Who knew house numbering was a controversial topic?
For most of us, our address consists of a street number which makes it easy to find. But books set in England long ago or in rural areas will often refer to a house by the name given to it by a former resident, such as “The Larches”. There didn’t seem to be a street numbering system and I wondered how people who don’t know a neighborhood find a house other than walking down the street looking at the names of the houses or asking any local they met.
The absence of the traditional street numbering system is also seen in Japan, but there is an alternative system which, while looking strange to outsiders, has a defined structure which helps to focus on the location. Unlike the US system where the address starts with the smallest unit such as the person’s name, then moves to house number, then street, then city, then state, then country, in Japan it goes in reverse order, with the largest unit such as city coming first and name last. It seems to work well. I heard that Japan has a different way of entering a destination in its GPS system in order to find locations, as described in this video.
I started thinking about this because of a news report that a nearby small town called Carmel-by-the Sea apparently doesn’t have a street numbering system either and a proposal to introduce one in order to facilitate the search for places aroused opposition and created controversy.
The reluctance is shrouded in the ideals of the city’s character. According to a report on the agenda for last week’s council meeting, “tradition and the preservation of the city’s charm, uniqueness and culture have been at the forefront of its governing body and the preference of residents in the past to reject the implementation of a street addressing system”.
In 1926, city administrators passed an ordinance for house numbering of Carmel-by-the-Sea properties. The ordinance prohibited the owner of any real property in the city from “maintaining any house, building or structure…without displaying securely…visible to passers-by…a license plate showing in numbers readable the number of said premises”, according to staff research. The ordinance passed unanimously, but the city did not implement or mandate the display of house numbers. Without any enforcement, the measure was eventually repealed in 1940.
Years later, in 1953, the city even threatened to secede from California when the state considered mandating the house number.
Nowadays, street numbering performs many important functions and residents who live there need to find workarounds.
Concerns expressed by community members range from difficulty providing proof of residency to watching paramedics and fire engines respond to the wrong house. Often without expecting a mailing address, residents expressed difficulty in opening or maintaining financial accounts, obtaining loans, activating or modifying basic public services such as wireless Internet, making deliver packages to the right house or to be “findable” in an emergency. public safety issue.
Workarounds to the problem, such as asking neighbors to watch each other’s packages or offering descriptions such as “this is the third house on the left”, have helped to correct some confusion. But community members came to last week’s council meeting to explain that complications are common and increasingly frustrating.
“We need to move forward into the 21st century with our real addresses,” one commenter said.
Interestingly, the city apparently doesn’t have door-to-door mail delivery either, and people have to go to the post office to pick up their mail. And some people like it that way.
Staff argue that the town post office has a long local history as a place where residents regularly go not only to check their post boxes, but also to have unnecessary conversations. Determined to keep the social center operational, the staff’s priorities when seeking an address program include protecting the Carmel Post Office and refusing to implement a door-to-door mail delivery service. With these goals in mind, staff are in communication with the Carmel Postmaster to see if establishing mailing addresses would cause the United States Postal Service to require mail delivery regardless of interest. of the city, explained Emily Gray, Carmel’s administrative analyst.
Small town controversies have their own charm, even if they can get extremely heated.