Will Schlarb says he’s tired of living in Ceres but having a Modesto mailing address.
“It gets confusing for the people when you try to take care of things when you tell them you live in Ceres with a Modesto address,” said Schlarb, a resident of Wizard Lane in Ceres since 1989. “Even Turlock Irrigation District; they say ‘Well we don’t service that area.’ I say, ‘Yeah, you do. It’s just the mailing address is different.’”
Schlarb, who said he doesn’t want to be “associated with Modesto,” has contacted the city about another try to remedy the mislabeling of an area inhabited by approximately 3,600 households.
Changing the zip code from Modesto 95351 to Ceres 95307 seems like it would require a simple correction of the postal system but it’s an act that must be approved by the residents in the affected area. The city of Ceres petitioned for a vote in 1994 and in 2009 but those efforts failed. Proponents of the change note that it’s silly to be calling an area inside the Ceres city limits or its sphere of influence anything other than Ceres.
Over 10 years have passed since the 2009 ballot, prompting Schlarb to call for a renewed push for change.
Ceres City Manager Toby Wells said it’s an issue that likely will surface in 2020 given how the city is currently consumed by update of the municipal code.
“It would take some champions to get out and educate people and make the pitch before we did anything,” said Wells.
Wells said he hopes Ceres residents would be prefer to be identified as being from Ceres than from Modesto.
The affected area sandwiched between Hatch Road and the Tuolumne River at one time was entirely part of the unincorporated area of Stanislaus County. Since it’s a practice of the postal system to name rural areas for the closest town or city, Modesto was applied. As the Ceres city limits expanded into the area north of Hatch Road, leaving only a handful of county islands, addresses were not updated.
Confusion has resulted, especially when new residents try to sign up for utility services and think they’re in Modesto when in reality they’re Ceres residents.
Last time a vote was tried the city of Ceres asked the U.S. Postal Service for an election.
The vote has gotten closer with each election, which can only be held every 10 years. In September 1994 2,374 ballots were mailed out, with only 1,329 returned. The proposed zip code change failed by a margin of 959 (72.1 percent) to 278 (20.9 percent).
In March 2009, the postal service sent out more ballots but had fewer returned. Of the 3,511 ballots sent out, only 1,194 (37 percent) were returned. A total of 429 (35.9 percent) supported the switch and 753 (63 percent) opposed it.
Why did the majority oppose the change? At the time of the 2009 balloting, postal management specialist Debra Scoggins said people tend to approach zip code matters from a personal angle, many not wanting the hassle of changing stationery, bank checks or other documents. She said a zip code change would have meant little hassle for patrons since the post office has a simple process for a seamless continuous delivery of mail.
City officials say a change would be more convenient for those living north of Hatch Road since they have to drive to the Paradise Road post office to pick up mail to receive certified letters and packages. A change would have required mail delivery out of the Ceres post office much closer to the area.
“I think it has a lot more pluses than minuses,” said Schlarb.
Then Ceres Mayor Anthony Cannella – he still lives in 95351 – favored the change, saying that from a philosophical standpoint, “we live in the city of Ceres, we don’t live in Modesto and I think just for civic pride I want to have Ceres, California 95307 on my address versus Modesto. We live in Ceres and we should be called Ceres.”