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Mail delivery suspended at L.A. public housing complex with over 1,800 residents

Daisy Vega is president of the resident advisory council at the Mar Vista Gardens public housing complex.
Daisy Vega, president of the resident advisory council at the Mar Vista Gardens public housing complex, said having to pick up mail off site is especially difficult for elderly residents.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Mail delivery has been suspended at Mar Vista Gardens, a public housing complex with more than 1,800 tenants in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Del Rey, forcing residents to pick up mail and packages at a Culver City facility over a mile away.

Culver City Post Office Postmaster Roderick Strong told officials at the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles this week that mail delivery was immediately being put on hold because of safety issues at the 43-acre housing complex.

Strong had previously cited safety issues as a reason to set up centralized banks of mailboxes at Mar Vista Gardens instead of delivering mail to each door, an idea that troubled residents of the complex. Tenant leaders had raised concerns about voting in the upcoming elections and questioned why the same changes were not happening in wealthier areas.

John M. Barger is brother to Supervisor Kathryn Barger and a Republican donor. As a Postal Service governor, his life is suddenly filled with complaints and picketers.

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In a Wednesday email to city staffers, Strong said that after two incidents reported by postal employees this week — one involving a threatening tenant, another an “uncontrollable dog” — he was suspending mail delivery to Mar Vista Gardens until the new centralized banks of mailboxes are set up at the housing complex.

The decision was “due to these unsafe actions that cause my employees to be in a very harmful unsafe situation while trying to do their jobs,” Strong wrote.

A U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman said she did not have any information about how quickly the new banks of mailboxes would be installed.

“Until such time safe mail delivery can be made in the Mar Vista Gardens complex,” spokeswoman Evelina Ramirez said in an email, residents can pick up mail and packages at a Culver City post office on Jefferson Boulevard. “We will continue to work with the complex management and the Housing Authority to affect a safe solution.”

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The Jefferson Boulevard site is more than a mile away. Daisy Vega, president of the resident advisory council at Mar Vista Gardens, said that picking up mail there would be especially difficult for elderly residents living alone, tenants who do not have cars, and residents who work nights and sleep during the day.

“People have been told to stay home so they don’t get sick” during the COVID-19 pandemic, Vega said in Spanish. Now, she said, they have to leave their apartments to get mail about immigration appointments, court cases and other crucial issues. “This is marked discrimination ... a political attack on the Latino and African American community.”

The decision comes amid widespread concerns about disruptions and slowdowns in mail service under President Trump, who has talked openly about trying to limit voting by mail.

Housing authority spokesman Eric Brown said that, although Strong has repeatedly spoken of threats to mail carriers at the Del Rey complex, “we still have not received a valid report on his accusations.”

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The housing authority had already objected to the USPS setting up banks of mailboxes at the facility, where a quarter of tenants are elderly or disabled, instead of delivering mail to their doors. Suspending mail delivery and redirecting residents to the Culver City post office is “an extreme impediment to our residents,” Brown said.

City Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents the area, had previously complained that centralizing the mailboxes at Mar Vista Gardens would put vulnerable residents at added risk during the pandemic.

Bonin denounced the decision this week to suspend mail delivery as “shameful” and “outrageous,” saying that “this appalling action by USPS disenfranchises people, and denies them access to essentials, such as their income, medicine, and voting and election information.”

“Aggressive dogs or threats upon a mail carrier are unacceptable and clearly need to be remedied. But surely there is a large menu of remedies far short of your extreme action, which denies mail service to more than 600 low-income families of color ... I insist that you reverse this decision immediately,” Bonin added in a Friday letter to the postmaster.

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Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), whose district includes Mar Vista Gardens, also called the move “absolutely unacceptable” and said in a statement Friday that she was “working to get to the bottom of these changes.”

This isn’t the first time that mail delivery has been suspended at the Del Rey housing complex. The USPS halted delivery there for months in 2008 after a fatal shooting and other reported safety issues, spurring protests from residents and then-Councilman Bill Rosendahl, the Argonaut newspaper reported.


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