The four colored squares at the lower right corner of this map are a little misleading. Laney College only sits on the top two yellow squares. The Laney parking lot is on the yellow lower left-hand square. The Peralta Community College District headquarters sits in the red lower right-hand square. The line that divides the top two squares from the bottom two is East 8th Street. The line that runs between the squares, top to bottom, is the Lake Merritt Channel.

The Death Of Laney College As We Know It?

September 18, 2017

The news that Peralta Community College District officials are currently in negotiations with owners of the Oakland A’s baseball team about an A’s proposal to build a new ballpark on Peralta District lands across from Laney College is somewhat disturbing. Even if nothing eventually comes of it, one wonders why Peralta is considering the proposal at all.

To explain, I quote at length a recent story in the Hoodline website (“A's Plan For New Lake Merritt Ballpark Draws Displacement Fears”, which sums up the situation as well as any other news account:

“The Oakland A’s have announced their intention to build a new ballpark near Lake Merritt to open in 2023...

“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. 

 “The site is across East Eighth Street from the college’s athletic fields,” the article continues. “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.

“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.”

The Hoodline article quoted Lailan Huen of the Oakland Chinatown Coalition and Alvina Wong, representing a coalition of nonprofits, churches and other community groups in Chinatown, as providing some of the “stiff opposition” from Chinatown and Eastlake residents to the proposed ballpark site because of its adverse effect upon the adjacent Eastlake community.

“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,” the article quoted Wong as saying.

I don’t want to minimize the devastating effect a professional ballpark on the shores of the Lake Merritt Channel would have on the residents and small businesses of the nearby Eastlake neighborhood, which includes an significant Chinese American and Southeast Asian population, or that Peralta officials shouldn’t be taken this impact into consideration when deciding whether or not to accept the ballpark deal. However, there is another even more devastating impact the A’s Peralta ballpark would that is far closer to the Peralta District’s core mandate. It’s my belief that if the stadium is placed across the street from Laney College, as the A’s propose, it would mean the death of Laney College as we know it.

Remember, first, the line in the Hoodline article that read “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.” Well, actually, a bit more goes on at the “parking lot across the Lake Merritt channel” than just a popular flea market. Just as its name might imply, when that particular piece of East 8th Street property is not hosting the flea market on the weekends, it serves as the location where the Laney faculty, staff, and students park their cars. From there, it’s just a quick walk across 8th Street to the Laney college campus.

There is no comparably convenient parking space available in the Laney College facility to accommodate the numbers of faculty, staff, and students who use the 8th Street lot. In fact, there may not be enough available parking anywhere in the area that could make up for the spaces lost if the lot is taken over for the use of the A’s.

And if that happens, how will the people currently using the East 8th Street parking lot be able to continue their affiliation with Laney College at the college’s present location?

Maybe someone smarter than me, or with more information, can figure that one out.

But even if the loss of the East 8th Street parking facility can be worked out by Peralta, there’s another certain impact of the A’s peralta stadium that can’t be mitigated. And that’s the noise that an A’s ballpark would bring with it.

People who only attend ballgames, or watch them on television, do not have a good idea of how much noise a baseball stadium generates in the surrounding neighborhood where it sits. Crowd roars and chants, loudspeaker announcements, and bumped-up music are all part of a professional ballgame experience that don’t stay inside the confines of a stadium.

Can anyone imagine what a disruptive effect such noise will have on students and faculty sitting in classrooms only a few hundred yards away from the proposed stadium? Can anyone argue that a college can be operated under such circumstances?

Laney College science students

The stadium noise problem could be solved if the A’s were proposing putting up a domed ballpark on the East 8th Street site, but there’s no indication that’s what A’s management has in mind. According to A’s President Dave Karaval, “The weather at [the Peralta] location is very nice. Oakland baseball is about being in the sun. And it’s really a magnificent backdrop.” (“View from A’s new stadium: ‘A magnificent backdrop’” Mercury News September 14, 2017)

Of course, both the parking and noise situations could be resolved if Peralta officials simply make a development deal for the current Laney College property, and move the entire college to another site. Developers have had a greedy eye on the Laney College lands ever since Oakland voters passed the Measure DD bond that cleaned up the western end of Lake Merritt and the Lake Merritt Channel and made that part of the Eastlake area one of the most desireable spots in the city.  And maybe that’s where all of this has been leading all along, and the public simply hasn’t been let in on the final plan just yet.


Contact Jesse Allen-Taylor at
Writing Pages Of J. Douglas Allen-Taylor