Bay Area Airports Battle Over What Gets to Be Called ‘San Francisco’

Oakland’s move to change its airport name to include the San Francisco Bay has irritated its bigger-city neighbors.

Photo credit: Supercarwaar/Wikimedia Commons

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This is the stuff of friendly rivalries — except for the “friendly” part.

Late last week, the Oakland Board of Port Commissioners voted to change the name of Oakland International Airport to San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport, with a final vote expected next month. From Oakland’s perspective, it’s a move to let more travelers know that Oakland — and its airport — are in the Bay Area, while also hopefully spurring more nonstop airline routes. From San Francisco’s point of view, it’s time to sue.


Bay Area residents on both sides of the bay (the San Francisco Bay, officially) are a little sensitive these days. While Oakland has a vibrant multicultural history, it’s always been regarded as the proverbial little brother to San Francisco. That identity has only been reinforced with the likelihood that the city will lose its third and remaining pro sports franchise in five years, with the Athletics likely following the Raiders and Warriors for other locales. The Warriors left for a shiny new arena in… San Francisco.

San Francisco’s angst is different: Whether you agree with its recent portrayal as an urban hellscape rife with homelessness and shoplifting, there is the reality that the San Francisco metro area has lost 54,000 jobs since 2020, the largest drop of any major US city, and vacant office buildings in downtown San Francisco continue to be a problem. But the name itself is apparently worth defending:

  • San Francisco officials say the name change infringes on the trademark of San Francisco International Airport, with city attorney David Chiu saying his office plans to pursue litigation to stop the move.
  • Meanwhile, Oakland Port attorney Mary Richardson told The Wall Street Journal that there are no exclusive rights to a geographic term like “San Francisco Bay.”

As the Crow Flies: As a completely neutral 20-year Bay Area resident, I’ll point out that the region has, like anywhere else, a patchwork symbiosis, one that involves an Oakland airport that sits on San Francisco Bay, much closer to many parts of San Francisco than the “San Francisco” airport that’s in an unincorporated part of adjacent San Mateo County. Ultimately, any boost in tourists or business travelers to the entire region can only be a plus. If it rejuvenates the region’s fortunes, call it whatever you want.