.Silicon Alleys: Name Dropper

San Jose joins international cities that have named a locale after Barack Obama

WHAT’S IN A NAME: Soon enough San Joseans will be able to get a catfish sandwich at the Poor House on Barack Obama Boulevard. Photo by Gary Singh

Last week, the San Jose City Council unanimously approved a resolution to rename portions of Bird Avenue, Montgomery and Autumn streets after President Barack Obama. If everything goes according to plan, catfish sandwiches will be served up at the Poor House Bistro on Barack Obama Boulevard.

I am not opposed to this at all. It’s much bigger than Woz Way, because with this valiant effort, San Jose joins international locales that have already named places after our 44th president.

In Ireland, on the Dublin to Limerick Motorway, one can visit Barack Obama Plaza, which includes a conference facility, a visitors center and a hotel. At Bun Cha Huong Lien Restaurant in Hanoi, the table where Obama had a beer with Anthony Bourdain is now enshrined in a glass case. In Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, one can visit a place called Obama Bar and Grill.

But renaming a major street in San Jose, or pieces of connected streets in this case, requires a complicated mess of logistics, which is why it doesn’t happen very often.

Everyone who lives on, or runs a business on, the street needs to change their address. New signs are fabricated. Santa Clara County Communications, the United States Post Office, the San Jose Police Department, the San Jose Fire Department and the Building Addressing Section must all approve the idea. Emergency location services and GIS systems then need to be updated.

The transition has to be smooth, at least in theory, so it’s best to choose a street that doesn’t contain lots of inhabited houses or functional businesses.

In this case, we’re talking about Bird Avenue heading north from 280, which then becomes Montgomery Street, which in turn becomes South Autumn Street and then North Autumn Street, all straight up to St. John behind the arena. By the city’s analysis, this stretch of road contains 33 impacted parcels, 18 of which are currently occupied.

Many of the remaining parcels are already dead, making the transition to Googletown. Yet Google had nothing to do with renaming the street. It was the people of San Jose that came up with the idea.

The Barack Obama Boulevard Committee, including Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose), Bill Melson, Hellen Sims, Joe Bass, Alex Shoor and several others spent many hours over the course of a few years moving the whole project forward to harness community support to honor the legacy of Obama’s accomplishments. In choosing a street, the committee wanted a thoroughfare worthy of a president and one that was in the heart of the city, somewhere.

The entire stretch of road is less than a mile, so it doesn’t take that long to walk. Right now, starting at the SAP Center, one can walk past empty, desolate parking lots, the light rail tracks, Poor House Bistro, ramshackle corrugated buildings, security truck storage, oxygen tanks, the San Jose Taiko temporary headquarters and a car wash. I’d suggest getting a look-see before some of this stuff is destroyed.

At presstime, the city had not yet determined a precise timeline for when the new signs will emerge or how the addresses would change over, but if everything goes according to current speculations—my speculations, that is—one could imagine Poor House Bistro, presently at 91 S. Autumn St., changing to 91 S. Barack Obama Blvd.

Across the street, Ed’s Scientific Auto Body might later boast an address of 80 S. Barack Obama. If one wants to bail from a Tony Robbins motivational seminar at the arena and then head to Henry’s Hi-Life for a steak, they’d have to cross Obama first.

Farther south, those who want to locate the Habesha Mini Mart for some green cardamom pods or a bag of dried injera chips, will search on smartphones that will pull up 394 Barack Obama instead of 394 Bird Ave.

As commuters clog up 280, they will no longer see a Bird Ave exit; it’ll be Barack Obama Boulevard. Rather than telling someone to meet up at the corner of Bird and Auzerais, everyone will have to say, “Meet me at Auzerais and Obama.” Or they could meet at San Carlos and Obama, or Park and Obama. Hell, I’m excited to say these things already. Most of all, I can’t wait for that catfish sandwich.

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