ZIP code changes expected in ’08 Decision to affect Thousand Oaks, neighborhoods

Published on

Ventura County Star (California)
December 30, 2007

by Rachel McGrath, Correspondent

ZIP code changes expected in ’08 Decision to affect Thousand Oaks, neighborhoods

A decision is expected early in the new year on whether or not the
U.S. Postal Service will change the ZIP codes for Thousand Oaks,
including the city’s Newbury Park and Westlake Village neighborhoods,
effective July 1.

Because the Postal Service has complete discretion over the use
and maintenance of ZIP codes, there is no public consultation process,
postal officials said.

Postal Service officials in Washington, D.C., will make the decision.

In fact, the possibility of changing the ZIP codes wasn’t
something postal officials wanted local residents to know about until
it had been approved, a spokesman said.

"It wasn’t intended to be made public," said Richard Maher, the
Postal Service spokesman for the region. "To make a public announcement
before a decision is made is not what we want to do."

Although a change would require residents and businesses to
make some adjustments, postal officials are recommending it to make
things more efficient.

Currently, mail for Thousand Oaks is received and processed at a facility in Santa Clarita, about 43 miles away.

Postal officials there want the city’s mail to be processed at
the postal facility in Oxnard, which handles most of Ventura County’s

The move would cut down on driving time, get the mail to letter
carriers faster and have those carriers on the streets earlier,
according to Postal Service officials, who said the change would
require new ZIP codes to be
assigned for Thousand Oaks.

Maher said word of the proposal "leaked out" after postal
officials told Thousand Oaks city officials, who then informed the City

Jane Smith, director of governmental affairs at the Thousand
Oaks-Westlake Village Regional Chamber of Commerce, said that when she
saw a copy of the memo sent out by City Manager Scott Mitnick, she
contacted the Postal Service and requested a meeting with officials
from the Santa Clarita facility.

She met in August with Consumer Affairs Manager Stacia Crane to
express the concerns of local business owners about the implications of
a ZIP code change.

"Our main concern is notification," said Smith, who adds that
there are also cost implications for local businesses that face having
to reprint business stationery such as letterhead and let customers
know of changes in their addresses.
Grace period:

Smith said Crane explained that the process of sorting mail for
the area is under review and that when a final decision is reached,
businesses and residents will be notified.

There will be a grace period of one year during which mail
addressed with old ZIP codes will still be delivered to the correct

Amgen preparing for switch:

A spokesman for Congressman Elton Gallegly said the lawmaker had
been told about the proposal but only as a point of information.

"The Post Office is attempting to be more efficient and
cost-effective," said the spokesman, Tom Pfeiffer, who stressed that no
final decision has been made.

Pfeiffer said Gallegly has not received any requests from
constituents to intervene in the matter nor had any constituents
expressed concerns about the proposed change.

Although the Postal Service wants to keep emphasizing that the
ZIP code change is still under review, one of the area’s largest
employers, Amgen, confirms that it is already preparing for a switch.

"Our distribution center is aware of the change and is
developing a strategy to make the transition as seamless as possible
for our business," said Amgen spokeswoman Sarah Rockwell.

No accountability:

Unlike telecommunication companies, which have been on the
receiving end of protests over proposed area code changes and have to
answer to state regulators, there is no such public accountability for
the Postal Service when it comes to delivering the mail.

The Office of the Consumer Advocate in Washington, D.C.,
monitors the Postal Regulatory Commission to make sure any postal-rate
increases are fair to the public, according to its Web site, but the
office "has no authority over Postal Service operations, such as mail
delivery and mail service."

"End of story"

Smith, of the chamber of commerce, said she asked whether the
mail sorting could be moved to Oxnard without changing the ZIP codes.

Maher, the Postal Service spokesman, acknowledged that the
computer mail sorting system in Oxnard could be programmed to receive
mail addressed using current Thousand Oaks area ZIP codes, but he said
it wasn’t going to happen.

"We change the ZIP codes to process the mail. End of story," Maher said.

Consumer advocate Carmen Balber, from the Santa Monica-based
Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights, said this illustrates a
need for more openness in decision-making that affects the public.

"ZIP codes do matter to people, and decisions should be made in the public interest through an open process," she said.

Balber pointed out that things such as car insurance, home insurance and property prices are sometimes linked to ZIP codes.

Maher said those issues have nothing to do with the Postal Service.

"It’s not our fault if people don’t understand that ZIP codes are just for mail," said Maher.

Anyone wishing to contact the Postal Service about the proposed
changes can write to the U.S. Postal Service Consumer Affairs Office,
28201 Franklin Parkway, Santa Clarita, CA 91383.

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