140 New Montgomery Street Peer Review


City of San Francisco


Completion Date

Project Size
340,000 SF

140 New Montgomery Street Peer Review

San Francisco

Built in 1925, 140 New Montgomery Street was the tallest skyscraper in San Francisco until the Russ Building matched its height in 1927. The two remained the tallest buildings in the city until 1964. The 26-floor, art deco building was commissioned by the Pacific Telephone Company to consolidate many smaller and outdated office buildings into a modern headquarters for the telecommunications giant. The building rose to prominence in 1929 when Winston Churchill visited and made one of the first transatlantic telephone calls.

In the early 2000's the building was deemed unsafe due to its lack of modern seismic stabilization. It sat empty for nearly six years until it was financially viable to undertake the necessary renovations. Work began in 2012 to rehabilitate the existing building for continued use as a commercial office building; improve the building's seismic performance; install all-new mechanical, electric, plumbing and fire sprinkler systems; and preserve and restore the building's historic lobby. As a Category 1 historic building, the seismic retrofit sought to both protect life safety and preserve the historic fabric of the existing building. 

Walter P Moore's leader of Seismic Design, Rafael Sabelli, was asked to conduct an expert peer review of the design because he had developed standards and design guides for the steel plate shear wall system used to seismically reinforce the building. The retrofit required nonlinear response history analysis with special modeling of the behavior of archaic construction materials and configurations in order to identify vulnerable conditions that required strengthening. Our review confirmed the methodology and gave the owner and the building department confidence in the adequacy of the design.