Richmond Wholesale and Marina Bay residents meet to solve smoke and noise issues
on March 12, 2015
When homeowners first moved to the Marina Bay area, they say, it was a country-like neighborhood. Birds nested on the trees in the gated community. Nights were dark and tranquil.
But, they say, everything changed last December when the neighboring business Richmond Wholesale — “one of the largest West Coast distributors of frozen, chilled, and dry food products,” according to its website — closed its Factory Street facility in North Richmond and made the Regatta Boulevard facility its main one.
On Wednesday night, staffers from Richmond Wholesale and members of the Marina Bay community held a second meeting to hear improvement updates from the business and for the two parties to continue to discuss noise levels, emissions and other community concerns. The meeting was held at a conference room in Marina Bay and around 40 people attended.
According to Ben Choi, city planning commissioner and a Marina Bay resident, their first meeting, five weeks ago, was triggered when Richmond Wholesale parked around 20 diesel-powered refrigerated containers at this site in January, pumping out smoke day and night to the neighborhood. Since then, Richmond Wholesale has plugged its containers into electrical ports at its docks and the smoke problem has been reduced, according to the community meeting’s agenda.
“In 2010, when I moved in, that place [Richmond Wholesale] wasn’t attractive but it was quiet, almost a non-entity. The amount and type of business has increased enormously in the past year or so,” Marina Bay resident Karen Kempler said in an email sent after the meeting.
Container trucks at Richmond Wholesale’s site now use back-up alert beeps as early as 4 a.m., according to the community meeting’s agenda. Residents also complain about fumes caused by idling diesel trucks. “The air this morning is thick with the smell of diesel. A light fog layer is holding the fumes, no wind, no air movement to blow it away,” Marina Bay resident Jeanne Kortz wrote in an email addressed to city officials and Marina Bay community members. Kortz’s condo directly faces the business and she documents the diesel smell on a regular basis.
At Wednesday night’s community meeting, Jeff Johnson, chief operating officer at Richmond Wholesale, said that the business is looking at possible ways to replace the beeps with some other safety feature. He also said that the company is in talks with an acoustic engineer to see if they can build a sound wall to muffle the noise.
Richard Doellstedt, CEO of Richmond Wholesale, said that the company has started reminding truck drivers to turn off their engines, but it has limited control over the idling issue. In the case of a “split delivery,” he said, they only unload half of the truck’s contents. “The other half has to be maintained at a temperature and there are temperature charts that the drivers are held accountable to,” Doellstedt said, meaning that the engine must keep running to keep the food cool.
Community members also suggested Richmond Wholesale put up a sign that asks truck drivers to turn off their engines. Doellstedt said the company will look into that. “We are a willing neighbor,” Doellstedt said. “The first meeting was a listening session. We heard a lot of comments. We’ve come back with four, five concrete things with very definable improvements on the last five weeks.”
City manager Bill Lindsay, who was also at the meeting, said that the issue came to his attention in January. “What I heard is that Richmond Wholesale is committed to looking at the operating characteristics that are bothering the neighbors, like the noise, like the traffic, like the light, and to do things that minimize the impacts,” he said of Wednesday’s meeting. “I’m convinced that they are making that effort.”
Other sources of diesel fumes have also contributed to the smoke situation in Marina Bay. According to the community meeting’s agenda, refrigerated containers parked at a nearby UC Berkeley warehouse also appear to be running on diesel. Lindsay said he will look into that.
Another meeting between Richmond Wholesale and the Marina Bay community is scheduled in two months.
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