James Vann

Oakland Architect James Vann Wonders If A’s Out To Destroy Oakland With Ballpark Proposal At Laney College?

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James Vann
James Vann

Happened to find this letter written by long-time Oakland architect James Vann and on the Oakland A’s proposal to build a ballpark at Laney College.

I diagree with his take, but it’s an important addition to the overall conversation and debate on the Oakland A’s proposal to build a ballpark at Laney College:

Are the “A’s” Out to Destroy Oakland?

While the Oakland community strongly supports the Oakland A’s and urges the team to remain in Oakland, the team’s response has been to “kick dirt” in the City’s face. The team’s leadership has repeatedly lied to the community.

The secretive decision recently revealed threatens the existence of Chinatown and the low-income Eastlake residential neighborhoods; will cause abandonment of highly popular Laney Community College and its working-class body of students; will overtax the only two local streets that serve the area; will destroy the wildlife and ecology of Lake Merritt and the Channel to the Bay, and will turn the communities surrounding Peralta and Laney over to speculators, land-grabbers, and gentrifying boutique and luxury developments.

On September 12, with great fanfare and a splashy video, the Oakland A’s announced their decision to abandon the Oakland Coliseum and to construct a new baseball stadium at the 13-acre Peralta Administration parcel. The timing of the announcement was both a surprise and a denouncement of pledges repeatedly made to residents, stakeholders, and interest groups.

The selected location also adjourns the Lake Merritt Channel and will threaten the life-line of Laney Community College.

The A’s announcement culminated a series of lies to City leaders and residents. A’s president Dave Kaval repeatedly assured the city that the organization would engage in extended “listening tours” to hear opinions from all areas of the city before a decision on sites would be made.

At an A’s-hosted “listening tour” on August 30 at La Estrellita Restaurant in the Eastlake district, Kaval stated that the A’s were still in the information-gathering stage and a decision on location was months away.

To the contrary, just the day before on August 29, Kaval delivered a 4-page letter to Peralta trustees and Chancellor Jowel Laguerre announcing that the A’s had selected the Peralta site and requested the opening of negotiations. This misrepresentation was followed on Sept 12 with release of Kaval’s public announcement and video.

Councilmember Abel Guillén – whose district includes the selected location — published that District 2 constituents were about 75% opposed to an A’s stadium at the small Peralta Administration Offices parcel, with a similar majority favoring the A’s remaining or rebuilding in the present Coliseum area, and with a slight majority leaning toward the Howard Terminal site on the Bay near Jack London Square. Similar results are routinely expressed throughout the city.

The off-repeated “month’s-away-to-decision” declarations were belied by the splashy A’s video immediately released Sept 12 together with the premature announcement. Persons featured in the video are developers; out-of-area business owners; commercial associations promoting new stores and restaurants (as though no displacement is necessary to make room for the envisioned new establishments); construction unions promoting “jobs, jobs, jobs” (as though the number of jobs is the same irrespective of location); and certain city policymakers (who immediately renounced their statements probably recorded weeks before). No area residents are featured and the councilmember’s retractions testify that the video announcing the selection of Peralta was made weeks if not months before the actual announcement. At the same time as the A’s selection was announced, the public was still being mislead that the decision was “months away,” and that the community hearing process will continue.

Lies, lies, lies !

Selection by the A’s of the Peralta site lacks logical justification. Superimposing the A’s own “bare-bones” stadium option on the site reveals that the parcel can barely contain a 35,000 seat stadium and bleachers, with little to no remaining area for offices, accessory buildings, service vehicles and storage, off-street parking, or gathering space. A more desired A’s rendering depicting a circular stadium surrounded by bleachers has absolutely no chance of fitting on the small parcel. It is unbelievable that the A’s would not be aware of the unexpandable limitations of the Peralta site.

In addition to the Peralta site being too small, it is inconceivable that the ecological and environmental impacts highlighted by The Audubon Society and The Measure DD Community Coalition on birds, fish, wildlife, and humans can ever be mitigated.

Also unstoppable once approvals for the stadium are obtained will be real estate vultures that will swoop into Chinatown and the Eastlake buying up low-rise buildings, single-family homes, and ethnic businesses to be replaced by high-rise luxury hotels and condominiums. Displacement of the areas’ 22,000 present residents will be total. In Oakland’s current out-of-control housing market, once an existing resident is displaced from their housing, only 2 choices are available: get-out-of-Oakland, or, join the growing thousands of homeless who populate the streets and sidewalks of neighborhoods throughout the city.

It is difficult to blightly ignore the natural fit and ‘rightness’ of the Coliseum area for the A’s new mega-stadium. Even if the A’s want no part of the present joint-use Coliseum, practically unlimited and unencumbered land exists there to choose from. BART already serves the area with a generous station, pedestrian overpass, and bus-transit cener; the rail connector to Oakland Airport is convenient and accessible; generous unoccupied city land is present to accommodate any desired parking configurations; all needed utilities exist in the vicinity; no housing or commercial establishments exist to be impacted; little if any environmental challenges to mitigate; no residents to be displaced; and land galore throughout the area that literally “begs” for compatible housing, commercial, technological, industrial, and office developments for various futures and visions.

The vast Coliseum area is ripe for immediate development. Thoughtful planning could assure an equitable “win”-“win” solution for the Oakland A’s team and organization as well as for the greater East Oakland community and for the whole of the City of Oakland.

StAy the Right Way !

James E Vann AIA is an Oakland Architect and a Cofounder of Coalition of Advocates for Lake Merritt (CALM)

Stay tuned.