Rename your streets after presidents and watch your city thrive

26 Sep

I have an idea. It’s a small idea, but I think it’s a terrific one. It’s an urban planning idea and I think Oakland should do it. You might have guessed what it is from the title. The idea is to name city streets after US presidents.

I can’t remember when I first had this idea, but it was before I moved to Oakland. I was probably living in Minneapolis or Chicago. This would work in both of those cities too, but I’m endorsing it for Oakland. I had the idea because a lot of cities have a problem. A dumb problem. They have numbered streets that intersect with numbered avenues. This is confusing. You can’t say to someone “I live at 14th and 27th” because those coordinates specify two different locations in the city. 2700 14th St and 2700 14th Ave are two different places. This is a problem, like when my old employer tried to send me my W2 form and it went to the wrong place because they didn’t know they had to specify St or Ave. This is so obvious that it amazes me the people who first laid out grids in our nation’s cities allowed it to happen. But there aren’t any simple and obvious solutions. In Chicago, the South Side has this numbering problem. On the North Side, both the north/south streets and the east/west streets have names. The names are random, and you have to know where every street is to get places. The best solution I’ve seen first-hand is Southwest Minneapolis, which has numbered streets and alphabetical avenues. That is, the north/south avenues have names, the first starting with A, until you get to Z and it repeats. But. If you did this over the whole city, you’d have to repeat several times and it would get confusing.

So here we are, with suboptimal street naming protocols everywhere. In East Oakland, the avenues start at Lake Merritt and are numbered 1-110ish. The streets start at the bay and are numbered 1-35ish until you get to the hills. This is a vast oversimplification for some parts of East Oakland. The grid is fucked up in all kinds of dumb ways. I could go on about it for days. But whatever. Here’s my suggestion that would make Oakland or any other city great.

Rename 1st Avenue to Washington Avenue. Then Adams Ave. Jefferson Ave. Etc. Up until Obama Ave for 44th. This would be so great. It would reduce confusion. It would get people to learn the presidents. History would come alive. You get the idea. Plus, every four years, people would get excited about a new street name. You could have a big unveiling ceremony. Maybe the President-elect would attend the dedication ceremony. There would be great press for Oakland.

There would be problems. But they would be stupid problems for stupid people. Would Oakland residents protest George W. Bush Ave? Probably. So what. Would real estate values on Reagan Ave drop? Would people clamor for an Obama Ave address? Interesting questions. It would be fun to see.

I’ve been talking about Oakland. This would also work on the South Side of Chicago and South Minneapolis east of Nicollet. There are probably countless other cities that would benefit from this scheme. I will also mention here that as per usual, I did no research into this. Maybe there’s a municipality out there that does this already. If so, good for them and sorry for stealing your idea.


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