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A’s stadium: possible winners and losers at Laney College site

Property owned by the Peralta Community College District that has been proposed as a possible site for a new A’s stadium is seen in Oakland, Calif. on Tuesday, June 27, 2017. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)

OAKLAND — Standing in his motorcycle shop on E. 10th Street, Tyler Carson had trouble envisioning how a 30,000-seat baseball stadium could be plopped down two blocks away. He could, however, imagine the foot traffic and parking nightmares if the Oakland Athletics decide to build near Laney College.

“I’m upset they painted half the curb across the street red,” Carson, who has owned Hayasa Motorbikes since 1998, said wryly. “They will have to put in a huge amount of infrastructure here.”

Two blocks in the other direction, on E. 12th Street, Jose Macias was of the opposite opinion.

“It would fit with what’s happening around the lake,” said Macias, whose family has owned La Estrellita Cafe and restaurant since 1969.

A move would be historic for the Oakland A’s. Since arriving on the West Coast from Kansas City in 1969, the team has played at the Coliseum. After attempts to move to Fremont and San Jose over the past decade, a shakeup in the front office brought a renewed committed to stay in Oakland, led by A’s President Dave Kaval. But staying in the aging, decrepit concrete goliath in East Oakland is not an option; a new stadium, whether at the Coliseum site or elsewhere in the city, is the future.

The A’s have so far narrowed their search to three locations: the Coliseum land, Howard Terminal and the Peralta Community College District headquarters near Laney. The team has said publicly that it will announce its decision this year, and officially, all three proposed sites are under equal consideration.

But momentum appears to be building for the Peralta site. While many support the idea of revitatlizing the area, there are concerns over what a 30,000-plus seat stadium would mean for Laney College and the surrounding neighborhoods where small businesses and homes are intermingled.

The aging Peralta Community College District headquarters, at E. 8th Street and 5th Avenue, abuts a channel connecting the Oakland estuary to Lake Merritt along its northwest end. A BART maintenance yard sits across 5th Avenue to the east, and across E. 8th Street to the north are Laney’s ballfields.

And towering just west of the college is Interstate 880 — the mighty, often congested, Nimitz. The 13 acres might be a cozy squeeze for a ballpark, but depending on how its configured, fans’ views from inside could include downtown Oakland and Lake Merritt. BART is a nine minute walk away.

Reesa Tansey, a senior consultant at Colliers International, said the area in the shadow of the stadium has remained largely untapped by new and larger businesses.

“You have a very diverse residential neighborhood,” she said. “You have pockets of some industrial but there can be major retail arteries … where I think there are opportunities.”

The college is not an island like the Coliseum and Howard Terminal, cut off by distance or barriers from the surrounding neighborhood. Within blocks emerges the heart of Eastlake, where car wash and auto body shops, Asian grocery markets and mom-and-pop stores serve one of Oakland’s most diverse neighborhoods, from 1st Avenue to 14th Avenue along International Boulevard and side streets.

The neighborhood is used to change, but squeezing in a development the size of a baseball stadium could have impacts never before seen, said Ener Chiu, associate director of real estate development at the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation. The nonprofit began working in Eastlake in the 1990s, when the population of southeast Asian and Chinese immigrants began to rise.

According to U.S. Census data, 90 percent of the households in Eastlake are renters. Between 2000 and 2014, new residents had moved into 80 percent of the residences, suggesting high turnover in the neighborhood.

“Which suggests that most of the folks are short-term residents and don’t have a lot of housing security, making them very susceptible to displacement,” Chiu said. He added residents on the other side of Laney in Chinatown would also be vulnerable.

“Nobody is interested in freezing a neighborhood but we are interested in how this could disrupt people who have the least amount of control of their day to day,” Chiu said.

Multiple merchants along E. 12th Street and International Boulevard, even those who do not own their buildings, showed no signs of putting up a fight if the team became their new neighbor.

“It’ll bring life into this place,” said Frank Yin, who owns Fine Concept Furniture on 5th Avenue. Yin and others got a taste of a big crowd two weeks ago, when an estimated one million people descended on Oakland for the Warriors parade and rally at the south end of Lake Merritt.

Carlos Ortiz, who owns Oakland Collision Center, charged people $40 to park in his lot. “They filled it up,” Ortiz said.

So far, the proposal has received little pushback from Peralta Chancellor Jowel Laguerre or the college district’s faulty union. Laguerre held an initial meeting with the A’s but said it is the team’s decision to make.

“We’ll react to that,” he said. “Keeping the A’s in town is everybody’s business.”