failing windows in the past week. 

"This is absolutely terrifying and if there's one silver lining, it's that no one has been injured or killed, but we've got to get our hands around this immediately," said Aaron Peskin, President of the SF Board of Supervisors. 

"I expect to introduce that legislation on April 4th as well as call hearings to bring national and international experts. I mean this is not happening in Singapore with typhoons. This is not happening in Chicago, the windy city. Why is it happening here?" Peskin asked. 

"As engineers, we want to figure out what that is, if that was a particular local wind effect, if that had to do with construction methods," said Emily Guglielmo, Past President of the Structural Engineers Association of Northern California and a principal with the firm Martin and Martin. 

"It could be that the building itself is moving because of the wind of the beams, the columns the walls are moving, and that movement causes the glass pane to unseat and fall. It could be truly that the pressure that the glass was designed to withstand was exceeded and the glass is broken," said Guglielmo

She says flying debris or construction flaws could also be a factor.

"It'll be really important to identify what was the cause and it may be different across some of these different windows that we've seen," said Guglielmo.. 

The high-rise window failures occurred in buildings across the city. 

The city's Department of Building Inspection spokesman Patrick Hannan said inspectors were called around 1:30pm Thursday about a glass window between the 11th and 12th floor of the Fox Plaza tower at 1390 Market Street that  shattered inward.

The DBI also issued notices of violation to building managers, ordering them to secure broken windows, replace them and then obtain an inspection from a professional engineer to assess the safety. The violation notice states the building managers then need to submit a final report within 14 days.

The Salesforce East office building at 350 Mission Street was given 30 days to repair the damage, according to city records. 

Other addresses include; 50 California Street, 301 Mission Street (Millennium Tower), Mission and 14th Streets, and 555 California earlier this month.  

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San Francisco window damage. (Photo: SF Dept. of Building Inspection 1390 Market, Fox Plaza, window between 11th and 12th floor)

At Salesforce East, inspectors found at least one broken or cracked window on each floor, between levels 11 through 30, according to the violation notice. Inspectors also marked the building as unsafe.

"Secure the openings, replace glass panels as soon as possible," a building inspector wrote on the notice.

City officials didn't provide specifics on whether the windows were shattered by the fierce winds San Francisco, and the greater Bay Area, experienced on Tuesday. 

But Intense wind gusts shattered glass windows on several high-rise buildings in San Francisco, including the nearby Millennium Tower. A viral TikTok video showed ent furniture flying from the balcony of another skyscraper. 

Guglielmo is a member of the national American Society of Civil Engineers committee ASCE-7 that sets wind standards for buildings across the United States.

" I, myself, am a voting member of the wind committee. And so we will get together and we'll figure out exactly what happened in this particular location and identify if adjustments are needed in our code," said Guglielmo.


Shocking images show pure power of historic Bay Area bomb cyclone

A deadly storm whipped through the Bay Area on Tuesday afternoon and brought record-breaking winds and heavy rain with it.