OAK PARK — The U.S. Postal Service has rejected Oak Park's request for its own ZIP code, despite insistence by residents of the affluent community that sharing a postal code with Agoura Hills costs them money.
Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Woodland Hills) announced Friday that postal officials in Washington, D. C., denied a request he had made with Ventura County Supervisor Maria VanderKolk on behalf of Oak Park residents.
Oak Park has long shared a ZIP code with Agoura Hills, a Los Angeles County city, even though Oak Park--an unincorporated community of nearly 15,000--lies on the other side of the county border, entirely within the boundaries of Ventura County.
Residents say that means they must continuously battle with insurance agents, sales clerks and mail-order companies who try to charge them Los Angeles County rates instead of cheaper Ventura County rates.
"This costs the county revenues too," said Kent Behringer, a member of Oak Park's Municipal Advisory Council.
Residents say many mail-order companies, judging Oak Park addresses by their ZIP codes, automatically send their sales tax payments to Los Angeles County, instead of Ventura County. Even the state Department of Motor Vehicles has assumed Oak Park car owners live in Los Angeles, residents say, and improperly divert registration fees to Los Angeles County.
"It may not amount to a few million dollars over time," Behringer said. "But if you put all the revenues together it would amount to a tidy little sum that probably could have been used to keep our library going or something."
Although residents acknowledge their concern is largely financial, they also say having their own ZIP code would help establish a sense of identity.
The original request was approved by local and regional postal authorities before being rejected by officials at the U. S. Postal Service's national headquarters in Washington.
Beilenson and VanderKolk have already appealed the decision, citing the loss of revenue to Ventura County as well as the confusion and the potential overcharges to Oak Park residents.
"We're of course very concerned and disappointed," said Diane Kinzer Brown, an aide to Beilenson. "So we've appealed it immediately."
But Postal Service spokeswoman Terri Bouffiou said the same officials who just rejected the plea will be the ones who review the appeal, and they aren't likely to change their minds. "I think they are going to review it and say there are no different circumstances from the first appeal so they will reject it again," Bouffiou said.
As evidence, she pointed to an appeal on behalf of Oak Park made by officials in the Postal Service's Van Nuys office, which already has been rejected.
She said the U. S. Postal Service ruled against Oak Park because it bases such ZIP code splits solely on the volume of mail going into a community.
"ZIP codes are for efficient sorting of the mail," Bouffiou said. "They can't be assigned on the basis of a community wanting them. . . . If they were, we would quickly run out of them."
Oak Park resident David Ross, who has been pushing for a separate ZIP code for the community for years, said he was frustrated and disappointed by the decision.
"I have a feeling that their rejection was based on not really understanding the issues," Ross said. "If they need letters or testimonials or anything, I would be more than happy to participate."
Oak Park ZIP code advocates say they have made at least one gain in their quest: More residents now know to check sales receipts and mail-order invoices, and question their insurance companies about their rates. And the fight, they say, is not over yet.
"We won't forget about it," Behringer said. "At least we made it to Washington this time."