The proposed site for a new Oakland Athletics ballpark near Lake Merritt appears to be off the table, after the Peralta Community College District's board, in a closed-door meeting Tuesday night, voted to instruct Chancellor Jowel Laguerre to stop talks with the team. The site currently hosts administrative offices for the Peralta district.
After years of trying to move to Fremont or San Jose, the A's, under new president Dave Kaval, committed in January to stay in Oakland. They named three possible locations -- the Peralta site, the area around the current Oakland Coliseum, and Howard Terminal on the waterfront north of Jack London Square. After months of study and community meetings, they announced the choice of the Peralta site in September.
In a video the A's produced, Kaval explained some of the site's strong points:
"The Peralta site being in the heart of the city is a great way to connect to the vibrancy of the city core. Next to BART, next to Lake Merritt, it's walkable to downtown. People can come from across the Bay Area and frequent Chinatown, Eastlake, Jack London Square. It's right in the middle of everything."
The prospect of up to 35,000 more people visiting the neighborhood on at least 81 days every year was welcomed by many businesses in the area, and the plan won the approval of 62 percent of area residents in a poll by the Oakland Chamber of Commerce.
But concerns about traffic, noise and a possible acceleration of the process of gentrification were expressed by many staff and students at nearby Laney College, which is part of the Peralta system. In late November, the unions representing faculty and staff, as well as the official student association, issued a statement opposing the ballpark. At that time, Laney psychology instructor Kimberly King told KQED that despite its location near Interstate 880 and downtown Oakland, the college provides a place of respite for its students.
"Most of our students are the first in their family to go to college, and many of them are from very low-income backgrounds, immigrant or refugee backgrounds," King said. "They really need a safe, quiet place like Laney to do their work."
King said that Kaval met with the executive council of the Peralta Federation of Teachers on which she sits, but they were not swayed by the team's desire to provide student jobs and affordable housing.
"Some of us are worried that what would actually happen, rather than Laney becoming this wonderful school from all the resources that the Oakland A's are going to bring in, that it would eventually be determined that Laney doesn't need to be here," King said. "I don't see Laney being able to coexist over the next 20 years with a major real estate development happening here. We would love development if it was something public. But what we don't want is a private corporation coming and taking advantage of this public land."
A's staff were not available for an interview on Wednesday, but the team issued the following statement on Twitter.
The other two sites the team had been investigating earlier in the year remain available; the Coliseum site is jointly owned by the city of Oakland and Alameda County, and Howard Terminal by the Port of Oakland.
Each has advantages, such as spectacular views at Howard Terminal and a dedicated BART station at the Coliseum. And each has disadvantages, such as a long trek from downtown Oakland at Howard Terminal and a lack of nearby shops and restaurants at the Coliseum site.
The A's could also potentially reopen the search for a site, either within Oakland city limits or in the greater Oakland territory designated by Major League Baseball, which is all of Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Losing the Peralta site isn't necessarily a setback for the team's timeline to have the new park ready for opening day in 2023 -- they had always planned to spend a year engaging in "a robust community process to ensure this project fits in the neighborhood," which may have turned out to be more robust than they expected.
In the interests of full disclosure, I have been an A's fan since 1999 and at the end of this year upgraded to a full season-ticket package.