Residents of eclectic Richmond harbor concerned by nearby shooting range
By Robert Rogers
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 07/27/2012 05:24:28 PM PDT
Updated: 07/27/2012 05:38:11 PM PDT
Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor resident's complain of firing range noise
Wende Heath waters plants on her houseboat at the Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor in Richmond, Calif., on Friday, July 27, 2012. Heath has lived there for 20 years and recently complained to city officials about the noise from a nearby firing range owned by Chevron Corp. and used by police, homeland security and other official agencies. (Jane Tyska/Staff)
RICHMOND -- For years, law enforcement agencies and gun enthusiasts have used the shooting range on Chevron Corp. property on Western Drive near the San Pablo Yacht Harbor.
Residents of the tiny harbor, which hosts about a dozen houseboats and fewer than 50 people, have learned to live with the sporadic noise.
But in recent weeks they say they have noticed a pump in the volume -- more and louder blasts.
"It was different," said Wende Heath, a resident of the remote harbor, accessible only by a pocked, windy road that stems off the last exit from Interstate 580 before the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. "It sounded like World War III before 7 a.m."
Some residents made unconfirmed claims that rounds were discharged and came dangerously close to their floating community.
So Heath and some other concerned residents did what they thought was best. They emailed their concerns to Councilman Tom Butt. Butt in turn peppered city staff with questions about rules and regulations, and contacted Chevron Corp. and the firm it contracts to manage the range, HALO Group Inc., to relay the residents' concerns.
"There was some serious concern out there," Butt said. "But Chevron was very responsive."
In response to the complaints, residents, city leaders and representatives from Chevron and HALO have scheduled a meeting for 6 p.m. Aug. 15 at the Point San Pablo Sportsmen's Club by the yacht harbor.
An increase in range usage may be explained by more law enforcement training there. In June 2011, the city agreed to a $25,000 contract with HALO Group to use the range for SWAT and other firearms training for one year.
Heath said that last month he noticed an increase in caravans of "big black SUVs" rolling into the compound.
But Chevron spokeswoman Melissa Ritchie said there were no changes in policy at the range.
"We haven't changed hours of operation or the firearm qualification (small—medium caliber)," Ritchie said. "The rules have remained the same."
The range operates from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the summer months and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in winter, times that comply with the city's noise ordinances, according to assistant city attorney Carlos Privat.
But there are exceptions, including "night shooting" one week per month by Richmond police.
"It's important to us to have a range available for our training purposes," police Chief Chris Magnus said. "But we certainly must be sensitive to the concerns of the neighbors. I'm confident that we'll work out a compromise that meets everyone's needs."
Ritchie said the range is used "exclusively by law enforcement agencies and Chevron employees for small- and medium-caliber firearm qualification, and has been in existence for well over 60 years."
The harbor has been there for decades as well. It is a mishmash of vessels -- some rickety, few seaworthy -- inhabited by a tight-knit group of people who love their boats and their relative solitude in one of the Bay's most remote stretches.
"We don't have much out here," Heath said. "But we have our funky little harbor."
Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726. Follow him at Twitter.com/roberthrogers