Carmel-by-the-Sea addresses its address controversy
Since its founding, more than one hundred years ago, the only building in downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea with a street address has been the post office. It means that the residents of the one-square-mile city have to pick up their mail instead of having it delivered.
But many residents don’t consider it a chore. Instead, the post office is one of the unique things about Carmel that fosters community — a sanctuary for locals, in a town often filled with tourists.
“I love coming to the post office,” said Robert Blaisdell, who makes daily trips to pick up his mail. He says it’s an opportunity for him to see friends and neighbors.
But not everyone is convinced.
“It's a post office,” said a resident named Cynthia, who declined to give her last name. “It's where you come and get your mail. I don't see you serving any alcohol. I don't see a coffee bar. I don't see cookies and candies. I see lots of boxes.”
The controversy came to a head during a city council meeting last October, when several residents complained about their lack of a proper home address. Turns out, home delivery of mail is not the main concern. Addresses are used for everything from installing utilities, to opening bank accounts, to package deliveries from UPS and FedEx.
The current method residents use is counting houses from the nearest intersection. One of those residents, Betty Kullas, explained how the method is a problem.
“I live on Monte Verdi Street, one northeast of Third,” she said. “If you're a person that counts only houses that face Monte Verdi Street, I'm at 1.”
But if you count the home on the corner that doesn’t face Monte Verdi, then her house is number 2, not number 1. Kullas says she never gets anything delivered correctly.
Another resident, Lance Anderson, described how difficult it was to get utilities installed and a bank account opened when he moved to Carmel three years ago.
“They cannot handle the fact that we do not have physical addresses. They don't accept P.O. boxes,” he said. “I need to spend 20 minutes on the phone talking to someone.”
One bank eventually declined his request to open an account.
Emily Garay is the city staff person assigned to find a solution. She said the city is working on an alternative to street addresses, but does not want home delivery of mail. In fact, the city sees addresses and home delivery as two separate issues. The hold-up is getting the post office to agree.
“We need something formal from the post office that says they understand we see them as two separate things,” she said.
At the same time, Garay says the city is working on some kind of address system that is consistent and easy to explain, like the plot number on your property tax or a geo-positioning location.
“Not everyone has two or three hours to sit on the phone just to explain our geographic address and a little bit of our history to the other person on the line,” she said.
At the post office, villagers are going in and out, exchanging a bit of gossip and picking up their mail, the way they have done for over a hundred years. In a world of short text messages, emoji, and 15-second TikTok videos, the village of Carmel-by-the-Sea does seem a bit out of place. But then, maybe that’s the point.