With the Oakland A’s’ decision to build a new ballpark next to Laney College, students and staffers are raising serious concerns about the impacts of a new stadium on the campus and the nearby community. A’s President Dave Kaval is in negotiations with the Peralta Community College District to build a new ballpark on a site now occupied by the district’s headquarters, next to the Laney campus.
Photo by Madison Silva
“Here we sit in a school that’s pretty deprived — it has bad bathrooms and bad plumbing,” said student Michelle Jones. “The structure of the school hasn’t been taken care of. Would this stadium take care of the structure of the school? Or would the school sit with busted pipes, beside a billion-dollar stadium?”
Jones believes the stadium will have a negative impact on more than just Laney students. “This will flush out more of us …,” Jones added, referring to the surrounding neighborhood, which is inhabited by many immigrant families and people of color. “We’re the environment; you don’t just come in and move us out. You don’t displace people.”
While attending Laney College, Mauricio Lopez-Perez also works at the Oakland Coliseum and Oracle Arena. “Because of the A’s coming to Laney, I’ll be affected personally. I’d probably be out of a job,” said Lopez-Perez.
Photo by Madison Silva
He added that if the A’s were to build next to Laney, it would create significant traffic problems for students. “Traffic here is already bad enough — getting to school, getting to an event. I have to commute here every day. It would create a lot of pollution and congestion in the streets.”
Lopez-Perez also believes the construction, as well as the stadium itself “will create a huge distraction during class.”
Evelyn Lord, head librarian at Laney College, is worried about the impacts of tens of thousands of fans coming to games. “If a stadium comes, then we’re going to have to deal with all that comes with a stadium. That means that there will be crowds drinking, coming in through our campus, using our facilities, making noise. There will be a lot of noise. There will probably be more than just games, if they build a stadium.
“We’re concerned about the future of the college,” Lord continued. “If the learning environment was disrupted that much, then it would be hard to maintain our enrollment. The noise, not just from the stadium, but from the construction that would go on for years. That would be very hard to deal with.”
One of the top reasons why community members are against the stadium is the possibility of displacement. “Many of our students come from neighborhoods around Laney College,” Lord said. “We are connected completely with the community around us and beyond. We don’t want bad things to come to our community, and we don’t want bad things to come to our college.”
When asked to elaborate on displacement concerns, especially for the nearby community and small businesses that may face much higher rents if a stadium is built, Lord added: “There are a lot of studies and examples of Chinatown districts that have been essentially destroyed. It’s happened time and time again. We have so many immigrants that come through Chinatown, and they go to Laney College.”
At an anti-ballpark rally and press conference earlier this month at Laney, Roger Porter, a faculty member of the Laney English Department, said a stadium will dramatically impact life on campus. “Let’s be clear about something: there’s no way that you can build a stadium … and not totally disrupt our institution,” said Porter, who was a student himself at Laney and has been a long time Oakland resident. “As much as we appreciate [the A’s] staying,” he added, “we believe that ultimately this is gentrification, and they are trying to uproot our institution.”
Laney student John Lee said at the rally that he’s an A’s fan but has lost respect for the organization because of selection of the Peralta Community College District headquarters, next to the Laney campus. “I’m becoming less proud to wear my hometown gear,” he said. “I, unfortunately, have to view my home team as more than just a team, but actually as a business and an entity that is making a decision that is more about profit than it is for people.”