Police told KCBS radio that the man was veteran skyscraper climber Dan Goodwin. The 54-year-old Lake Tahoe resident's other climbing credits include Chicago's Sears Tower.
Goodwin used suction cups but no ropes to scale Millennium Tower, a 645-foot residential building overlooking San Francisco Bay. He ignored orders to stop climbing, police said.
Goodwin was too high to reach by the time firefighters arrived at the building, according to the San Francisco Fire Department.
Goodwin reached the top just before 5:30 p.m., about three hours after he began. He affixed an American flag to the building before surrendering to waiting authorities.
In a statement posted on his website, Goodwin said he climbed the building to call attention to what he described as the ongoing vulnerability of skyscrapers to terrorist attacks.
He also said he wanted to inspire patients battling cancer, which he said he overcame to continue climbing.
Goodwin's hobby has earned him a couple nicknames, including "Spider Dan" and "Skyscraperman," according to KCBS.