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Signal Hill Survey Delivers Emphatic 'Yes' on ZIP Code

January 08, 2002|NANCY WRIDE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Signal Hill's mail recipients have indicated that they overwhelmingly favor finally getting their own ZIP Code, and the U.S. Postal Service announced Monday that they all but certainly will.

Postal surveys of Signal Hill residents and business owners were counted Monday, revealing 68% support for the new ZIP Code, according to city and postal service officials. They said 32% of returned surveys opposed Signal Hill's being assigned an independent ZIP Code.

All that remains is an official OK by U.S. Postmaster General John "Jack" Potter, protocol that is expected by Jan. 15, said U.S. Postal Service spokesman George Marsh.

"There is no doubt it will be approved," he added.

ZIP Codes are used by insurance companies to set premiums, by telephone companies to organize phone number listings and even by grocery store chains to decide where to locate markets. As a result, people in this small oil town have long felt a lack of community identity that has been exacerbated by the city's lack of a central business district.

Until now, the city of 9,330 has shared three ZIP Codes with parts of Long Beach, which has 49 times more people and totally surrounds Signal Hill. The bigger city's higher crime rate has cost residents in higher insurance premiums, and ZIP Code confusion has led to lost mail.

Given the snags in mail and higher cost, why would any mail customer prefer the shared ZIP Codes? Some businesses, such as the numerous car dealerships in Signal Hill's new auto corridor, prefer the more recognizable Long Beach address.

After 12 years of dashed hopes in their campaign for an independent ZIP Code, lobbying every level of government official, it was perhaps not surprising that city leaders were muted and cautious in their response to the news.

Was City Manager Ken Farfsing going to celebrate the accomplishment Monday night? After all, getting the city a new ZIP Code was one of three tasks put before him when he interviewed for Signal Hill's top job six years ago.

"I'm waiting for official confirmation," Farfsing said. "Some kind of letter. That seems reasonable."

Mayor Larry Forester was less subdued. "We got the ZIP Code!" he blurted out in a phone interview. Then he caught himself. "I'm not going to celebrate until Jan. 15. The Postal Service did a very good job."

But what of his oft-told "little city that could" narrative, the tiny town triumphing over towering bureaucracy?

"With the federal government, I want to dot I's and cross Ts. And after 12 years, I think I can wait a week."

Come the official rubber stamp, efforts will begin to have Signal Hill's ZIP Code changed to 90755 by July 1.

The city's cause was long ago championed by U.S. Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Long Beach), the retiring congressman whose appeal last month to Potter set things in motion.

Farfsing has worked six years on the matter. It was brought up before he even got the job. Just having the postal survey of mail customers conducted, a requirement before any ZIP Code change, thrilled him.

Residents at the city's main hangout, Curley's Cafe, were also pleased with Monday's announcement.

"I think it's just great," said Robert Lee, a 77-year-old oilman. "About time."

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