‘It’s in the Mail’ Not Too Reassuring on Peninsula : Cities Take Postal Service to Task as Letters Arrive at Wrong Address, Late or Not at All

Times Staff Writer

An accumulation of problems has prompted three Palos Verdes Peninsula cities to take on a branch of the federal government: the U.S. Postal Service.

In Rolling Hills, the most common complaint stems from misdelivered mail. “We all get each other’s mail,” said City Councilwoman Ginny Leeuwenburgh.

In Palos Verdes Estates, some residents have gotten the city newsletter a week late, and in a couple of instances, mail was not delivered at all on streets where road work was being done, according to Mayor Ruth Gralow.

But perhaps the most aggravating situation is the one confronting about 2,200 households in the Eastview section of Rancho Palos Verdes, whose residents recently got letters from the Postal Service asking them to use San Pedro as a mailing address. Many people called City Hall, complaining about the expense of reprinting stationery and business cards, not to mention the rather severe blow to civic pride.


Postal Task Force Formed

The three cities have now formed a postal task force to jointly attack the problems. Made up of council members and staff members, the group plans to meet soon with area postal authorities and an aide to Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Long Beach) in an effort to cut bureaucratic red tape.

“The thrust of this task force is to be positive, not to be negative,” said Rancho Palos Verdes City Councilman John McTaggart. He said the group wants “to arrive at a situation that would give residents of the Peninsula added postal delivery services.”

But until last week, much of what has gone on has been less than friendly.


Rancho Palos Verdes City Council members and postal officials have sparred for two years over an acceptable location for a new post office to replace the outdated, 24-year-old facility at Peninsula Center, which handles all of the mail for the four Peninsula cities except for the Eastview area in Rancho Palos Verdes. (Rolling Hills Estates, the fourth city, is not a part of the task force.)

A site on the slope above Peninsula Center was rejected last year by the city, in part, McTaggart said, because of the major grading operation it would require. The latest prospective location--a former military building at Civic Center--is, instead, being acquired by the city for offices.

Gralow said that when she spoke with the Peninsula Center postmaster about the non-delivery of mail on streets being worked on, she was “not happy with the response.” She would not say what that response was.

McTaggart has labeled the Eastview situation “a reaction from the post office because of the real estate ruckus” over post office sites. Others in the city contend that by asking residents to use San Pedro addresses, the Postal Service violated an agreement with the city that that allowed Eastview people to use Rancho Palos Verdes as a mailing address after annexation in 1983.


But Rancho Palos Verdes Mayor Douglas Hinchliffe, after a meeting last week with regional postal chief William Good in Long Beach, said the situation already may be changing for the better.

San Pedro ZIP Code

He said the post office has agreed to deliver mail addressed to Rancho Palos Verdes, but using the San Pedro ZIP code of 90732. “They did not mean to imply or indicate that people living in that part of Rancho Palos Verdes were required to change their addresses,” he said.

The city also will work with the Postal Service to find space, probably in a Western Avenue commercial building, to sort and deliver Eastview mail now handled by stations in San Pedro and Lomita. There now are seven carrier routes operating out of San Pedro and one, which serves 60 homes, out of Lomita.


“This re-establishes some respect and mutual effort to do what we both are in business to do,” Hinchliffe said. “We don’t want to fight.”

Despite Hinchliffe’s statement, a Postal Service spokesman said that Eastview customers still run the risk of delays by continuing to use Rancho Palos Verdes with San Pedro or Lomita ZIP codes.

“We’ll handle the mail,” said Ed Spenser, “but the customer has to understand that they’re using a cross procedure and things can happen. We still prefer they use San Pedro and Lomita (mailing addresses), which would cause the least risk.”

Mismatches a Problem


Officials say the problem stems from writers who mismatch city names and their designated ZIP codes, or who omit ZIP codes entirely. This causes mail to be rerouted, delayed and, in some cases, returned to the sender.

Except for the Eastview area, all four Peninsula cities fall into one ZIP code--90274--and their mail is processed at the Peninsula Center post office. Eastview, which is on the city’s east side, has two codes: San Pedro 90732 and Lomita 90717.

As an example of the delivery dilemma, about 2,800 letters a day bound for Eastview with Rancho Palos Verdes addresses and ZIP code 90274 arrive erroneously at the Peninsula Center post office. Spenser said this requires costly special handling and trucking of mail.

City and postal officials alike blame the most serious mail delivery problems on the inadequacy of the Peninsula Center post office, which postal spokesman David Mazer described as “wall to wall” with carriers and clerks.


No Room for Growth

Mazer said there were 15 mail routes on the Peninsula when the facility was opened in 1962. Now, there are 61 and there is no room to add the 10 more needed to handle the volume of mail, which he said has “increased tremendously” in the last 10 years.

Postal officials said the agreement three years ago regarding Eastview was based on the assumption that there soon would be a facility big enough to handle all mail in the four cities. That has not materialized.

Mazer said that because of the volume of mail, the Postal Service last year--through press releases in local newspapers--began trying to get people in Eastview to use San Pedro and Lomita addresses. That was not effective--in fact, more residents began using the Rancho Palos Verdes city name--so letters were sent to residents.


The Postal Service last week announced plans to expand the Peninsula Center station in early 1988 by adding two floors, including rooftop parking for postal vehicles. However, Mazer said this will accommodate only present operations and provide surface-level customer parking.

“We will not be able to move (Eastview) routes in,” he said.

Based on his meeting with Good, however, Hinchliffe said the expansion may allow service for Eastview.

Meanwhile, postal authorities say they will continue to look for land for a new Peninsula post office acceptable to all concerned.


“That’s difficult,” he said.