More construction at 33 Tehama: Hines to replace all piping in units

Displaced residents of the twice-flooded 33 Tehama luxury tower in San Francisco have been out of their homes for more than a year. On Friday, their landlord informed them that it plans a new project as part of the building’s undergoing renovation.

Texas-based Hines said in an email to residents that the project — identified during a “review of all building infrastructure components” — involves replacing domestic water piping in each of the building’s more than 400 units.

The plumbing work will require contractors to get access to adjacent walls in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms and will involve the temporary relocation of the residents’ belongings, potentially as soon as next week.

The construction project will run simultaneously with the renovation work, which includes replacing the 35-story building’s fire sprinkler system. Hines has hired Turner Construction to complete the repairs.

“This work is unrelated to the water events of last summer, and we believe it is prudent to do this work at this time to minimize future disruption to our residents,” Hines said in the email.

Residents were told in March that they would be allowed to return to the units in the second half of the year. On Friday, the building’s owner and developer said that move-ins are still targeted to begin later this year.

33Tehama

The 33 Tehama apartment building.

Douglas Fruehling

Hines has estimated that some 20,000 gallons of water — the equivalent of a swimming pool — flooded the 403-unit SoMa building on June 3, 2022, triggering a massive evacuation. The city deemed the building unsafe for occupancy, and a building inspector’s report filed on June 7 stated that 93 of the total units sustained water damaged, along with amenity areas.

Residents were initially told last June that they would be returning to their homes in phases through October — but that plan was upended by a second flood at the building in August. Hines has not given an estimated value of the damage caused by the flooding incidents, but said that the issues last summer stemmed from a water main failure in one of the three fire sprinkler system vertical risers in the building. 

Shortly after 33 Tehama flooded for the second time, allegations of theft inside of residents’ homes circulated on social media, including video footage of what appeared to be a contractor pocketing items from a unit that was undergoing repairs. Hines has also come under fire for how it handled its initial communications with tenants.

Since the flooding incidents, residents have filed two separate lawsuits against their landlord, with similar allegations: that the company’s actions before and after the floods amounted to negligence, among other claims.

“After being displaced from our home more than a year ago, I’m discouraged that Hines is taking on additional construction projects requiring work inside our units unrelated to the flood last summer. Instead, they should prioritize returning the building to a habitable state so their tenants can return home,” said Brian Tillman, one of residents displaced from 33 Tehama. “We’ve had Hines subcontractors steal jewelry, checkbooks, and our identities from the bedroom nightstand in our unit. I’m surprised they’re sending a new wave of unsupervised contractors through our homes for work that is not required to reopen the building.”

In its communication to residents, Hines said that it is taking precautions.

“Each resident’s personal belongings will be photographed, cataloged, carefully packed, and securely stored away from the construction area until the construction phase is complete, and then your belongings will be unpacked and returned to their original location to the best of our ability,” Hines said, adding that the company has “engaged our professional moving and storage provider to manage these activities under the oversight of our on-site staff and security personnel.”

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