What's in a ZIP code?
Maxine Van Dyke gave a public comment at the Feb. 7 King City City Council meeting because of five simple digits: 97224.
That's the ZIP code for King City, as well as parts of Tigard and Durham. It's far outside of Portland city limits — yet it's recognized by the United States Postal Service as a Portland ZIP code.
The issue, Van Dyke said, is, "97224 has created more problems, and it is continuing to, as the computer kicks it into Portland."
She added: "It's getting worse, not better. Plus, I've never lived in Portland."
How can a ZIP code cause grief? As Van Dyke explained, many private companies use ZIP codes to determine service areas. So when she used her health insurance provider's website to find a specialist, it suggested one in Portland proper, rather than one closer to home but in a different ZIP code. When her vacuum needed repairs, the company sent her to Beaverton, as that was the closest location to the city of Portland.
"Why didn't you go to Sherwood?" asked the employee helping Van Dyke. "That's only a couple miles away from you."
"Well, that's 97140," Van Dyke told the council in an exasperated tone.
Van Dyke's plea to the council: Is there any way King City can get its own ZIP code? And, "with all the expansion and stuff we're going through right now, would it be possible to find out why we're Portland-identified?"
Council member Gretchen Buehner had a quick reply for Van Dyke. Back in the 1950s, when postal codes were first being configured, "The city of Portland thought it was going to annex the world," Buehner said, so Portland officials included what eventually became King City in their codes. In fact, she said, one of the reasons the city of Tigard was first incorporated in 1961 was to avoid being annexed by Portland — which is why much of Tigard has its own ZIP code today, 97281.
The upshot of Portland's aggressive annexation plans: today, "approximately 3,000 people don't live in the city of Portland but have Portland ZIP codes," Buehner told Van Dyke.
Buehner said that she herself once looked into procuring an original ZIP code for King City, but that "it takes an act of Congress to create a postal station or a ZIP code change."
"Well, they aren't doing anything else," Van Dyke answered quickly, to much laughter among meeting attendees.
Buehner responded that even with the help of Congress, it can take up to 10 years for a new ZIP code to go into effect. She mused that perhaps State Rep. Margaret Doherty, who represents King City in the Oregon House, might be able to influence her congressional counterparts, "when and if the Democrats ever take over Congress again."
"At least it's a non-controversial issue," Van Dyke answered.
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