What’s in a Name?

For as long as I can remember, the body politic in San Jose has often displayed disturbing public signs of penis envy of its once-larger neighbor to the north, San Francisco.

San Francisco is an old-world destination point, and San Jose will never have the same history, vistas or bridges. The restaurants in San Francisco are world class, the entertainment superior. From its sports and theaters to museums and zoo, San Francisco outclasses San Jose in virtually every cultural category.

Their politics are brass knuckle and their leaders often rise to higher office. Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom and Kamala Harris are all statewide elected officials whose roots are deeply imbedded in San Francisco.

People will note that San Jose has the Tech Museum, the Rosicrucian, Kelly Park, the CPA, the Rep and the Sharks. Oh, yeah, and our City Hall is taller.

Thus the reasons for jealousy run deep.

Yet San Jose has its own identity—it remains the capital of Silicon Valley. The fact that the epicenter of Silicon Valley is, in reality, between Santa Clara and Palo Alto, with the largesse of companies in Cupertino, Mountain View and Sunnyvale, is an irony for those cities which have long expressed their own envy toward their larger southern neighbor. But San Jose has claimed the moniker and regardless of the cultural attributes of Mountain View, the city will continue to be identified as the capital for innovation around the world.

In fact, Silicon Valley has eclipsed San Jose as an identifiable geographical marker. The Chamber of Commerce recognized this fact when it changed its name to the San Jose/Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce. Most recently, airline executives advised San Jose Airport officials to rename the airport “Silicon Valley”—as to make it a better destination point.

In short, while many know the way to Silicon Valley, except for Dionne Warwick, few really know the way to San Jose. Which brings us to a solution: rebranding.

San Jose must change its name to Silicon Valley. Most people in the world, outside of the Bay Area, think San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica. And while the Silicon Valley/San Jose Norman Y. Mineta International Airport was just too long a name for consideration, dropping San Jose would make it sound just fine.

As noted by the chamber name, the transition is really already underway. It would immediately solve our identity crisis and nobody would ever again confuse us with that town in Costa Rica, or refer to us as a suburb of San Francisco. It wouldn’t improve our restaurants immediately, but we could get some better flights into the airport.

Sure, there will be hand-wringing and public displays of disapproval from traditionalists who still pine over the long-gone era, when San Jose was an orchard. But who wouldn’t love to be “Mayor of Silicon Valley”?

Of course, doing nothing is always an option and things could be worse—we could be Oakland.

Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.


  1. Rich I’m sure you just offended about 1/2 the Catholics in San Jose. 

    San Jose was founded by Lieutenant José Joaquín Moraga as Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe (in honor of Saint Joseph) on November 29, 1777

    Well, my sons Baptism name is Joseph… o_o

    Dan, Dan Pulcrano are you listening?  Why do you have these nutjobs write for you?  If it’s because “they’re free” I totally understand, but I’d be more than happy to contribute some “free” articles, and I’d do a better job of hiding the “Crazy” than Rich does.

  2. Calling it silicon valley or silicon boobs for that matter isn’t going to make this town any more recognizable.  Granted we don’t have the bridge or the vistas as seen north of us.

    So why hasn’t the city/community done something to enhance and showcase what we do have: our history.

    About a year ago our Congresswoman Zoe was quoted on a TV news program saying that great cities need landmarks.  This was day after she had taken a tour up into the tower of our historic landmark town clock.

    What?  We have such a thing?  Yes,but it was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and restoration was never ocmpleted. It has pretty much been forgotten and probably less than 2% of our population even know we have a town clock.

    Here’s the kicker.  Our town clock is a masterpiece of high technology (circa 1908) and is unparalled in the country, no other city has what we have, yet this original mechanism, the crown jewels of our city, so to speak, have largely been ignored.

    A small group of determined citizens is working to fix this and put downtown San Jose on the map.  If you are interested – go here – http://www.sjclocktower.org

  3. I can only imagine that these thoughts came from someone who came up with this silly idea while wearing a “Silly-Cone”-shaped tinfoil hat!

  4. Rebranding? Why can’t you people quit worrying about San Jose’s image and just appreciate it for what it is? Yes we’re different from San Francisco. What’s wrong with being different? Isn’t diversity supposed to be a good thing? Why must all communities be turned into bustling, jostling, mass transit riding, commerce worshiping, highrise occupying beehives of 24 hour activity?
    Why is it that those who claim to love San Jose are always the ones who are most anxious to change it?

    • JG,
      I love SJ not because of the suburban sprawl, strip malls, malls and corporate chains. I like the little gems I can find downtown where people still get together and socialize.

      Places like the O’Flaherty’s, Peggy Sue, Peanuts, La Vics, St. Claire, Hedley club, Hi-Life and Original Joe’s. 

      Places where you can take out of town folks to show a little uniqueness of SJ. E.g. the Tank, Sharks Ice, SJ Muni Baseball, the Tech, the Rep, California Theatre, Children’s Discovery, Alum Rock Park and the few trails we have. 

      While I enjoy the safety of the city and grew up in the Suburbs of SJ it’s time we started modernizing and urbanizing. Not because we need to copy the image of SF or other world class cities, but to create more things that people can enjoy. Not to mention the need to reduce sprawl!

  5. Rich has a point that the Capital of Silicon Valley is not San Jose and we need a better marketing slogan and Innovation Capital is not it

    Naming airports or other public buildings after living politicians is dumb as we have seen with many dumb city decisions, spending millions taxes`that gets San Jose few jobs or little additional taxes while neglecting infrastructure and basic services while residents and businesses pay very high taxes and city service fees

    We should keep city name San Jose, rename airport Silicon Valley / San Jose airport and come up with slogan that actually reflects what San Jose is.

    Not what we are not or what politicians dream San Jose might be – false advertising

  6. Another really weird article by this guy. “San Jose must change its name to Silicon Valley”? Um, excuse me, heh, but no one’s going to be changing the name of San Jose to Silicon Valley.

    And I still can’t cotton up to that name, Silicon Valley.  So durn cold soundin’.  Santa Clara Valley is a handsome, storied name with lots and lots of proud history.  Reckon that makes me a “traditionalist.”

    Isn’t this the same tool who called folks against that high speed rail boondoggle thingy CAVE People (Citizens Against Virtually Everything)? He must be one of them there Johnny Come Lately creatures, what with all that plumbing envy he’s strugglin’ with.

    • >Isn’t this the same tool who called folks against that high speed rail boondoggle thingy CAVE People

      He’s also the same tool that thinks 12 pages of loosely written regulation was enough for San Jose pot clubs.  Less regulation than a pharmacy, less regulation than a bar.

  7. Why not just change the name of the airport and leave the city name alone?  What we need is more people flying into that new monstrosity so we can pay for it.  We don’t need a new city name, San Jose is just fine.  For better or worse, people do remember the old Dionne Warwick song about San Jose.  In fact, when I lived in Asia this was the most common response to my hometown.  The Sharks have done a lot to add San Jose to the lips of many and although another pro sports team would be nice, Chuckles has manged to destroy the rest of the city government in his quest to obtain the A’s.

  8. The last column by Mr. Robinson included the disclaimer: He is currently under contract with the High-Speed Rail Authority.

    Did our tax dollars pay for this column too?  If so, I want a refund.

  9. It’s San Jose’s own fault that it’s in the shadow of San Francisco!  San Jose keeps allowing suburban sprawl in its growth pattern and allowing its downtown to die.  San Jose could have been a world class city with a world class downtown and be a destination point in its own right.  Right now, San Francisco is the Capital of Silicon Valley with most of the actions of high tech growth taking place from N. San Jose to the heart of Downtown SF.  When you look at U.S.A. Today, NY Times and Wall Street, They dateline San Francisco, not San Jose.  The reason SF cultural activities are supperior to San Jose is because of the region’s own fault.  They tend to donate most and lots of money to SF cultural institutions, not SJ.  The Google and Facebook guys look to Palo Alto or SF to give charity.  San Jose is an embarrassment because its downtown is sleepy and devoid of things to do like: shopping, world class dining and entertainment.  San Francisco, the little sister, has all those in its urban core.  San Jose is a small and sprawing suburban city like it was in the 60’s and 70’s.  Nothing has changed since those days, except for the population figure.  Face it, it’s just a number!  San Jose will never be a major league city with respect and have its identity as “The Capital of Silicon Valley”.

    • Totaly agree . Things are made even worse by this Joke of a a Mayor/Council Things are about to get alot worse because of the Millions of dollars that this City will be wasting on an Illegal Ballot measure and Millions More on court costs associated with the raping of city employees

  10. Please quit wasting people’s time by writing about the useless San Jose Airport.  More flights will not turn that albatross into anything other than a turkey.

    Now, imagine how the 3,000 acres wasted by the airport could be used to improve San Jose.  That is an article worth reading.

    The 3,000 acres refers to the 1000 acres used by the airport, and the land surrounding the airport that is in the safety zone, and cannot be effectively utilized.

  11. Changing the name from San Jose to Silicon Valley is not going to happen. Adding Silicon Valley to things next to San Jose makes sense.

    Silicon Valley is a temporary name. It’s already outdated except for the few chip-makers/designers still in the Bay (Intel, Cadence).

    It could apply to Solar Cell / Design companies, but Solar/Green Valley would probably be more appropriate.

    No one is going to remember the name Silicon Valley in 50 years (maybe even 25) except those of us who live here.

  12. Better idea. Break up San Jose into several smaller Campbell- to Mountain View-size cities, and rename Santa Clara County to Silicon Valley County. “Re branding” done.

  13. Rich,

    Name change? Nah. Rich what you need is an attitude change.
    It’s a silly argument. The whole SJ VS SF issue was resolved long ago: people who like SF live there, and those who prefer SJ live here. Most San Joseans could have chosen to live in SF, but we instead made the decision to live here. And, by and large, we like it here or we’d all move there.

    The two cities are different in a number of positive ways. While SF has those cultural facilities and restaurants Rich writes about San Jose has the larger population base and is more directly linked to the Bay Area’s #1 economic engine Silicon Valley. Toss in the better weather, the more casual ambiance and the highly educated population and San Jose compares quite favorably, IMHO.

    When Rich talks about how we’re outclassed in sports I guess he’s never heard of the Sharks, is unfamiliar about the A’s plans for a downtown ballpark, and will probably be shocked to know the 49ers are building their stadium in San Jose’s back yard. Like San Joseans, the 49ers could have stayed in SF, but they like their prospects better to the south. Don’t believe me? Ask (SF Mayor) Ed Lee.

    I will confess to having lived in SF for a few years but never did care for it much. It’s a crowded, noisy, dirty city and not very friendly. Buying groceries meant always waiting in long lines. Neighbors don’t know each other, and to get anywhere you wait for a Muni bus that’s never on time, but you wait anyway because driving and parking in SF is both frustrating and expensive. (Ever try to make a left turn in SF?) SF politics make San Jose seem like Utopia and I’d much rather deal with a San Jose cop than those arrogant thugs in the SFPD.

    For a guy who makes his living supposedly understanding this community, you seem to be a few fries short of a Happy Meal in your appreciation of what we have in San Jose.

    Rich, you need to stop reading the Chronicle and get out more!

    • > I will confess to having lived in SF for a few years but never did care for it much. It’s a crowded, noisy, dirty city and not very friendly. Buying groceries meant always waiting in long lines. Neighbors don’t know each other, and to get anywhere you wait for a Muni bus that’s never on time, but you wait anyway because driving and parking in SF is both frustrating and expensive. (Ever try to make a left turn in SF?) SF politics make San Jose seem like Utopia and I’d much rather deal with a San Jose cop than those arrogant thugs in the SFPD.

      You’re too kind.

      San Francisco is little more than a tacky nostalgia theme park with stupid, antiquated, unreliable, and insanely dangerous cable cars.  If proof be needed of how corrupt, biased, and worthless OSHA regulations are, it’s the fact that the cable cars haven’t been banned, and their operators thrown into prison.

      Not too long ago, a very successful in-law was shopping in San Francisco for a luxury condo to be his retirement Shangri-La.  After a couple days in an opulent hotel suite in the upper floors of an elite downtown San Francsco hotel, the raw sewage smell at 500 feet above the hoi polloi was the only enduring impression his senses could focus on.

      The brilliant and politically correct edict on all San Franciscans to rely on water-saving low-flow toilets has clogged the city’s sanitary sewage system, and created a permanent stench.  But the Sierra Clubbers who rule the part of the planet where San Franciso resides stubbornly embrace the stench and tout it as the characteristic aroma of a planet in the process of being saved.

      It’s NOT going to change.  Got it?

    • Here are a vouple of more differences between San Francisco and San Jose:

      In addition to being a City San Francisco is also its own county… big deal except that they have both a police department AND a Sheriff’s Dept…

      Not really a big deal except that the City/County is only 42 square miles and has a population of under 900,000. 

      Not a big deal except that SF is policed by 1900 SFPD officers and about 850 Sheriff deputies.

      Contrast that to San Jose:  SJ has about 180 square miles, a resident/nighttime poplulation of about 960,000 and is policed 24/7 currently by about 1030 SJPD officers. the few remaining unincorporated areas inside the City Limits is policed by 40-50 sheriff’s deputies.

  14. Change our name and all our problems will be solved.

    That’s why businesses aren’t coming here, and are leaving… its our NAME!

    That is why airlines don’t have flights to SJC… its our NAME!

    It sure isn’t the regulation, taxes, political environment, instability, traffic, roads, safety, infrastructure, talent, sprawl, pollution, housing costs, or any of those other pesky issues… its our NAME!

    Give us 5 examples of cities that changed their name and created a revitalization of their economy…

    The place makes the name, NOT the other way around.

  15. The whole “capitol of silicon valley” pissed me off from the get-go as a self-serving marketing gimick by politicians who do little other than consume public goods and take credit for the actions or accomplishments of others.

    Putting that aside, SJ is a barely marginal place to run a business as a start-up or post-start-up pre-ipo company.  Let’s not lie and pretent we are something we are not.  SJ is a nice place to live and raise a family but not really a good place to start and grow a business. 

    There’s just way too many important people that want to “assist” business in the early stages with the caveat that the have to do this or that with the self-serving motive of generating positive PR for the politician pandering to them.

    SJ is and remains a small town that wears its trappings of “big city” like a pretencious high school drop-out.  There’s a lot of positives (climate, topography, location) going for our community, but I feel like our poltical leadership has been weighing us down like an anchor and dragging us into the realm of tacking pretenders.  I don’t want to live in SF for a reason, we’re better than that, so let’s focus on the postives of what we have and not what we are not.

  16. San Francisco is just one tiny crammed city with too much traffic, mean people, and bad weather (everday FOG!). If you like it, then live there, I don’t care. San Jose will still be better in my head…it’s more calm.

  17. San Francisco is such a family-unfriendly city, why would we ever want to mimic it?  We have better weather, homes with yards, safe cul-de-sacs to toss a football or set up a basketball hoop, (too few) parks for the kids to play in, as wide a variety of good restaurants as the City has, shopping with free parking, (used to be) decent public schools in most neighborhoods, (used to be) a good number of blue-collar and white-collar jobs, and (used to be) safe neighborhoods in most parts of our city patrolled by an undersized but efficient and professional police force. 

    The City is a place to visit, San Jose is a place to live.  Our City Council and soon-to-be-expired RDA are like cats attracted to glitzy Christmas tree tinsel while the family forgets to water the tree.  Jobs, schools, safety, streets, and modest services:  that’s what 90+ percent of us want, right?

    I would rather spend an evening at Christmas in the Park over a trip to Union Square anytime.  That’s San Jose!

  18. “Of course, doing nothing is always an option and things could be worse—we could be Oakland.”  Wow!  You sound just like all of those thieves who want to steal our A’s away.  Have you ever even been to Oakland?  If not you may want to try taking a stroll around Jack London or the Uptown area and eat at one of the many exceptional restaurants.  Or you may want to check out the beautiful bay views from the Montclair hills.  It’s centrally located.  Spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon there and your statement would be laughable.  San Jose?  It’s like a big Pleasanton.  There’s nothing wrong with Pleasanton.  It’s a nice place to raise a family.  As far as excitement, scenery, culture, and things-to-do, you must be joking.  Stop swallowing the media kool-aid about how “dangerous” Oakland is.  Like any big city it has pockets of crime, i.e. areas you want to avoid.  Don’t let your inferiority complex cause you to bash your neighbor to the northeast, because your true colors and insecurity are transparent.  Moreover, don’t be angry at Oakland for being in a perfect location on the water while your city is stuck in suburbia forever.  Hence why there is a small group of rabid supporters trying to snatch our teams away.  They will do anything to get SJ on the map.  I say embrace your reputation as a (relatively) safe suburb and the capital of technology.  I predict that the complex is so deeply ingrained that it won’t stop unless SJ and the surrounding areas house all major league teams.  Here’s a piece of info for you… It’s not going to become a success because of the location.  For those of you NOT from SJ, who in their right mind would drive down 880, 101, or 280 to attend a game there except for the very hardcore fan?  The roundtrip commute would last longer than the game.  Get over it already and embrace what you are known for.  An EMT may envy a Firefighter but he/she is proud of who they are and embraces it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *