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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.


  1. Victoria K Williams on March 12, 2015 at 4:16 pm

    Thanks for covering this story, Larry Zhou!

  2. G on March 12, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    this business has existed there for many years. It sound like they are trying to do their best to accommodate a few. They are not the only commercial facility in that block. It sound like a few people are targeting one long time Richmond business .
    It was ok as long as they stayed in north Richmond but as soon as they came back, they are a “unwanted” neighbor

    • Jeanne Kortz on March 12, 2015 at 7:14 pm

      They were here when we bought our condo in 2006. They were a quiet, small business, making no noise, no diesel. They’ve come back with a larger, expanded business which is completely different from the business they had here for years. The hours start at 4:00 am and go on until 8:00 to 8:30 p.m. with diesel trucks, beeping noises from backing trucks, diesel fumes, and light pollution. This is a completely different operation, so yes, we are upset, and we are not a “few” as you think. There are many more than the 40 that showed up for the meeting. Not everyone could make it to the meeting, unfortunately.

  3. Carol Del Aguila on March 12, 2015 at 10:43 pm

    It is definitely not a “few” people targeting the business. Richmond Wholesale is a completely different business than they were before, as Jeanne stated, they were previously practically a non-entity. Now, not only is the presence of numerous big rigs constantly parked there a blight on the beauty of Marina Bay, they are lowering property values with light pollution, diesel fumes, constant “vibrating” from running engines, traffic hold ups, and general lowering of quality of life at all hours of the day and night seven days a week. Also, this business is causing health issue for many people. It is most certainly not a small number of people who care about Richmond Wholesale coming back as a completely different business and destroying the peace and beauty of Marina Bay, which I might add, is the only part of Richmond which is not a poster child for urban blight. The other commercial businesses in the area do not intrude on residents’ right to enjoy their homes in peace.

    • Elizabeth Reginato on March 14, 2015 at 6:46 pm

      Thank you for addressing this issue. I have lived in this area for ten years. Yes, this is an industrial area, that’s a given, but since I would say November 2014 there has been so much NOISE. I live behind Richmond Wholesale I hear everything 24/7, Its debilitating. I honestly haven’t slept in months. I wear earplugs at night and earmuffs during the day. I love the Marina, but I just can’t live in this area any longer.

  4. Toni Hanna on March 12, 2015 at 11:19 pm

    With the underpass project on Marina Bay Parkway having closed our main street in and out of Marina Bay, Regatta is the detour route most of us now use to get in and out of the area. Richmond Wholesale’s container trucks are causing traffic congestion, and one of them cut me off the other night as it abruptly turned into a parking lot without signalling, almost causing a pileup, with me slamming on my brakes and several cars behind me following too close. The increased congestion, light pollution and fumes have indeed changed the character of this neighborhood,

  5. Al Kitt on March 13, 2015 at 11:48 am

    Larry Zhou wrote, “When homeowners first moved to the Marina Bay area, they say, it was a country-like neighborhood…Nights were dark and tranquil.” Nonsense. I lived there for four miserable years in the early ’90s, and was constantly assaulted by the murderous noise from the bakery on Regatta Blvd. and South 34th St. I don’t know if they are still there (I think so), but the city refused to abate the noise produced by the air horn they used to agitate flour in their silo. Don’t count on the city to solve your problems. Sue Richmond Wholesale now or suffer the consequences for years to come.

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