Post Office Has Wrong Address, Neighbors Say
Nothing, not snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, has prompted quite the dilemma for this town’s post office as the folks in Gail Hano’s neighborhood.
What has Hano and other residents miffed is the U.S. Postal Service’s plan to build a new, $3-million branch smack in the middle of their neighborhood, a peaceful knot of narrow streets lined with single-family homes.
As residents see it, the proposed post office would send waves of traffic cascading into the area, spoiling the serene appeal that lured them to the community and posing a new danger for scores of children who use the streets to get to school each day.
“People are very angry,” said Hano, president of the local homeowners’ association. “The character of this area is so important, and a new post office will definitely change the way things are.”
The residents have closed ranks and launched a campaign to block construction of the post office in their neighborhood. More than 60 homeowners have signed a petition circulated throughout the area, and residents have contacted federal, state and local representatives for help.
Although the postal service has already purchased a 3.5-acre site at Gardena and Melba roads for the new branch, neighbors hope they can persuade federal officials to pick a different spot for the facility.
“It’s such a ridiculous site for a post office,” said Hano. “There’s nothing written in stone that it has to go in that spot.”
Moreover, Hano and the rest are upset because Postal Service officials never bothered to talk with neighborhood residents about the proposed branch. Most of the neighbors first learned that a post office was going to be built next to their homes when they read about it in a local newspaper.
“I just don’t like the thought of the federal government going about this thing behind our back,” said Nancy Jessop, a resident of the area for 30 years. “It seems like they owed us the courtesy of some sort of public hearing.”
While sympathetic to the residents’ concerns, post office officials are eager to see the new project move forward.
In recent years, the volume of mail being processed through the post office in Encinitas has skyrocketed as residential development in the area has boomed. As the post office has scrambled to keep up with growth, it has outgrown its main facility on Second Street and has been forced to open an annex on Encinitas Boulevard.
Now both postal centers are straining at the seams. Moreover, the current setup has proven a logistical headache for postal officials. Mail is sorted at the main facility, then about half of it is transported to letter carriers stationed at the annex.
“This will be the best thing that ever happened to us,” said Floyd Davis, officer in charge of the Encinitas Post Office. “With all the carriers in the same location, it will reduce confusion and increase efficiency. Also, morale will be better. We’re working in real crowded conditions right now.”
Davis added that he is confident that neither the proposed post office nor its more than 60 employees would have an adverse impact on the neighborhood. There will be four different access routes to the new facility and improvements are planned to widen Melba Road so it can more easily accommodate any increases in traffic. The site is currently occupied by a greenhouse.
“If there is any fear on their minds, I think we can allay that one way or another,” Davis said. “I don’t see that there’ll be any problems, but if there are they can be worked out.”
Homeowners adjacent to the proposed post office site aren’t so sure. While residents acknowledge the area desperately needs a new postal branch, they would like to see the facility built elsewhere.
“Imagine the situation with all those trucks and customers pouring into the area,” Jessop said. “It could become a nightmare. It would be dangerous and inconvenient.”
What especially worries residents is the added traffic that could pose a danger for the children who stream into the neighborhood’s streets--most of which lack sidewalks--from San Dieguito High School and other nearby schools.
“It’ll be smack in the middle of a residential neighborhood with little kids and narrow streets and homes,” Jessop said. “The site is absolutely embedded with houses. It makes no sense to build a post office there.”
Although postal officials say the streets can handle the increased traffic, Hano and other residents aren’t so sure.
About two weeks ago, Hano went to the Second Street postal facility and monitored the number of cars and trucks going and coming to the post office. During a 20-minute period, she counted 80 vehicles using the facility.
“It was incredible,” Hano said. “And imagine how bad it would get during peak hours.”
That sort of specter has many residents worried. Jan Uhlman, whose house is a few short blocks from the proposed site, said she is concerned about increased traffic posing a hazard for her two daughters, ages 6 and 9.
“It’s a very frustrating situation for us,” Uhlman said. “I don’t feel it’s an appropriate place at all. There’s got to be better sites and options.”
Jessop agreed. “There are plenty of other sites, larger and more central, that would be more appropriate,” she said. “My thought was it would be nice to have the new post office next to a new City Hall instead of just wedged in between our homes.”
Hano and other members of the homeowners association have already begun searching for other potential sites, noting that possible alternatives include a vacant shopping center and land near Encinitas Boulevard and Vulcan Avenue.
“There’s definitely a better place in Encinitas besides our neighborhood,” Hano said.
Leaders of the recently incorporated City of Encinitas feel the same way. Although the newly elected City Council does not take office until October, officials hope they can help by contacting federal lawmakers.
“I have never felt it was an appropriate site,” said Marjorie Gaines, mayor-elect of the new city. “That’s a totally residential area. They have enough problems with their school traffic and everything else in that area.”