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Port of Oakland gives preliminary OK for city's airport name change

Aerial view of Oakland International Airport
Bill Abbott
Flickr / Creative Commons
Aerial view of Oakland International Airport

By unanimous vote, the Board of Commissioners for the Port of Oakland approved the official new name, while keeping the airport's identifier as "OAK," and scheduled a final hearing for May 9.

The proposal -- first made public on March 29 -- so infuriated San Francisco officials that City Attorney David Chiu sent a demand letter to the commission threatening legal action if Oakland adopted the proposal.

Chiu's letter said that changing the name of Oakland International Airport would cause massive confusion for travelers, especially international travelers who might not be familiar with local geography and find themselves in the wrong place. Moreover, San Francisco holds federally registered trademarks on its airport -- San Francisco International Airport -- and its airport identifier -SFO.

Chiu said that a lawsuit would include claims for infringement on, and dilution of, the federally registered marks.

Some 25 speakers spoke at the commission meeting, roughly equally divided between enthusiastic support for the proposal and sharp opposition.

The pro-speakers empathized the positive business and economic development aspects of the proposal. Those against focused on the potential for confusion and a worry that Oakland's identity was being diminished.

Sunni M. Khalid is a veteran of more than 40 years in journalism, having worked in print, radio, television, and web journalism.