When it comes to mail, Gearhart doesn’t get any respect.
Sharing the 97138 ZIP code with Seaside, mail is misrouted, packages are undelivered or delayed. The lack of an individual ZIP could even make a difference when buying a home or receiving prescriptions.
Last week, the city took the first step toward a federal government request for a new ZIP code with a proclamation endorsing the process.
Some of the more economical insurance companies use a ZIP code as part of their underwriting process, City Councilor Brent Warren wrote in a report to the City Council. Some homeowners have been denied homeowners’ insurance or may have paid higher premiums because the distance to Seaside was mistakenly considered too far from their residence.
“Over half of Gearhart gets its mail directly delivered to residences,” Warren said. “There is no reason to expect this would change as a result of changing our ZIP code. Having an independent ZIP code from the city of Seaside should not preclude the USPS (U.S. Postal Service) from continuing to deliver our mail as the city of Gearhart host post office.”
The population of Gearhart, at 1,800, far exceeds smaller communities with their own ZIP codes, including Arch Cape, Hammond, Manzanita and Tolovana.
“Getting our own ZIP code will not solve every issue such as having an insufficient number of P.O. boxes,” Warren said. “But in my opinion, it is an incremental improvement for all of our residents.”
City Councilor Dan Jesse said he was concerned that the change would prove costly to business owners with address and printing changes.
Those already getting home delivery could face delays or even elimination of the service. “It’s more about the bean counters that are already trying to cut the services in spots that will be terminated and save a fair amount of money by not delivering to Gearhart anymore,” Jesse said. “When you say there’s wide support for this, my guess is you’re not seeing wide support for it in places that are getting mail delivery.”
Since the 1960s, Gearhart mail has been routed through the Seaside Post Office to the Gearhart Post Office.
The Gearhart Post Office became a contract satellite office of Seaside Post Office in 1961. The change was made as a cost-saving measure, however, the Postal Service agreed that Gearhart would continue to receive mail addressed to “Gearhart, Oregon.”
“As far as I am able to determine, Gearhart has never made a formal request and has never solicited assistance from its congressional delegation to achieve this goal,” Warren said.
City Attorney Peter Watts said during the ZIP code request process the post office will look at the overall impact on local customers, conducting surveys to see if the majority of residents favor the new ZIP.
One of the things that they’d be looking for is community support, Watts said.
Should the potential negatives outweigh the benefits, there are multiple off-ramps the City Council could take in order to step back from the process. “As I understand it, if the service is diminished as a result of this, it wouldn’t happen,” he said.
City councilors approved the resolution in a 4-1 vote. Jesse voted against it.
“It will be long, deliberative, and we probably will have to do a Survey Monkey and get community input and demonstrate broad support,” Warren said. “But, so far, it looks like we have broad support, so we have to start the process somewhere and this is the way to start it.”