Is a package destined for Seaside or Gearhart? Postal workers and delivery drivers can’t always be sure. Both cities share the 97138 ZIP code, and each has addresses of numbered and lettered streets.
Gearhart Mayor Paulina Cockrum and city councilors want the U.S. Postal Service to assign Gearhart a unique ZIP code, and came prepared to issue a resolution to that effect at last week’s City Council meeting.
But doing so, City Councilor Dan Jesse pointed out, may lead to unintended consequences.
Jesse said while a new ZIP code might benefit residents in the city’s core, many residents, especially those living east of the Neacoxie River and east of U.S. Highway 101, have grown to depend on the Seaside Post Office.
“I don’t get anything from the Gearhart Post Office,” Jesse said. “I have no reason to ever go there because it doesn’t serve me at all.”
City Councilor Reita Fackerell said she understands the need for a new ZIP code and supports the resolution. “But if we did get a new ZIP code in Gearhart,” she said, “we’re not sure who will deliver to the people who do have actual mailboxes.”
Since the 1960s, Gearhart mail has been routed through the Seaside Post Office to the Gearhart Post Office. Because they share the same ZIP code, mail addressed to Fourth Street in Gearhart may end up at Fourth Avenue in Seaside, and vice versa, Gearhart Post Office manager Karynn Kozij said.
Misdirected mail requires costly research, redirection and delays. Many online sites utilize the Postal Service’s national ZIP code database and do not allow overriding the default city name based on the ZIP code.
A unique ZIP code would make it easier for the post office to distribute and deliver packages and easier for the customer to locate the package, Kozij said.
Eric Anderson, a Third Street resident, said he often uses his home address for sending and receiving items.
“Due to our shared ZIP code with Seaside, my deliveries are often compromised,” he said in a letter to the City Council. “I have had items shown as delivered but never received. My counterparts at Seaside’s Third Avenue are often the first and/or only stop for such items.”
FedEx driver Chris Thode, a former postal service employee in Seaside, said in correspondence there are times when numbers can get mixed up because of the confusion between addresses.
“Most of the drivers that I know can differentiate and know where to deliver, but there are times that the address is not right or the driver is new on the job,” Thode said. “It’s just common sense.”
In October, with approval from the City Council, city staff prepared a resolution on a formal request for the new ZIP code.
But confusion over numbered and lettered streets doesn’t impact the majority of the city’s postal customers, Jesse said. Because one group believes a new ZIP code is needed doesn’t mean the majority of residents agree.
“We have a great divide between the core community and what I believe at this point is the largest voting majority of Gearhart residents, which are not associated with the core groups whatsoever,” Jesse said. “I’m up and down the highway multiple times a day. That’s the Gearhart I know.
“There are people here that actually refer to people like myself as ‘those people,’ like we’re the plague, the ‘scourge’ of Gearhart, because we’re not part of the downtown core — we’re on the other side. I’m sorry, I get my dander rattled by things like this because the representation is not here for what I do believe is the largest majority of people in the city of Gearhart.”
Jesse asked for a delay on a council vote until more information was collected. “We need to figure out how this is going to work,” he said. “If we don’t know the answer to that, we should not be voting on this tonight.”
Cockrum suggested the city conduct more due diligence and make contact with the Postal Service, “maybe up the chain a little bit.”
“Maybe we can make a call and talk to somebody and find out what some possible solutions might be before we move forward,” she said.
There is one other possible concern, Kozij added. “This case is actually beyond Gearhart needing a unique ZIP code,” she said. “It’s that some Seaside customers would want Gearhart to not share theirs.”