A's Plan For New Lake Merritt Ballpark Draws Displacement Fears

The Oakland A’s have announced their intention to build a new ballpark near Lake Merritt to open in 2023, drawing enthusiasm from fans, but apprehension from others worried about displacement.

Team president Dave Kaval sent a letter to the Peralta Community College Chancellor Jowel Laguerre on Tuesday informing him of the A’s intention to build where the district’s offices are now, adjacent to Laney College.

It was one of three sites that the A’s have said were in the running for a new ballpark — including the existing Coliseum site and Howard terminal near Jack London Square.

The site is across East Eighth Street from the college’s athletic fields. The A’s are seeking to acquire both the property where the district offices are now and the parking lot across the Lake Merritt channel, where the popular Laney College Flea Market is held weekly, for mixed-use development.

Outside the Peralta Community College District offices, where the A's want to build a new ballpark. | Photo: Scott Morris/Hoodline

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the A’s would pay for the relocation of the district offices. The team posted a website and a short video about the plan this morning, promising that the development would also include affordable housing, space for small businesses like restaurants and retail, and new public gathering places and parks.

In the video, Kaval promised that the A’s would participate in redeveloping the Coliseum site, which will be vacant after the Raiders depart for Las Vegas and the Warriors relocate to to San Francisco.

Kaval said that in the future, it may host a regional sports complex, urban youth academy, housing, a hotel or new office and retail development.

Mayor Libby Schaaf at an A's game with team president Dave Kaval in May. | Photo courtesy Libby Schaaf

Mayor Libby Schaaf appeared in the video as well, saying she was excited about the opportunities a new ballpark would bring. Schaaf has expressed hesitation about the location in the past and advocated for Howard Terminal.

Schaaf released a statement today saying she was pleased that the team is committing to a privately-financed stadium in Oakland.

She said she was also excited that the team committed to engaging "residents in a serious and meaningful dialogue to address both the benefits and impacts a once-in-a-generation development will have on our community.”  

The A’s are looking to break ground on the project in 2021 and open the 2023 season there.

In his letter, Kaval said that the team will negotiate with the district and others over the next 9-12 months to come up with a development plan. It would still need approval from the district’s Board of Trustees.

In a statement, Laguerre stressed that there has been no decision and no deal with the A’s and that the district would likely discuss the prospect in October.

“The Governing Board will also do its due diligence to work with the community and the colleges to assess the impact on students, faculty, staff, the classroom environment, the community surrounding us, the residents of the area and the city overall,” he said.

It could face some stiff opposition. Just a few years ago, the neighborhood was the center of a fierce debate over gentrification when the Oakland City Council voted to sell a public parcel on East 12th Street for a new high rise development.

A building on the Peralta Community College District offices site, where the A's want to build a new ballpark. | Photo: Scott Morris/Hoodline

Lailan Huen of the Oakland Chinatown Coalition wrote on Facebook that she attended a Peralta Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday to speak against the proposal, along with many others. She said the A’s outreach efforts have been insufficient and overstated by the team.

“I've been an A's fan going to games with my dad since I was a little girl, and I don't want to have to boycott them, but I will,” Huen wrote. “This stadium could wipe out the Southeast Asian community as it has in other cities, and we will not let that happen without a fight.”

The East Bay Express reported comments at the meeting were unanimously against building a ballpark there.

Alvina Wong —representing a coalition of nonprofits, churches and other community groups in Chinatown—said her group is "disappointed that the A's have fast tracked this process and displacement in our communities."

"What we stand to lose, no matter the mitigation, is the displacement, and heavy impacts on our cultural neighborhoods that are already overburdened by pollution, housing price increases, evictions, increased rents for small businesses, pedestrian safety and so much more," Wong said. 

City Councilmember Abel Guillén, who represents the surrounding district, also expressed hesitation, saying in an email that the announcement would immediately raise land values in the area and make residents vulnerable to speculators.

“I will do whatever it takes to look at all options we have to protect our residents from the market speculation and displacement of current residents and small businesses that will surely escalate,” Guillén said.

It's not the first time the site has been considered for a ballpark. Back before the Coliseum was built, the same parcel was under consideration for the new stadium.

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A s plan for new lake merritt ballpark draws displacement fears