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San Francisco's Only Gun Club Faces Eviction

Andrea Powell | July 7, 2014 | Lifestyle Story City Life

Ah, San Francisco. Home of so many unique features: cable cars, wild bison, mandatory composting, and the only metropolitan gun club left in the United States. Yes, you read that right. San Francisco has a gun club—but perhaps not for much longer.

It's called the Pacific Rod and Gun Club, and thanks to environmental concerns, it could be forced off of city-owned property near Lake Merced, according to the Examiner, which reports that the city has told the club to vacate when its lease expires on December 31st.

Just how America’s most pacifistic city became the final frontier for guys who like to shoot things is a complicated story. It goes back to 1928, when a group of local sportsmen got together and founded the Pacific Rod and Gun Club. A few years later it settled in the then sparsely-populated area of Lake Merced, building two skeet fields and, later on, a clubhouse. Though there was some early-on opposition, all those naysayers were quieted by then San Francisco Mayor Angelo Rossi, who supported the club.

For the next several decades, club members kept on keeping on, the only reminder of their existence being the random shots heard by a growing population of Lake Merced neighbors. Facilities were expanded to include numerous shooting fields, five stand sporting clays and a duck tower. Membership grew, and events were held year-round for both members and the general public alike.

Fast forward to the present day, and the story changes.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the PRGC’s existence is not the existence itself but its ability to hold on to 14 acres of land, in a city that has become known for its incredible lack of space. Formerly controlled by the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department, the property was handed over to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission in 2012 in an effort to help clean up toxic waste created by the use of lead pellets and clay pigeons (the club switched to environmentally friendly alternatives in 1994). Leasing the land from the city, the club now gives an estimated $80,000 to $95,000 a year back to its landlord.

Now the future for the estimated 400 members of PRGC is on the chopping block. Evicted by the SFPUC in 2012 over disagreements on who was responsible for environmental cleanup, the club was eventually allowed to stay at its current site until the end of the year. It must vacate the area by December 31 of this year to allow the utilities commission to meet a 2016 deadline for contaminant removal. Expected to begin in early 2015, the cleanup effort will cost an estimated $17 million.

After all the contaminants are removed, the city will take suggestions for how the land should be used. At that time, it will allow the club to submit a proposal for return, but no promises have been made. Google shuttle stop, anyone?

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