Hooray for the City of Menifee in Riverside County! The residents there - about as many as we have here - have lived with an identity problem just like we do. Because of preexisting postal addresses, people there aren’t really sure whether they are in Menifee or not. Postal addresses for zip codes in Menifee have been based on addresses at legacy real estate developments like the retirement community of Sun City that is within the Menifee city limits. The postal addresses were not changed after the City became incorporated twelve years ago. Confusion has persisted about whether a given neighborhood was part of the city or not. After a petition to change that situation began to gather steam in the city, the City Council has passed a resolution asking the Postmaster to switch to “Menifee”. The Postmaster has said it can be done fairly soon.
Now consider Arden Arcade’s own identity problem. The postal addresses for our three zip codes say “Sacramento”. To many people, that means “City of Sacramento”. (To be clear, denizens of unincorporated Arden Arcade are NOT part of the City of Sacramento. We have no Mayor and no City Council to focus on our local issues. We have to depend on Sacramento County and one Supervisor who represents 305,000 people.) Compounding the problem, we are told when we vote that we are part of Sacramento, a different message than given to residents of other unincorporated communities like Carmichael or Fair Oaks. That has prompted some people to put up yard signs here urging voters to choose so-and-so for Mayor or to urge the city council to vote for or against something. Beyond voting, we have directional signs at the freeway that say “Carmichael”, but not “Arden Arcade”. And business billboards proclaiming their “Sacramento” location even though it is actually here in the unincorporated area.
OK, maybe you consider this a first world problem, but then along comes Covid-19 and people justifiably want to know the significance of the pandemic right here where they live or work. Counties have tended to list Covid-19 statistics for their cities and their unincorporated areas, but not for specific unincorporated communities. Sacramento County reports Covid-19 data for every city in the county (including little Galt and tiny Isleton) and groups data from unincorporated areas into a single category of “outside of cities”. The County also has by-zip-code reports that give something of picture of the distribution within the unincorporated UnCity. But some small parts each of our three zip codes (95825, 95821 and 95864) include pieces of the City of Sacramento. So if you want to know Covid-19 data for Arden Arcade you have to guess, which defeats the purpose. Similarly, unincorporated areas in Alameda County and Stanislaus County have had to badger their County representatives to get specifics for their communities.
A postal address isn’t really what identifies a place; it’s merely a tool whereby the Post Office sorts and delivers mail. Ultimately, as a Menifee City Council member pointed out, as long as you get the zip code right, the Post Office really doesn’t care what city name you list on your mail. At last December’s Community Forum, people were asked to write anything other than “Sacramento” in their return address. Post Office scanners just read the street number and zip code, so you could write “Shang-Ri-La” or “Nirvana” or “Frontierland” or any other place name and you will still get your mail. And, apparently, when you get or renew your driver’s license the DMV will let you claim Arden Arcade as your residence. Is there anyone out there who would like to seek a place-name change here, the way Menifee is? Should local people ask the Post Office to declare our three unincorporated area post offices (on Marconi, Watt and Arden) as being in the unincorporated community where they are actually located - Arden Arcade? Or should our community remain imperceptible, undetectible and obscured?