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Q&A: How would a unique ZIP code affect delivery routes, safety in LAH?


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Los Altos Hills City Councilman Gary Waldeck hosts an informational session for residents Jan. 30 at town hall, an effort designed to drum up support for a dedicated ZIP code for the town.

In anticipation of a potential townwide survey to determine whether Los Altos Hills residents desire a unique ZIP code for their town, Councilman Gary Waldeck is drumming up support for the proposal by hosting free informational sessions.

The first such meeting took place Jan. 30 and attracted approximately 25 attendees who posed questions to Waldeck and Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Rich Urena. A second meeting is scheduled 6-8 p.m. Feb. 27 in the town council chambers, 26379 W. Fremont Road.

With backing from the Los Altos and Los Altos Hills city councils, Waldeck mailed an official letter to the U.S. Postal Service Dec. 7 requesting a separate ZIP code (the two cities currently share 94022, 94023 and 94024). A response is expected by March 8.

Following is a summary of residents’ questions and Waldeck and Urena’s responses at last week’s meeting.

Q: What happens if the Postal Service agrees with the proposal?

A: The Postal Service will mail surveys to each of Los Altos Hills’ 3,137 affected addresses inquiring whether property owners want a unique ZIP code. More than half the postcards must be returned, and more than half of those returned must be in favor of the change for it to happen. Waldeck estimates that the new ZIP code, if approved, would go into effect by July or August.

“Everybody who gets surveyed, that’s your voice to say yes or no,” he said. “That’s what it boils down to.”

Q: A new ZIP code would cause the Postal Service to create new delivery routes through town. Would new routes mean mail delivery during daylight hours?

A: “It wouldn’t necessarily do that,” Waldeck said. “But we asked for two things: We asked for daylight delivery, and we also asked for a new ZIP code – in that order. The two are tied together as far as I’m concerned.”

Q: Could daylight mail delivery improve town safety?

A: “One of the things I’m looking at is the delivery of mail in the evening time – or at least when it’s dark out,” Urena said. “Certainly that doesn’t happen the entire year, but the time that it does happen, we do see, unfortunately, a small increase in reports of people breaking into mailboxes.”

Q: Law enforcement officials did not inform Los Altos Hills residents of the Jan. 27 manhunt for armed robbery suspects (see Police Blotter, page 4) until the day after the incident. Would a separate ZIP code have helped trigger Nixle emergency alerts to residents during the search?

A: Probably not, because such incidents are generally “transient,” or fleeting, and emergency officials might not send alerts about them, Waldeck said. A separate ZIP code might be beneficial, however, if officials use Nixle, a system organized by ZIP codes, to narrowly target specific geographic areas affected by a natural disaster such as fire or earthquake. As it stands, so many Los Altos and Los Altos Hills residents share the 94022, 94023 and 94024 ZIP codes that dispatching an emergency message meant for just one area could trigger mass hysteria.

“It allows us to get the word out more effectively, perhaps with information to help get the best route out of town, that kind of thing,” Waldeck said.

Q: If Los Altos Hills gets a new ZIP code, would residents have to inform their financial organizations of their new address?

A: Financial institutions and the like should be automatically informed of the change, but, anyway, the Postal Service will continue to deliver mail featuring the old ZIP code for a year, Waldeck said. Special stickers the Postal Service affixes to mail that features the wrong ZIP code should be an indication to residents that the sender does not have the correct digits on file.

Q: Is it true Los Altos Hills residents’ insurance rates would go down if the town no longer shares a ZIP code with Los Altos, where the rate of crime and traffic accidents is higher?

A: Waldeck said he doesn’t have evidence a new ZIP code would affect insurance rates, but it makes sense that it could.

“These people have higher risk than we do,” he said. “It’s reasonable to assume that we’re going to see some changes in insurance rates.”

Q: Where can residents view the data supporting the proposal?

A: On the Los Altos Hills town website at losaltoshills.ca.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=68.

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