Our No Addresses....106 Years and Counting  

 (This article was included in the Sept/Oct 2022 Voice issue...plus this webpage includes expanded content & interesting history too )


From our first Post Office on Ocean Avenue to the PO Boxes of today

May 7th City Council - Karen Ferlito Announcement/Update

In Council open comments, Karen Ferlito highlighted the findings as shown below in this February update.  And she requested this item be explored publically in the coming months.

The Carmel Pine Cone (May 10, 2034) HERE expanded on this update in an article on page 16 of this issue. 

February 2024 - Coucil Member Karen Ferlito Letter & Reply from USPS Regarding Addresses in Town

As mentioned in the City Friday letter 3/1/2024 - VLOG HERE - The City Staff will continue to gather additional details before a public meeting will be scheduled to review and discuss this information. 
* Letter From Karen to USPS HERE
* Reply Letter From USPS to Karen HERE

January 2024 - LosAngeles Times Articles on No Addresses in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Jan 22nd Article as PDF - copywrite of LATimes - HERE. And direct link to article HERE https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2024-01-22/california-carmel-addresses-post-office

Jan 23rd followup Article as PDF - copywrite of LATimes - HERE.   And direct link to article HERE https://www.latimes.com/california/newsletter/2024-01-23/the-town-where-nobody-knows-your-address-because-nobody-has-one-essential-california

Three Word Addresses?

A new technology solution - beyond GPS location identifiers called "Three Word Address" approach is getting some momentum - especially in very rural areas - but can be applied anywhere.  https://what3words.com/how-to-use-the-what3words-app and here is a Ted Talk video that explains its practicle uses. 

Nov 7th -  City Council staff report and request for direction.

As per this City Council, an Ad Hoc Committee with Council Members Dramov & Ferlito, plus residents with multiple views will be formed, that will also include further reasearch with the USPS Growth Manager and staff. More to follow.
The Nov 7th Council Staff report is HERE.  The Youtube link is HERE.
-Carmel Pine Cone - Nov 10 2023 Issue  HERE see cover/page1 article and editorial on page 26
-KOIN546 Coverage (again) - Nov 8 HERE.
-KOIN546 Coverage - (prior to City Council) Nov 7 HERE 
-Monterey County Weekly  - Nov 6 HERE

 Aug 30 2023- Breifly covered at the Strategic Priorities half yearly review.
View this YouTube at time stamp 3:40 minutes. Community input focus on health and safety and many that strongly support no change from today.  Karen Ferlito, council member, raised that this fire code requires address verification. 
See the CRA Survey Summer 2023 Round 1 results, that includes Addresses feedback from our community here, on page 4. 

May 23rd 2023 - Press Article from KAZU  here

Mar 3rd 2023 City Council Meeting  Postmaster spoke in open comments 

This brief mention can be viewed on this YouTube recording at the 10 minute mark.  It was clarified that if/when addresses are implemented in our Village, this does not require or assume home delivery via USPS. 

Oct 4th 2022 City Council Update  

Here is the summary of staff findings and  here is a PDF of the white paper provided by staff and presented at this meeting  The City Council OK'd staff to continue researching this item and will continue to report back with updates in the coming months.   
Here is a follow-up article from KSBW  on this topic.  

Original Article published September 2022

For newcomers and residents of many years, here are many points of technology and convenience to explore.

Addresses in Carmel-by-the-Sea

It has been 106 years Carmel-by-the-Sea without standard street addresses and with the pleasantries (and hassles) this uncommon tradition provides. Our history includes multiple attempts to implement addresses and postal delivery but were put on the back burner. For years, residents enjoy their near-daily visits to the Post Office, with the impromptu mix and mingle with fellow residents while enjoying everything Carmel.
Of course, times have changed. Our always available mobile phones, email, texting, and other online mapping technologies have increased expectations and approaches to location and communications overall. In today’s no address deliveries, mail and being found (when you want or need to be) can be a challenge, especially for newcomers and visitors. And especially with the pandemic the desire for house delivery has increased dramatically.

Will Village Standard Addresses Happen? 

Exploring street addresses for our Village is a priority City project item to start this calendar year 2022/2023. This project will likely include many factors, pros/cons, timeline, and community feedback before actions are taken. Prior to this project effort, we don’t have the facts on expected dependencies between standard addresses, providing postal mail delivery, and keeping our 93921 Post Office open in town. 

Not included in the printed Voice article but for example... Can we implement official addresses without postal delivery?  If we did, then what would happen is someone postal mailed to our street address, when we don't get delivery? We "hear" that if we implement addresses, then we definitely will be required to have postal mail delivery - but need this to be confirmed. What would the requirements be for mail boxes all around town? Will sidewalks be required if we have mail delivery (they were in an earlier round on this topic)?  How long would it take between a confirmed decision by the city to implement addresses and having these new addresses appear in online systems and maps?  How would any of these prior questions link to keeping our 93921 Post Office open? The list of questions here continues.  We will update this page as exploring addresses in Carmel-by-the-Sea project by the City Staff updates are available.

Note: Frank Devendorf, by design, wanted this town to be for families and did NOT want addresses.  Listen to this Video at minute mark 39:45 where his great grandson, Jack Galante, reinforces this point of Carmel history and Village heritage.   

Today, without standard addresses…

  1. Emergency Services (911) always know where you are. 911 call systems have Geographic Information Services (GIS) Identifiers for our location? Of course, you are asked for added location details for proper routing.
  2. There is ONE official address in Carmel-by-the-Sea. It’s for our Carmel-by-the-Sea Post Office at “56B 5th Ave Lot 1, Carmel, CA 93921”.
  3. Residents get a free PO Box #. Please ask at the Service Desk of our Post Office for documents required (e.g., property tax doc, or others).
  4.  There is a Google Map with Carmel-by-the-Sea House names. Simply search online with “Maps: Carmel House Names” and it will come up. You can add and/up update your house name as well.

Optimizing How to Find Your House

  • Your Sign - Residents in Carmel have a house “name,” that should be visible from this street. Names are determined by owners; Carmel folklore discourages renaming with change of hands. Your sign out front ideally includes your house’s name and its physical location, the same as you provide for deliveries.
  • Online and “Ship To” Forms (or calling into a call center) that require physical locations require a leading numeral(s). The ideal # to use is the number of positions from the corner your house or building is located. If your location description is rejected - this is when the fun begins. Sometimes a simple “OK” this is correct is all that is needed, as an exception.

  • For standard packages (when it can be made during PO hours) and it requires an official address, use the following
    __Your First and Last Name__
    56B 5th Ave Lot 1,  (insert the number only of your PO box here e.g., #6432),
    Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA 93921

  • If used for a financial institution or where physical delivery or location is essential, and when you’re interacting live with business entity…
         * request exception approval on the physical address location you provided
         * ask if there is a local office that can help (example is CalAm Water has a central office and has a more local Pacific Grove office.)
         * ask your neighbors and/or the prior renter or house owner what they used to identify their location in this case successfully
         * ask if they accept the legal description of our locations with the APN, Lot, and Block numbers, all available on our City’s website here 
         * ask if they accept a copy of the tax bill, deed or other property record for your home, as proof of location

Ideal Location Descriptions

  • Your front door is the first street identified in describing your physical location, the second street identified should be the nearest cross street.
  • Use SE, SW, NW, NE to identify the side of the street and direction from the nearest cross street.
  • Include your house name at the end of the location description, or on a second address line.
  • If on the corner - A good example of the Carmel Woman’s Club would be either “0 San Carlos and 9th SW Corner” with or without the leading “0”
  • If not on the corner – An example is our American Legion on “2 Dolores, SE of 8th” or “Dolores 2 SE of 8th”, the second building from the corner, facing Dolores with nearest cross street 8th Avenue.

For House Delivery of Packages or Services

  • Transact local, where feasible. Local vendors and providers know of our strange ways.
  • For packages, always subscribe to online delivery notifications. They clarify how, when and package location, including the shipper information. If anything is off, you can often update the details.
  • UPS and FedEx are commonly OK with our descriptive addresses, and the signage in front of your house improves deliveries. Drivers will often remember your name too; other shippers not so much and often return the package to the vendor.
  • Amazon delivery tips: A) If you know they are shipping via UPS or FedEx, your physical address will be successful. B) If your package is small and/or you are OK with Post Office pickup, use your standard PO Box address, or the physical address of the Post Office shown already. C) Increasingly Amazon delivers with their trucks and staff that change frequently who benefit from optimal house signs and other tips mentioned here.
  • Refrigerated or pharmaceutical deliveries often use non-standard shippers. For these it is especially important A) to know your neighbors (in case they are mis-delivered nearby), B) make sure the shipper has your contact details and they accept special delivery instructions, with confirmation of delivery provided via text.
  • Service Providers (cleaning, landscaping, repairs etc.) locating your house; once again, clear visible signage at your entry with your house name and location is best. You can also point them to the “Maps: Carmel Home Names” tool.

Carmel-by-the-Sea US Postal Office 93921 

Our Post Office is located on 5th Avenue between Dolores and San Carlos, Phone (831) 625-4470. There are over 5000 physical PO Boxes in our Post Office: as of Spring 2022 there are 3200 in use. Sunday it is closed. Service Counter is open Monday-to-Friday 10am to 4:30pm and Saturdays from 12-2 a Package Pickup Window only is in the middle of the PO Box area. Doors to access PO Boxes are open 6-4:30 each weekday and Saturday from 7:30-4:30; they are unpredictably open longer.

Your FREE United States PO Box

Carmel-by-the-Sea residents (house owner, renter etc.) qualify for a free PO Box. For owners, they ask to see your tax bill and for Renters, please check with the Post Office Service Desk for required documentation. Annual verification (proof) is required. Larger PO Boxes are available for an annual fee.

Special Mail Delivery for Housebound

Housebound residents can apply with the City Staff for free house delivery if you qualify. This service is provided by Peninsula Messenger Service and paid for in our City fiscal budget by our tax dollars.

Yes, You’ve Got Mail

You can sign up to receive email notifications from USPS that you have postal mail waiting. Sign up for Informed Delivery, by USPS you digitally preview most upcoming mail and shipments by way of your email address. The email includes images of the address side of letter-sized mail pieces and packages processed through USPS's automated equipment. Sign up at informeddelivery.usps.com

Advantages of PO Boxes

  • Safety – no theft of mailed documents or packages (Yes, there are official mail boxes available with locking mechanisms)
  • Convenience – no need to rush to pick up a package left on your doorstep if packages are delivered to the Post Office
  • Visual Mailbox Clutter – with only Post Office delivery, mail boxes are not “a thing.”  Plus, our 93921 Post Office is very profitable in the USPS system simply because they do not provide house delivery
  • For Travelers or Part Time Residents – your packages and postal mail are held until you pick them up

Disadvantages of PO Boxes

  • Many, some but not all businesses refuse to ship to a Post Office Box
  • Issues with online systems that will not accept PO Boxes for an address
  • Packages delivered to the Post Office expands the time to retrieve your package
  • And packages shipped to your PO Box, or the Post Office physical address must deliver during Post Office hours only, awaiting your pickup

Other PO Box Providers 

There are fee-for-service providers offering Boxes and more that may better fit your needs. In town they include PAK Mail across from our Post Office, and Carmel Office Supply on Lincoln, SE of Ocean. Near Hwy 1 & Rio these providers include UPS Store in the Crossroads and Carmel Mail & Ship near Barnyard.

If you have new or different suggestions and updates for this article...please email us at [email protected].   But also read on for material and history not included in the printed newsletter issue.

Carmel & Addresses, Its Storied Past – highlights

There is always more…especially the history of prior efforts in town tied to addresses and postal delivery.  Here are a few snippets of interesting local history from books and links to PDFs of articles, as available for more.

Carmel-by-the-Sea Centennial Booklet (published 2016) page 10 (link to full booklet HERE)

“One of those only-in-Carmel moments occurred in 1953, when the State of California insisted that all houses have address numbers.  Carmelites threatened to secede from California, but then didn’t have to carry out their plans.”   

More research is needed to know why this effort was placed on the shelf.

New York Times 9/6/2000Fighting for a Carrier-Free Zone” summarized points (link to full article HERE)

In 1926, the City adopted an ordinance to number it’s houses, but the measure was ignored until it was officially repealed in 1940.  Ordinance 68

Thirteen years later, (1953) the City threatened to secede from the State of California over a gas-tax bill that would have required it to number its houses.  That bill failed.

A spokesman for the Postal Service in Washington DC, said that door to door service is not legally obligated. 

In August 2000, the USPS announced at a packed City Hall meeting that free home delivery, pending the assignment of street numbers, would finally be offered in our Village.

Who and why, again, did these efforts stop in their tracks?

Carmel Pine Cone July 5, 1973 “Whither the Carmel post office?” summarized points (link to PDF HERE

A proposal to move our 6000 sq ft Post Office, needing more space, to the north lot of Sunset Center with new building with 40000 sq ft. 

In part, this proposal likely was shelved due to Sunset Center municipal bonds limiting the shift in property until 1989…and of course community input objecting to this proposal.

Carmel – Today and Yesterday, by Daisy Bostick (book published 1945) page 43

“After the day has really begun, Ocean Avenue becomes a place of much life and movement.  Everyone makes at least one trip to the village. There is no mail delivery in Carmel, and you are likely to meet almost everyone you know at the post office around ten, three and eight o’clock, the times when mail is distributed. Several times the government has considered the establishment of mail delivery but each time the old residents have put in a plea that things remain as they are. The post office, as it stands, is a Carmel institution. There is much pleasure in the meetings and greetings, the local gossip, the dog fights which cause a suspensions of the incoming and outgoing mail until the combatants are separated and peace again restored.  And the old residents very much object to the numbering of houses, the installation of sidewalks, the uniformed mail carriers, all of which would be required if so radical a change as mail delivery were made by Uncle Sam. “

Curious Customs of Carmel, by El Freida Liese (book published 1968) page 6

Chapter Carmel’s Privacy:  “One reason is what the early settler sought first in the village was privacy (could he have had something to hide?)  To be certain that privacy was what he got – he hid his house among the trees and brush.  He opted against mail deliveries to his home.  He refused to put up a house number on his property.”

Secret History of Carmel, by John Thompson (book published 2011) page 167

“Another hub of local activity was the Post office across the street where the 1700 boxes filled neat brass rows from floor to ceiling.  The name on the sign declared W.M. Overstreet the Postmaster.  He was staunchly against home deliver because that would make his building lose its title as the gossip center of the village.  After enjoying a good cough, the retirees would tie up their pedigree dogs before standing in line soaking up gossip and loading up on green one penny stamps.  Then there were the profiles on the wanted posters hung above the outgoing slot with yokels point out imaginary resemblances to Carmel’s more reclusive artists.  Then there was the “Special Receptacle” for rejection slips from East Coast publishers, and there were the mysterious ladies who read love letters, wide-eyed with a pencil in their mouth, opening bill envelopes with trembling fingers, and scribbling hasty replies on penny postcards.”

From Our Carmel Harrison Memorial Library - The History team - has also provided these PDF's for even more.

  • 1953 July5th Carmel PineCone, "Whiter The Carmel Post Office" PDF HERE.
  • 1953 Mar6th pg3 Spectator, "Carmel Council Takes Action" PDF HERE.
  • 1993 Mar3rd Monterey Herald "Carmel Threatens To Secede" PDF HERE
  • 2000 Aug16th Monterey Herald "Carmel Going Postal" PDF HERE
  • 2002 Mar29th Monterey Herald "Carmel Residents Adapt To Mail Delivery" PDF HERE

And so it goes in Carmel-by-the-Sea….our storied past, ready or not for tomorrow!