A broad coalition of activists, small business owners and students and faculty from Laney College rallied against a proposed new Oakland A’s ballpark today, gathering at the very spot where the A’s want to build: the Peralta Community College District offices across the street from Laney.
“We believe ultimately this is gentrification,” said Roger Porter, an English professor at Laney College. “It’s not enough to be rooted in Oakland, you need to be rooted in deep east Oakland.”
Porter, a former student at Laney, said he was grateful the A’s had decided to stay in Oakland, but said he saw no way for the ballpark avoid disrupting the campus, not just from the foot traffic, but from bars, nightlife, and the occasional fireworks display.
“You can’t claim something for your own when it’s already being occupied and used in a beautiful way,” he said.
A litany of complaints and concerns have been voiced since the A’s announced their intention to build at the Peralta district offices last week. There have been concerns about displacement of existing residents and businesses, that the narrow streets nearby will be clogged with traffic, and that parkland along the Lake Merritt channel will be affected.
On Monday, the Golden Gate Audubon Society released a statement saying that the ballpark “could be disastrous for the abundant birds, fish and other animals that rely on Lake Merritt.”
The lake—North America’s oldest wildlife refuge—is home to nearly 200 species, and situating an A’s ballpark next to the channel to the lake could set back extensive environmental improvements recently made under Measure DD. Wildlife could be affected by fans dropping trash as they cross the channel or the bright lights and loud noises of the stadium, they argued.
But the biggest concern for participants at today’s rally was what effect the project would have on housing in the area. Many streets around the college are quiet, historically working-class neighborhoods comprised of single-family homes.
They took on a familiar refrain—“public land for public good”—reminiscent of when the city’s plan to sell a plot of land a few blocks away on East 12th Street drew intense protests. The city was forced to reconsider the project, though it eventually proceeded but with a larger affordable housing component.
“Sometimes the public has to stand up and shout, ‘this is our land,” said Naomi Schiff with the Coalition of Advocates for Lake Merritt.
Oakland A’s president Dave Kaval said last week that he wants to engage in a lengthy public process to hear out community concerns and address them in the ultimate design for the stadium and surrounding area. Some infrastructure would need to be improved, potentially including new highway off-ramps and improvements for the Lake Merritt BART station.
Peralta Community College District officials have also emphasized that there has been no decision and few discussions about whether the district is even willing to move its offices for the A’s, though Chancellor Jowel Laguerre has said he is open to the idea, particularly as it could bring a long-term revenue stream to the college.
The district’s board of trustees is expected to take up the matter next month.
Opposition has hardly been universal either. On Monday, a group of business and labor leaders, including from the Chinatown area, held a press conference to express support for the project, touting the potential for construction jobs and increased tourism for Oakland.