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Petitioners Seek Return to Northridge

June 18, 1991|AARON CURTISS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Add another verse to the Sepulveda Blues--this one sung by a group of Northridge residents tired of being called Sepulveda by the post office.

Inspired by the movement to create North Hills from the western half of Sepulveda, residents in a tiny sliver of Northridge between Balboa Boulevard and the Bull Creek Wash want their mail addressed to them in Northridge 91325, instead of Sepulveda 91343.

"We are Northridge," resident Jeannie Lamalfa said Monday. "We have always been Northridge."

She's right. Los Angeles city maps include the area in Northridge, but when ZIP codes were introduced in the early 1960s, postal officials did not follow community boundaries precisely and laid out delivery routes that were the cheapest and easiest for them.

Consequently, Northridge residents between Balboa and the wash were forced to list their addresses as Sepulveda with a 91343 ZIP code or risk lost or late mail. Residents claim that their postal affiliation with Sepulveda costs them more in automobile insurance and makes their houses less desirable to potential buyers.

Spokesmen for three insurance companies said Monday that residents in the 91343 ZIP code pay between 20% and 30% more for automobile insurance than they would in the 91325 area.

"We're paying the penalty because of where we are," said Lamalfa, who has lived in the neighborhood 15 years. "We want our identity back."

Lamalfa's group--calling itself the Northridge Orphans--is the latest to try to divorce itself from Sepulveda's reputation as a haven for prostitutes and drug dealers.

Residents of western Sepulveda last month created the community of North Hills and, even before the name change was official, Granada Hills residents with a Sepulveda ZIP code started a petition drive to join them.

The Northridge residents decided not to join the North Hills movement because they said they identified more closely with Northridge and wanted to pressure the post office for a ZIP code change.

"Basically, all we're asking for is our address back," said resident Ledora Reynolds, who has lived in the neighborhood 22 years.

On Monday, a dozen or so residents presented Los Angeles City Councilman Hal Bernson a petition--signed by more than 1,600 of the area's 2,000 residents--asking for a new ZIP code. Bernson passed the request along to postal officials.

But what good the petition will do is uncertain.

U. S. Postal Service officials have long been aware of the residents' unhappiness with their ZIP code and are already studying whether changing the area's designation would make economic and logistic sense.

Spokeswoman Nancy Cain Schmitt said the post office will consider public input in its decision, but will approve the change only if costs are not prohibitive.

"We always listen to our customers, but it all comes down to logistics and economics," Schmitt said. She declined to say how much a ZIP code change would cost, but said "it's enough money to be concerned about."

Postal officials say ZIP code changes require more than just reorganizing postal routes in the area. Computers that sort mail must also be reprogrammed, they said, and human workers retrained. In all, a ZIP code change requires adjustments to be made at 28,959 post offices nationwide, Schmitt said.

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