|Richmond Wants Firing
June 26, 1997
WEST COUNTY TIMES
Thursday, June 26,
RICHMOND Noise and safety concerns may force several East Bay police departments to find a new place to practice firing their weapons.
The Richmond City Council decided unanimously Tuesday it wants to close a Richmond Annex firing range used by police for at least 25 years. But because the land is owned by Union Pacific Railroad Co. and leased to several police agencies, it was unclear Wednesday what, if anything, the city can do.
The council action instructs City Manager Floyd Johnson "to take the appropriate steps to immediately terminate its use as a firing range."
Union Pacific officials were unable Wednesday to say how they will respond.
"The most we can say at this point is we're reviewing the terms of our agreement," said Mike Furtney, a Union Pacific spokesman.
Among the law enforcement agencies that use the range are BART, El Cerrito, Pinole, and San Pablo. Union Pacific's security team also uses the range.
The city has some leverage. The firing range has operated without permits or city permission for at least 20 years. There are no records of permits, although the city has had an ordinance that requires permits for using the range. There is no record of the Richmond police chief approving the location, also a condition of operating a range.
Although in recent years police have agreed to shoot only non-automatic weapons and only during the day, residents in the Richmond Annex and nearby neighborhoods say the noise keeps them awake and scares children and visitors.
"We've gotten to the point of frustration where we just have to do it," Mayor Rosemary Corbin said about the vote. Corbin said she'd explore whether East Bay police agencies could build and share a single facility.
Other council members said the area is dangerous.
"I was appalled," Councilman Tom Butt said about a visit there. "The gates were open, there was no security. A kid could get in there and climb over the berm at any time."
The dirt berm is in the direction shooters aim. On the other side is a trail that links Marina Bay and Point Isabel.
Jim McMillan, a former councilman who lives in the Richmond Annex neighborhood, said some visitors mistake loud "pops" for drive-by shootings.
"It's destabilizing, it's distressing, it's confusing and sometimes embarrassing," he said. "I had a guy run to the door one day in fright."
The closure of the site may confound police training efforts because there is no other readily available range.
"If they close it down it's going cause a lot of problems," said Albany Sgt. Art Clemons. "A lot of departments use that range."
Two years ago, Albany moved police gun training from the railroad property to the Richmond Rod and Gun Club near the city dump.
Closing the range may or may not harm Pinole's department, depending on the timing, said Lt. Phil Pollard.
Richmond police use a range on Chevron property at Point Molate. They used the Union Pacific range periodically in the past, but stopped last year because of the complaints, said Sgt. Alec Griffin.