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Movement afoot in Oakland to restore International Boulevard’s old name

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“We all still call it East 14th Street. Why not change it back?”

International Boulevard in Oakland
International Boulevard,Oakland.
Photo by Curtis Cronn

Back in the heady days of 1996, the city of Oakland rechristened East 14th Street International Boulevard. The city renamed the rue in an effort to rebrand the stretch of street reportedly dogged by high crime. The act was viewed by many as a Band-Aid/gentrification effort that didn’t so much save for a few street sign changes.

Today a grassroots effort is underway to switch the street’s name back to East 14th Street. True Oaktowners, it seems, rarely refer to East 14th Street as International Boulevard, anyway.

It all started after third-generation Oaklander Michael Budd fired up his social media and posted about how he wanted to change the street’s name from International Boulevard back to East 14th Street.

Oakland Magazine recently picked up on the story, interviewing Budd, who said, “Back then, it was everything. There was the Fruitvale Theater, Al’s Chop Suey, dance halls, and night clubs, even a feed store...[a]nd there was Montgomery Ward with its popcorn and beach balls. If you were 9 years old, it was magical.”

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Oakland Magazine goes on to say that maybe a change is needed since the street is about to “undergo major changes as bus-rapid-transit moves in” and “[h]undreds of million of dollars in infrastructure improvements will bring new sidewalks, lighting, and a dedicated bus line down the middle of the street, among other improvements.”

But the street had many names before its former East 14th Street moniker.

East 14th Street has had many name changes over the decades. Originally, it was a Native American north-south route, perfectly situated on a dry, flat surface just above the shoreline wetlands. Later, after the arrival of the Spanish in the late 1700s, the route linked the East Bay’s ranchos to Mission San Jose and points south, sort of an eastern version of El Camino Real. Along with Foothill Boulevard, East 14th was one of the primary north-south arteries in the East Bay.

While an actual restoration of the 14th Street name has yet to come to fruition—“I have not heard about the efforts to change the name again,” City Council President Larry Reid tells Oakland MagazineBudd says that, for now, people can email Reid and “let him know how you feel about restoring the name.”