By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Many localities lose identity through 'wrong' zip codes
Placeholder Image
If you live in the central region of Stanislaus County, you're likely suffering from some form of identity theft.

No, I'm not talking about the crime where somebody steals your personal ID or credit card and uses it for illegal purchases or cleans out your bank account. I'm talking about residents whose town identity has been stolen.

There are thousands who believe they live in one town when they don't.

About three or four years ago, I had a discussion with Marianne Pietryzk, who at the time was writing a Keyes column for the Courier. She mentioned living in Ceres. I said, "Wait a minute. How can you live in Ceres and sit on the Keyes School Board? You must live in the Keyes School District." I knew that she lived in the Starlite subdivision which is just north of Keyes and within the Keyes fire and school districts. She replied that she had a Ceres mailing address.

Folks, mailing addresses and city or town jurisdiction are two separate things.

I explained that while she may have a Ceres 95307 mailing address, it was a betrayal to the fact that she lived in Keyes. You see, residents of Bogart Drive, John Wayne Drive, Hollywood Drive, Gable Court, Bacall Way and Hepburn Way are covered by the services of the Keyes Community Services District and the Keyes school district. The residential tract is nestled in a crook of the frontage road, Faith Home Road and Starlite Drive - far from the Ceres city limits.

Such is the confusion when you have over-reaching and outdated zip code boundaries.

When I insisted that she lived in Keyes and not Ceres, she muddied the issue by stating: then why isn't Ceres in Turlock since Turlock Irrigation District covers Ceres? I tried to sort it out for her, explaining that a power district was different and can cover many jurisdictions and the fact that TID was not operated by the city of Turlock. I went back to my original point that Marianne's daughter attended a Keyes school, not a Ceres one; that if her house caught on fire, Keyes Fire would respond; and that she was receiving sewer services from the Keyes Community Services District, not the city of Ceres. I also aptly pointed out to Marianne that she was unable to vote for Ceres city officials because, simply, she didn't live in Ceres.

I remember how frustrating that conversation left me - and her I suppose.

Confusion from zip code boundaries pervades the area.

Take for example Spratling Middle School, which was constructed east of the newer housing tracts in Keyes. Although Spratling is not even remotely close to Hughson, it bears a Hughson address because it falls just outside the Keyes postal boundaries! Like Marianne's residence, the school is encompassed by the Keyes Community Services District. The school is a Keyes school, however, the address has caused many to think Spratling is a Hughson school district school. School staff has reported that the mislabeled address leads to confusion from people "all the time."

It makes no sense for Spratling officials to have to pick up registered mail from the Hughson post office - 4.4 miles away - when they are 1 mile away from the Keyes Post Office.

Even rural Westport Elementary School - located on Carpenter Road southeast of Ceres - has identity confusion. Indeed, Westport is a Ceres Unified school but has a Modesto mailing address.

Confusion reigns supreme anywhere north of Hatch Road in Ceres. For example, visit the new Burger King on Hatch Road. The store's interior design includes a bricked wall branded with the name Ceres. But the sales receipts say 1421 E. Hatch Road, Modesto CA 95351. Clear as mud. The truth is that the store IS in Ceres but the location has a Modesto address.

Likewise, Home Depot, Kmart, Rancho San Miguel, Staples and other businesses in that block all have Modesto addresses even though they are within the Ceres city limits boundaries.

Expect more identity confusion now that Ceres has annexed the West Landing master plan area. The annexation pushes Ceres city limits into 960 acres to west of Crowslanding Road south of Whitmore Avenue.

Besides, hundreds of undeveloped acres, the West Landing Annexation means Ceres takes in the Stanislaus County Public Safety Center, the county Social Services office, the new Thomas Mayfield Regional Animal Services Facility, the Ray Simon Criminal Justice Training Center and the Stanislaus County Agricultural Center. But don't look for any of them to use the address of Ceres CA 95307. It probably will never happen.

As a community grows and land is annexed, there is no automatic trigger to change zip codes. Federal law should be amended; there needs to be an automatic trigger that requires that the city's name shall be applied to all addresses within an annexed area.

Currently there is only way to change zip codes and that's by letting the postal patrons vote. Ceres city officials got the post office to stage balloting in September 1994 but the measure failed, mostly due to old-timers who had a historical disdain toward Ceres City Hall; they spread loads of misinformation about alleged disruptions to life as they knew it. I recall flimsy excuses like it would cost residents to change stationery.

When a postal zip code change ballot fails, the USPS won't allow it to be taken up again for another decade. Ceres tried it again in 2009 and the measure failed a second time; of the 1,182 returned ballots, the result was 429 "yes" and 753 "no."

As I watched the ballot counting, I noticed some were confused about the simply worded question. Many were unclear about associated issues and some just were confused about what a yes and no vote meant. For example, one person wrote: "It's time for a change" but then marked "no." Another ballot was marked, "Thanks for doing this" and then checked "no." One woman checked "no" and commented that she didn't want her utilities changed. Well, duh, the zip code change would not have affected her utilities whatsoever.

The Ceres-Modesto matter cannot be voted on until 2019 - seven years from now. Until then, patrons are held hostage to confusion.

The apathy reflected by the 37 percent participation rate in the 2008 ballot shows that perhaps a blanket rule that a zip code changes to would simply require an address to reflect the jurisdiction that it is in. So if it's in the Keyes district, it gets a Keyes address. If it had a Modesto address and the city of Ceres has annexed it, the Modesto zip goes. Simple and no more confusion. No balloting. Just do it.

But then again, did you ever know Congress to do anything that makes sense?

How do you feel? Let Jeff know at