San Jose, California

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San Jose, Santa Clara County, California

latitude: 37.2883, longitude: -121.8434
Browse map of San Jose 37°17′17.88″ N, 121°50′36.24″ W
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San Jose
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San Jose is a city in Santa Clara County, California at latitude 37°17′17.88″ North, longitude 121°50′36.24″ West.

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San Jose (officially San José) is the county seat and largest city of Santa Clara County, California, and the tenth largest city in the United States by population.


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As of May 2021, OpenStreetMap consistently spells the city name as "San Jose" as the name=* (primary name) and name:en=* (English name) but "San José" as the alt_name=* and official_name=*. The city name's spelling has been a source of local controversy within the OpenStreetMap project, due to disagreements about how to apply the "on the ground" rule. Either spelling can be perceived as a political statement because of a similar longstanding controversy in the real world. Neither spelling is uncommon locally, but "San Jose" is more common statewide and nationally.


Over the years, the name has alternated between "San Jose" and "San José" several times. The relation's name=* has changed four times and its name:en=* has changed twice. [1] The node's name=* has changed at least seven times but may have changed more times before the license changeover in 2012; its name:en=* has changed three times. [2] History before 2012 is murky because of redactions and because FOSM did not import full history. [3][4] Wikidata's San Jose entity has also been relabeled twice.

Justification for "San Jose"

  • Major English style guides omit diacritics from anglicized toponyms, including the Government Printing Office, National Geographic Society (both its magazine and its maps), and Associated Press.
  • Commercial map vendors such as Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Esri all use "San Jose" in English.
  • The Board on Geographic Names, which has jurisdiction over names used by federal government agencies, decided on "San Jose" in 1943. [5]
    • As a result, the United States Postal Service technically only accepts "San Jose" in addressed mail, though "San José" is very unlikely to be rejected. [6]
  • Most California state systems are unable to record accent marks, presumably due to 1986 California Proposition 63.
    • On freeways, Caltrans posts standard destination and city limit (G9-5) signs that say "San Jose". Most of the city limit signs are decades old.
  • On most surface streets, the city has posted city limit signs that say "San Jose". Most of these signs are decades old.
  • San Jose City College generally does not use the accent mark, but it is run by the San José–Evergreen Community College District which does use the accent mark, including at its downtown headquarters.

Justification for "San José"

  • The city council adopted "San José" as the city's name on April 3, 1979.
    • The city charter has been amended to state that the city's name is "San José".
    • "San José" is used by all city agencies and appears on the city flag and seal, as well as on signs for parks and city-owned buildings.
    • Every garbage can and recycling bin in the city says "Property of San José".
  • Local nonprofit organizations and government agencies independent of the city have also adopted the accent mark, including the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, San José State University, the San José Unified School District, the Institute of Contemporary Art San José, and some churches.
  • On some surface streets, the city has posted newer city limit signs that say "San José" above the Solar America City award logo.
  • On some freeways, Caltrans has posted signs that tangentially refer to the city as "San José".
  • BART's Silicon Valley extension currently terminates at "North San José" station with plans for a future "Downtown San José" station. These station names appear on BART system maps throughout the Bay Area. This spelling was requested by the City of San José and VTA.
  • A prominent "Sons of San José" war memorial stands next to the SAP Center downtown.
  • "San José" is historically accurate:
    • The city is named after the Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe.
    • Publishers in the 19th century and early 20th century commonly spelled the city's name as "San José", even in uppercase.
    • The city flag featured a prominent accent mark from 1969 to 1984.

See also this Wikimedia Commons gallery of accented names and this Overpass query of accented nodes (including signs).

Other alternatives

Despite its preference for the accent mark, the City of San José omits the accent mark when spelling "SAN JOSE" in uppercase letters or small caps, ostensibly in keeping with the historical Spanish convention, which the city was subject to in its early pueblo years. However, Spanish officially eliminated this convention in 1990, requiring accent marks even on uppercase letters, and the Library of Congress followed suit in 2006. The persistence of this convention in local English usage could be seen as a savvy compromise, but name=SAN JOSE would probably not last long in OpenStreetMap.

Examples of the ambiguous "SAN JOSE" include:

  • The city logo
  • The city's label on BART system maps
  • Signs for the McEnery Convention Center, Mineta International Airport, and San Jose City College

San Jose is a relatively multilingual city. Almost a quarter of residents speak Spanish [7], which uses the accent mark, making the accent mark mainstream, if not predominant. By comparison, about the same percentage of Belgians speak German as a first or second language, yet that country's name includes "Belgien". name=San Jose;San José has yet to appear in OpenStreetMap but might be seen as redundant compared to name=San José.

Notes and references

External links

  • South Bay OpenStreetMap, a project of Code for San José to maintain and develop OpenStreetMap in San José and Santa Clara Valley