With the Oakland Athletics having formally announced their plans to build a new Major League ballpark upon the 13-acre parcel of land that’s currently owned by the Peralta Community College District at 333 East 8th Street, a little south of Lake Merritt in central Oakland, concern about the speculative impact on the surrounding neighborhoods has been growing.

From Oakland’s Planning Department staff in a memo to the City’s Planning Commission:

“The potential development of a ballpark at the Peralta Community College District site may provide incentive for surrounding property owners and interested developers to speculate on nearby properties in the Chinatown and Eastlake neighborhoods. These real-estate market pressures may further exacerbate the already severe affordability crisis in Oakland.

Residents in the census tracts surrounding the proposed Oakland A’s ballpark site are particularly vulnerable, with 50-60 percent of residents being renters in the immediate areas. In the Chinatown neighborhood between 14th Street and I-880 from Broadway to Alice Street, the median income is a mere $17,609; 22 percent speak English only; 62 percent do not speak English “very well”; and approximately 46% are over the age of 75 years. These tenants are vital to the cultural character and economic diversity of the Chinatown and Eastlake neighborhoods.”

In an attempt to help quell speculation and mitigate the impact of the A’s plan, a set of proposed development controls for the “S-5” area surrounding the ballpark site, an area which roughly stretches from Franklin Street east to 14th Avenue and from I-880 north to 14th Street or Foothill Boulevard, have been drafted.

The interim controls would increase required public notifications for proposed developments to include all occupants, not only the owners of property, within the area boundaries; would require a formal design review for the proposed demolition or removal of any structure in the area, not only those which are historic; would require special authorization for any new hotel or development of over 50,000 square feet; would prohibit any new paid parking lots or structures from being approved; and would disallow the condo conversion of any apartments within the area unless an equal number of new apartments were built.

Oakland’s Planning Commission is slated to review the proposed controls, which would remain in place for at least two years or until a set of permanent regulations are adopted, and forward their recommendation to Oakland’s City Council this week.

48 thoughts on “Plans to Deter Speculation around Oakland A’s Ballpark Site”
    1. Or really just some rational steps to curb reckless or rampant “for-profit” development (yes I realize all development has a profit incentive) in the immediate area. I think it’s practical, whether its beneficial is up to the city and how they plan to roll it out.

      1. Could you describe what constituted reckless or rampant development? I believe Oakland suffers the opposite: reckless and rampant neglect. What this area of blighted firetraps requires is the most rampant development imaginable.

  1. Any development, whether it’s a ballpark or housing or removing the freeway, will change this area dramatically. On one hand, people complain that there isn’t enough housing or redevelopment. Then they complain where it takes place when the decision to add housing or redevelop is made. Where was all the beef when the condos along Jack London Square were going up? Basically, opponents fear gentrification that the ballpark might bring. Low income residents in the SE area of Washington, DC cried foul too when the Nationals ballpark sprung up on a site of empty lots, sex clubs and drug activity next to a Metro station that had been built 2 decades earlier.

    1. Jack London Square was/is a decades-long bureaucratic battle between the community and some people with deep enough pockets to turn an unattractive area into a slightly more interesting place. I think you’re getting a peek at the process of making progress.

      1. Jack London Square is unattractive? The Estuary and the historic produce district are pretty attractive to me.

  2. Attempting to stymie development in an area of DTO that is filled with surface parking lots and underutilized small blighted buildings, makes no sense at all.

    Why not allow market forces to decide and hopefully increase development, and vitality in the area? Let’s increase economic activity in order to increase the wages of neighborhood residents. Why do these activists always assume that the residents in these neighborhoods will always make $17,000 per year? Should we just stamp everyone’s earning potential on their foreheads and then place them in certain neighborhoods?

    This plan is backward thinking and insulting to people who aspire to do better in the future. Oakland needs to reconsider this reactionary plan. The reason to have the A’s downtown in the first place, IS to increase development and economic activity in DTO.

    1. When the Chinatown central subway station opens in 20XX you will see significant development around the new station. Single-story buildings will be replaced. Demographics will shift in time. Most changes won’t happen overnight, but property values increase dramatically in/around new transit stations.

        1. I know. I’m taking about development changing the characteristics of a neighborhood. I’m using the CS as a comparison.

      1. The first station, Union Square, is already protected (Union Square and the surrounding historic buildings). The actual Chinatown Station (at Washington and Stockton) is already restricted, again by historic buildings in the area, and the city’s height overlay. Many of the buildings are near or at the 40 feet limit. So I’m not sure what new development you expect? The majority of the development on the central subway will be around SOMA, not Chinatown.

        1. Significant doesn’t always mean soaring towers. Significant means enough change to disrupt the existing conditions. Look around SF. A 4-story building replacing a single-story structure is considered disruptive.

          On a side note…does anyone know if there will be additional street entrances to the Union Square station other than the one at the park itself?

          1. Yes, there will also be an entrance at Ellis & Stockton (old Apple store). The platform itself will be roughly underneath Macy’s at O’Farrell.

    2. Agreed EG. At this point planting street trees and picking up trash is considered contributing to displacement by some in Oakland. We’re talking about a downtown, central business district…

      1. That makes it sound like they can’t survive without handouts and nudges. I think working class deserve a bit more credit for their stake or share.

      2. The underdevelopment of Oakland is what creates poverty. The idea of keeping people at certain economic levels in unmaitained housing in rundown neighborhoods, is the real problem. No one wants to invest in blighted and dirty areas. The only investment in those areas are tent dwellers living among illegally dumped debris. More restaurants, hotels, and new housing around a new A’s ballpark will create more jobs for those currently homeless.

    3. So, you can’t see a scenario where a foreign developer(s) would want to throw hundreds of millions of dollars at tearing down family homes to put up bars, parking lots, hotels at the expense of the people who live in the surrounding area?

      I agree that the market should be trusted a bit more, but that doesn’t mean the city should take preventative steps towards steering the likely influx of outside interest for the better.

      Side note, I’d be interested to hear anyone’s perspective on the plans and effect that AT&T (Pac Bell) Park had on South Beach. Did it net out in terms of promised impacts? I know it was more industrial compared to the A’s site.

      1. It was pretty industrial/gritty back in the day, but over the past two decades has filled in with a lot of market rate housing and commercial space. It’s not like it was a lower income, but vibrant, neighborhood that was demolished and replaced with shiny towers. (That was the Fillmore District back in the 60s.) The issue surrounds affordability, not just for the displaced residents, but new residents too (like the endangered middle class).

      2. You might search SS a bit, as I believe Jake posted some numbers about job growth in the area; but the upshot, IIRC, was that the impact was vastly overstated – both by people who like parks – “it turned the area around” – and those who don’t – “it ruined the place!.”

        Indeed, “vast overstatement” seems to be the common theme for parks everywhere they’re built, and it’s not hard to see why: most of the people are only going to go to the game, and those who don’t probably aren’t enough to support that many businesses…having big crowds 81 – or ideally 88 🙂 – dates a year and then no one all other days isn’t a very good business model.

        1. The ballpark can be used for concerts, and other events during the year. I would also love to see a new MLS soccer franchise for Oakland. Oak vs SJ would be a great regional rivalry.

          1. Not building the Niners a new stadium was the smartest thing SF has done in the last 30 years

    4. Aren’t you the person who has been sh*tting all over the Warriors’ plan to move to SF? And suddenly you are pro-“market forces?”


      1. The Warriors move to SF is s betrayal of a loyal host city of 50 years. The Warriors would have been just as successful with a new arena in Oakland at Howard Terminal near Jack London Square. That would be considered just and ethical market forces. Investing in a city which enriched their franchise would have been just.

        1. Your logic is absurd. You don’t support market forces, you support them to the extent they align with your own personal standard of justice and ethics. The Warriors owe Oakland nothing. They have been a good, rent-paying member of the community. To say the Arena would be equally successful in Oakland is a perfect illustration of how ignorant you are on this issue- you clearly do not understand the warriors’ business plan as it relates to operating the sports franchise or the real estate component of the mission bay deal (600k sqft of commercial office space in prime SF). You think JPM would pay $20M (ish) per year for naming rights in Oakland? Compare that to the few million oracle currently pays. Not to mention the premium they’ll get for season tickets, suites, sponsorship, etc.

          It’s OK for you to have an emotional opinion about the warriors leaving. In fact, I’m sad about it too. But, don’t conflate logic/reason/justice with your own preference for what a private entity chooses to do when acting within its rights as a for profit business.

          1. These sports organizations like the Warriors need to stop exploiting cities like Oakland and then tossing them aside when they think they can make more money elsewhere. The Warriors exploited Oakland for its arena and central location. The Warriors enriched themselves with public sponsored improvements to Oracle Arena. Now the Warriors turn their backs on a loyal host city of 50 years as they invest 1 billion dollars in SF while leaving Oakland holding the bag with 40 million in Arena renovation debt.

            There is no excuse for immoral business practices. This is all about socializing costs for Oakland while capitalizing profits in SF. In my view the Warriors are a cunning immoral organization regardless of how many minority kids they visit in Oakland schools or how many basketball courts they renovate in Oakland. The Warriors have taken far more from Oakland than they have put back into the community.

          2. The fact the Warriors align themselves with an organization like JPM tells us all we need to know about their character. JPM wouldn’t pay for naming rights in Oakland? What a surprise. These are the forces who have redlined Oakland for decades and continue doing so to this day. You justify the Warriors and JPM’s business plans?

          3. Yes, they would pay that amount, if not more since Oracle is right off the 880 freeway, visible to hundreds of thousands of cars per day, unlike in Mission Bay.

            The only reason Chase is paying that much is because Warriors are currently hot and get lots of TV coverage. No so much when they move to SF. They won’t be able to afford the talents due to market player caps and high salaried top players. Then chase won’t get the coverage so much. Bad deal!!!

            Also, what team wants a band-wagoner base, SF? Yet’s they don’t owe city of Oakland per say, but they owe their die-hard fan base that stuck with them when they sucked, and not SFers who didn’t even know there was an NBA team across the bay up until recently. Betrayal to Oakland/East Bay, yes!

      2. Your point should be noted, but one can also argue there’s ultimately a difference b/w making making the poor less so and making the wealthier even wealthier (i.e. the Warriors would have been successful in Oakland, tho “just as” is open to debate).

        As for convenience, many of the “market force” San Franciscans seem to have no problem with the billions in State (TTC land giveaway) or Federal (Central Subway, anyone??) dollar$ ladled their way.

        1. Oakland is not a poor city. Oakland is 5th in percentage of households which make over $200,000 per year. A full 11.5% of Oakland households make over $200,000. Oakland best out cities like San Diego, LA, NYC, etc. The Warriors have done incredibly well in Oakland. They are making money hand over fist right now. They are going to SF for greed and for some sort of outdated perceived status. Warriors ownership is showing their disrespect and ignorance of Oakland by not even considering building in Oakland from day one.

          1. “The underdevelopment of Oakland is what creates poverty”

            You might keep that in mind…after all, YOU wrote it.

          2. Oakland has poverty just like every large city. SF has a lower poverty rate but more poor people. Oakland also has a higher percentage of rich households than only four other large American cities. The perception that Oakland is a poor city just isn’t true.

  3. The gentrification narrative now being retold and retold and retold is a big fat truthiness fest. I would say fake news, but I prefer Colbert’s lingo to Trumpery.

    The fact is that in the post war 50’s and 60’s huge swaths of previously fabulous and/or productive cityscape were left to wither. Some were residential neighborhoods like Boyle Heights and those around the proposed Oakland site, and others were light industrial neighborhoods like Mission Creek in SF.

    In either case over time they were appreciated and occupied mostly by gays and artists (in many cases gay artists) and now are being returned to their past fanciness. As a gay artist that pains me on one level, but not nearly as much as it pains me to be accused of a false original sin of pre-gentry.

    The original sin was the initial abandonment and withering. That the withering is over is called progress, which is otherwise known as progressive.

    1. Many cities faced this issue as residents ditched the grime and crime of the city for the bucolic burbs after WWII. Back in the 80s you were a fool to venture north of the 80s on the UWS or hang out in the Bowery/East Village unless you were looking for trouble. Can’t touch property there or even in Harlem. It’s all cyclical. DC was begging for residents when I lived there in the early 90s and now faces a housing shortage because of demand.

      1. Historically Americans have devalued cities while Europeans and other continents have embraced and cherished their cities. Lack of investment in American cities have devastated certain older cities in the Midwest and South. There is a historical racial component to Americans throwing away cities and fleeing for and investing in suburbs. Now things are changing for certain cities.

    1. There’s a mayoral election coming up. This is simply political, created to keep the calm with “activists”, AKA folks who want to keep poor people poor.

  4. If we want to deal responsibly with housing affordability in our central, downtown, and transit accessible locations without losing existing communities we need solutions that address BOTH displacement AND encourage a new supply of multifamily (not overburdened by delay and cost on a project by project basis). I am hoping that the City is moving towards a both/and here instead of a no-nothing.

    There are some interesting tools now coming up under the recently adopted housing package for “workforce opportunity” – see SB 540 – this could be appropriate here…streamline building, but allow for lots of added affordability.

  5. Chill, fellow readers. The only thing the interim controls prohibit is parking lots/structures, which is as it should be. Otherwise, the interim controls are just about making sure there are reviews, which would already have been the case in many cities. If you go to this area, you’ll realize that it’s a) not Downtown and b) home to a lot of poor people who could easily be displaced, c) close to areas already experiencing significant development–the decrepit Oakland stereotype is way out of date.

    1. And then?

      You’re of course correct that most of these ideas are (simply) forms of increased oversight, but any review – if it isn’t merely a formality – implies the power to reject something, and the question becomes “what should be the grounds for that?” As you note, the area is currently home to a lot of poor people, but what should be the long-term goal of regulation in that regard: should it be to ensure an orderly transition of the area into something else, or should it be to ensure the area remains permanently “home to a lot of poor people”?? It’s easy to see that the people who live there now, might prefer the latter, but the rest of the citizenry might prefer the former. Historically, cities in the Bay Area – at least the larger ones – were diverse enough that anyone could live in any one of them that they wanted; they couldn’t, of course, live in EVERY area of a city, but they could live in SOME area. But as the Bay Area has grown, and the area where “its too expensive for most people to live” has grown ever larger, and now encompasses whole cities, not just areas of them, that is no longer true. In the case of transitioning areas, the question is “whose area is it…the people who live there now, or the one s who might potentially live there?”

      So you’re right that these are only interim regs – and modest ones at that – but they’re a preview of coming attractions – as it were – of the what the future of Oakland will be.

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