Peralta Board Meeting and Discussion

Tonight’s Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees meeting went as I would expect for a typical Bay Area stadium forum. It was frontloaded with a dozens of pro-stadium speakers including building trades and union supporters. That was followed by residents of Chinatown and Eastlake, most of whom were opponents of the park. That was followed by faculty and students of Laney College, largely against the park as well. Most of the grievances that were aired in previous reports are repeated tonight, with no new information revealed.

View south of Peralta HQ lot

The Board made it clearer that no decisions were going to be made tonight. Sharon Cornu, who is acting as a consultant for Peralta as the district explores the project, gave a presentation on the history of the site. An overview of the unique environmental aspects and the socioeconomic status of the neighborhood wrapped up the presentation, leading into the aforementioned speakers. Those speakers, by the way, didn’t include any representatives from the A’s. That’s not unusual since there is no formal project submitted to the district to support.

A lot of FUD was spread tonight, including plenty of talk about about the unholy alliance of “labor and financial capital.” Many students and local residents fully believe that this is the first step to the A’s taking over all of Laney, shuttering it in the process. Perhaps that’s the usual slippery slope argument, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense when you think about it. Peralta is not exactly rolling in dough, and the district is looking towards the future, when it has to deal with increased upkeep and maintenance costs. Laney has trouble paying its instructors, so the district has to start looking at other ways to deal with these problems. Yet there’s still a charter at Laney where the mission remains education, so however well or poorly that is going, it’s still going to be the most important thing for the district, not cashing out for a quick payday.

The A’s have to thread the needle on this project. They are aiming at developing the Laney College parking lot across the channel from the Peralta HQ site. To what extent? Cornu’s specialty is affordable housing. The A’s want to build their own village around the ballpark, and that lot may or may not be the extent of that. The A’s may end up kicking some parking revenue to Laney. They could build something 4-6 stories tall there, or 8-12 stories including a hotel. They have to build as much as they can to pay for the ballpark and satisfy whatever is called for in a future community benefits agreement. Yet the growing wish list of items needed to complete the agreement may well render the whole project unprofitable. The A’s are making a lot of claims about what they can do for Oakland. Those claims may end up forcing the A’s bite off more they can chew. I like how the sister-team Earthquakes started which a much less ambitious project and added features as they went.

View west across Lake Merritt Channel

Chinatown developer Carl Chan also spoke. I’m curious about his delineation of “good” traffic from “bad” traffic. “Good” traffic brings visitors to restaurants and shops housed in his properties. “Bad” traffic doesn’t do that. I have to think there will be a good amount of both if a ballpark opens nearby.

Many of the residents of Chinatown and Eastlake have been there for multiple generations. The two neighborhoods have been hit less by Oakland’s encroaching gentrification than others, and the g-word is their chief concern, making up a large part of their opposition. I tend to think, though, that gentrification can only be somewhat mitigated, not avoided completely. A 2017 report on the state of housing stock showed that only 6% of housing under construction is considered affordable. That’s despite goals of 20-28% in past years. Affordable housing has taken a hit since redevelopment ended and local pools of property taxes for such housing dried up. That affordable housing is going to be built in these places, and then all the way east down International Boulevard and San Leandro Street (some is already near the Coliseum and Fruitvale stations). What creativity could be worked into the deal to pay for the affordable housing “subsidy?”

The recent news that a plume of pollution has been sitting and spreading underneath the Peralta land could provide an impetus to act. The cost to cleanup the land is unknown and requires study. If the cost runs into the millions Peralta won’t be able to do nothing, including turning off monitoring of groundwater underneath. If high cleanup costs forces the district into a deal, the A’s as developer indicated that they’d cover it. If this scenario sounds familiar, it was one of the main worries about the Howard Terminal site. The pollution is bad enough that, according to BANG’s David DeBolt, there are actually two plumes. The second is coincidentally enough underneath Laney College’s baseball field. Would the A’s be willing to pay for that as well?

It can be scary to listen to the comments, go through the laundry list, and figure out the project costs. I’ll try to get into that more next year as the project solidifies. Until then, understand that mitigation means compromise. It’s gonna take some work, and some negotiation.

17 thoughts on “Peralta Board Meeting and Discussion

  1. Thinking about the proposed laundry list of items that will be requested reminds me of the Earthquakes initial proposition, which Kaval was part of, was to partner with SJSU and build a multi-use stadium for soccer and college football. This was the EQ preferred plan until the laundry list of requirements exceeded the benefits which sent them to their current site (which is a better site). As I’ve said before I expect the same thing to happen to Peralta- at some point the costs just won’t pencil out unless Oakland is willing to give significant entitlements and associated land elsewhere in the city which will create a whole host of separate challenges.

    Credit to the A’s for trying- my guess is end of 2018 they will change focus to Colisiem site. MLB has backed the A’s into a horrible position- they could never move when a viable (albeit shitty) site exists at the Coli.

    • Well, that deal meant that SJSU would have had to cede economic and physical control of the entirety of the South Campus – from 7th to Senter and from Alma to Humboldt – to Mr. Wolff and the SJE ownership. The SJSU President at that time, Don Kassing, decided it would not be a good deal for the University – and thus the project did not to go forward.

      SJSU has since redeveloped a significant chunk of that land into a golfing/practice facility, and is in the process of constructing a new softball field and new indoor-outdoor tennis facility on land that would have been lost to them had the Earthquakes stadium project gone through. Yes, Spartan Stadium is still a decrepit pit, but things are going in the right direction for the university in general. And the Earthquakes got Avaya Stadium, and both entities now are the better for not having done the deal.

      The nice folks at the Peralta CCD Board now must make a similar decision, as to whether or not ceding this section of land is better for the District, but the scope of the asked-for project is much larger than what SJSU was being asked to do, and the parcel of land at question is much smaller.

      I do not envy them the position they are in.

      • agree SS–sometimes things happen for a reason and both SJSU and SJE benefited from the decision to part ways.

        Question that will come up for Peralta is whether selling/leasing the land to the A’s will get the most value. They hinted that there were other interested suitors. Back when SJ packaged land for the A’s they were able to hold down the price because they said no one else was knocking at the door wanting to build. Obviously, with Google all of that now has ended and there is no way the A’s could afford to buy that land in SJ at its current value.

  2. Man, some of the claims made by folks that oppose the ballpark are pretty ridiculous, but I guess that is how it goes. Not, that some of the concerns weren’t reasonable, but…

    I wonder if the plume(s), will put Peralta/Laney in a position where they have to make a deal, which of course as an A’s fan I would be thrilled with.
    I mean if these plumes have to be taken care of regardless of where or weather the A’s build, then one has to wonder how much money Peralta/Laney would have to cover the clean-up?

  3. 30-27-3 was the final, I tallied it. 30 speakers for the park, 27 against, 3 mixed or unclear. I was there.

    I don’t have any answers only questions. Like what degree of difficulty have other ballparks faced in answering questions about gentrification to the rest of the community? I was entering college when AT&T park was being built, I don’t exactly remember the discussion swirling around prior to the shovels going into the ground. Have other ballparks successfully integrated themselves alongside a college? Be they a large or small college.

  4. Complicating the problems for the A’s in their quest for getting their very own ballpark built is the fact that they are not getting any help from neither Oakland nor MLB. Oakland/Alameda officials have insisted that the City/County will not contribute any funds towards ballpark construction, with the exception of some undetermined amount towards the surrounding ballpark neighborhood infrastructure. As for MLB, they continue to insist on dividing up the Bay Area market into two unequal territories, and continue to hold the A’s hostage to the less affluent and less populated East Bay territory. Making matters even worse is MLB’s insistence that the A’s be treated now as a major market franchise and contribute towards the revenue sharing pool like the Giants and other major market teams.

    • It definitely sucks. I think the revenue sharing is the one that gets me the most, because you’re restricting their movement in a market, that you are treating them as if they have the same right to as the Giants.

  5. The ballpark process may well force Oakland into figuring out what kind of city it wants to be going forward. This ballpark will cause disruption and change in an area not used to it. Many Oaklanders have long complained that the city lacks the amenities and businesses to serve its residents and that draw people and investment. Does Oakland want to be a city that embraces this change and proves it is able to handle the effects created by it, which could then lead to other benefits and opportunities? Or will Oakland choose to say no because of fear of how the ballpark may negatively effect people’s lives, without determining how to minimize the negatives and spread the benefits to more people than just the A’s and A’s fans? Kaval has offered the city an opportunity that shows the A’s willingness to embark on an open process based on rational evaluation, realistic negotiation, and fair mitigation. It’s an opportunity that has the potential to bring Oakland to the next level as a city, provided it’s handled right. It’s the city’s responsibility to make sure that this process happens and that fairness and realism pervade the public debate.

    • @Jerry

      Well said… I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Ultimately, the A’s can “mitigate the blow” but neighborhoods and cities are dynamic, ever-changing entities.

      Because of Oakland’s proximity to SF, gentrification is going to happen with or without the A’s building the new stadium near Lake Merritt. This could probably be mitigated with stricter rent-control, but time marches on.

      We all know this is already happening. For political reasons, the city keeps this fact very hush-hush.

      The ballpark has the chance to transform the city, especially the downtown area. I tend to be someone that always looks for common ground. However, you’re simply not going to make everyone happy.

      Ultimately, the mayor’s going to have to stop playing Switzerland and pick a side. I understand why she’s currently being cautious, but that moment’s going to come within the next 12-months. I remain optimistic that the A’s can reach a deal with Peralta. The positives outweigh the negatives for a struggling and cash-strapped Community College system.

  6. Here is an idea I had; I know this would be something no one would, but, have Laney College move to the current Coliseum site, and do a land swap. Ok, I know the city and county own the Coliseum, and yes, there are a lot of moving pieces. But, it would give Laney the land they want, and the A’s the ballpark they need.

    • That won’t work for Peralta. There’s already a junior college run by Peralta in East Oakland. Laney was placed at its current location to serve the rest of Oakland.

      • Ok, I didn’t think it would.

        BTW, I have looked and I do not see how much the property at Laney is worth? Or a Fair Market Value. Does anyone know how much the Athletics plan to pay for it?

      • @Daniel

        Guess it all depends upon how much $$$ the cleanup would be. Also, would they buy or lease the land? Both parties may prefer that arrangement.

    • A relocation to the Coliseum site would alleviate Laney’s concerns regarding the crowds, traffic and parking. I brought this idea up in an email to Dave Kaval a few months ago. He apparently didn’t agree with the idea.

    • They could consider relocating the Laney College athletic facilities to the Coliseum site, and in that way free up that property for the new A’s ballpark. The parcel currently occupied by the Laney College athletic fields is even a more suitable site for the new ballpark than the Peralta property. It should be noted that it is quite common for colleges that are located in urban areas to have at least some of its athletic facilities at locations somewhat a distance away from its main campus.

      • I certainly could be wrong about this, but I don’t see why the Laney baseball team couldn’t play their games on the A’s new field, thereby freeing up at least the baseball diamond across the street for development adjacent to the new park?

      • Let’s hope that common sense ideas like these start to gain traction. When it’s all said and done, Laney is poised to be a big winner in this deal.

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