Things are going very well this week with the A’s plans to build a new stadium and remain in Oakland after years of uncertainty about the franchise’s future.
No, really, this time it’s actually happening, with legislation making its way through both houses of the California state legislature. Okay, happening so far, because nobody is truly going to believe that the A’s are getting a new ballpark until one opens, but the worst thing that anyone seems to be able to say about this plan is that “it will exacerbate gentrification,” which, yeah, that’s something you can say about any large-scale development project, but feels like a stretch here.
It’s not just that the A’s are trumpeting their plan as “including affordable housing.” The author of Assembly Bill 1191, Rob Bonta, also was the author of AB 2031 three years ago, which became law allowing California cities to issue bonds for construction of affordable housing.
Plus, once the A’s do move, there will be a big patch of waterfront land on the east side of Oakland that’s home to a vacant stadium and vacant arena, since the Raiders are headed (eventually) to Las Vegas and the Warriors are headed (this fall) across the bay to San Francisco. The mayor of Oakland, Libby Schaaf, is pushing for affordable housing at that site.
There is just one problem with both the Coliseum’s location and the Howard Terminal site where the A’s plan to build their new home as part of that mixed-use development with wonderful affordable housing. The waterfront location that makes the real estate so spectacular is inherently dangerous given the world’s current climatological path. Two years ago, Dealbreaker sounded the alarm for the Coliseum in the wake of the news of the Raiders’ plan to move. Well, the six-foot sea level rise that would put the soon-defunct stadium underwater would have the same effect on the land where the A’s want to build a ballpark.
Six feet may seem like a ludicrous amount of sea level rise, but it’s what the fall 2017 Oakland Preliminary Sea Level Rise Road Map used as the upper end of its mean higher high water level projections.
Sea level is only part of the problem for Oakland, though, because there’s also the King Tide, which can be exacerbated by the fact that it takes place during the Bay Area’s rainy season. And, as Brian Beveridge of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project noted two years ago, “People within walking distance of the West Oakland BART station have an average income of $35,000. In Jack London Square, the average income is $147,000. When both flood, who’s going to get the money to rebuild?”
Howard Terminal, adjacent to Jack London Square, is a 20-minute walk from the West Oakland BART station. We know from the experience of Modern Woodmen Park in Davenport, Iowa, that not only will any ballpark be kept safe from floods, but there is business to be had in ensuring the safety of professional baseballers’ playspaces. But what about that affordable housing? What happens when that gets tied to a stadium project on an increasingly vulnerable waterfront? Being underwater on a real estate investment is a problem. The real estate being underwater would be an even bigger one.