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Santa Rosa neighbors confused by post office's decision to stop front-door delivery

Mike Haas, who has been told to erect a curbside mailbox by the postal service, at his Santa Rosa home.

Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat
Published: Monday, March 25, 2013 at 8:10 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at 10:32 a.m.

These days, the mail carrier drives right past Mike Haas' house and those of several of his neighbors. They say it's the strangest, most infuriating thing.

Postal authorities "want to do away with door service, that's what they want," Haas has concluded. He's a retired CHP officer who has lived all his life on the same Santa Rosa street and until recently had his mail delivered by carriers who drove up, parked at the curb and carried the mail to the box attached to the house.

The Postal Service ceased delivering Haas' mail a week ago because he failed to comply with a written request that he place a mailbox at the curb by March 16.

The request came to him in a form letter sent also to at least nine of his neighbors on Winding Ridge Road, Winding Ridge Court and Stonewood Drive. The neighborhood occupies a hill off Hidden Valley Drive, between the Town & Country district and Chanate Road.

The letter, from Gurpreet Kaur, customer service supervisor at the main Santa Rosa post office, declares that "safety issues" have recently come to her attention.

"Currently the letter carrier is required to drive up and turn around/back up in your personal driveway to service your mailbox," the letter from Kaur says.

"Due to the limited amount of space for the carrier to maneuver the vehicle the Postal Service feels that this is a potential safety hazard." The letter then requests that the resident "relocate your mailbox to the street."

Haas swears that when he read it, he thought it was a simple mistake. He phoned Kaur and informed her that carriers have always walked up his short drive and he has never, ever seen one drive up it.

He said Kaur was not persuaded. "All she says is, it's safety; you have to move your box."

Though Haas and his neighbors were not told that home delivery would be suspended unless they erect mailboxes at the curb, those who have not complied have not received delivery since the 18th. They must pick up their mail at the downtown post office.

Haas said the situation is all the more confounding because everyone on his street has always had their mail delivered to the door, but only some of them have received the letter demanding that they move the box to the curb.

Pointing to the house across the street -- the house, coincidentally, that he was born in and grew up in -- he said the carrier parks in front of it and walks the mail up, exactly the same as at his house. But the residents of the house across the street did not receive the move-your-box letter.

Three of Haas' other neighbors, who did receive the "safety issues" letter, said their carriers have for decades driven up their fairly long, wide driveways, carried their mail to the boxes by their front doors, then returned to their vehicles, made easy U-turns and proceeded back down the drives.

Dan Fitzsimons said he, like Haas, was perplexed to receive the letter from Kaur declaring that a safety issue has emerged. He said the carriers who have for decades driven up and then down his driveway have never encountered a problem.

"The fact is, there is no safety issue," Fitzsimmons said.

He said it seems him that officials of the Santa Rosa post office want to get his and his neighbors' house-mounted mailboxes moved to the street, where carriers could reach them without leaving their vehicles.

The USPS has produced defined procedures for switching patrons from on-foot delivery to more efficient and labor-saving drive-by delivery. Fitzsimons believes local postal officials are trying to avoid following those procedures by fabricating a safety issue that would justify simply demanding the mailboxes be moved to the street post haste.

He said that attempting to reason with the local postal officials and to get them to be straight about their intent and motives has been "ulcer-producing."

A request to speak with Kaur or her supervisor was referred to regional Post Office spokesman James Wigdell in San Francisco.

He said on Monday that he spoke to officials of the Santa Rosa post office and was told that "four or five of the customers have complied with moving their mailboxes already."

As to why Haas received the move-your-box letter and the residents of his childhood home across the street didn't, Wigdell said he learned the reason is that the neighbors' driveway is shorter than Haas'.

But Haas' house is only a few strides farther from the curb than is the house across the street. And local postal authorities never before raised the issue of the walking distance, they simply told Haas his driveway was unsafe.

USPS spokesman Wigdell said that because Haas and several of his neighbors dispute that there is a safety issue and they have not installed boxes at the street, officials in Santa Rosa will have a safety specialist from San Francisco come up to assess the situation.

That will occur "just to put another set of eyes on it, to re-evaluate it," Wigdell said.

Haas and several of his disgruntled neighbors said they can understand if the fiscally besieged post office wants to make delivery more efficient by switching walk-up delivery to drive-by. But if that's the intent in their neighborhood, residents said, the way postal authorities are going about pursuing the change is bizarre and insulting.

Helen Goldstein said that day after day for decades, the carrier drove up her driveway, walked the mail to her box, turned easily around and drove back down. For the post office to say that unsafe conditions now require that she place a box down at the curb, she said, "is bogus."

"I hate being thought that I'm stupid."

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