San Francisco Sues Post Office Over Snail Mail Discrimination

Categories: Government

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Dear Mr. Post Man ...
The City of San Francisco has filed an appeal with the federal appellate court, challenging a lower court's decision to uphold a United States Postal Service policy that allows mail carriers to dump unsorted mail in bundles to Single Room Occupancy hotels (SROs).

This policy, some say, is unfair and discriminatory since mail carriers are required to place letters, bills, junk mail, and all other missives in the mailboxes of individual residents who are living in apartments that are not designated SROs.

Oral arguments in this case begin today.

Gabriel Zitrin, a spokesman for the City Attorney's Office, said the district court made the wrong decision by throwing out the city's lawsuit last year when it challenged this policy. Zitrin said the post office's decision to bundle mail for lower-income residents was harmful -- resulting in late bills -- and violated the rights SRO residents.

"The posted office violated equal protection of the law and freedom of speech which is chilled by restrictive access to the mail," said Zitrin.

But in 2011, after a two-year legal battle, a U.S. District judge disagreed with the city and tossed out the lawsuit. The judge wrote in a 22-page summary judgment that the post office's refusal to deliver mail and place it in individual boxes was a "reasonable" and "rational" policy, considering the budget crisis crippling the postal service.

In 2008, the San Francisco Post Master decided to stop delivering mail to individual boxes for all residents living in Single Room Occupancy hotels. Instead, mail was delivered in bundles to the front desk manager, dropped in the lobby, or slipped through the front doors.

Resident complaints were detailed in sworn legal documents (filed via email), saying that new mail delivery system caused all sorts of problems.

One resident accused a front desk manager of holding mail hostage, forcing residents to sign over checks, and making them pay rent before releasing their mail. Other residents said that mail was often delivered to the wrong person, sometimes causing late-fees for bills that never arrived. Once a manager signed for a certified letter that was informing the resident of a sick relative; the manager then delivered letter to the wrong room.

The hearing will begin a 9 a.m.. in the Ninth Circuit Federal Building, Courtroom 4 on the 2nd Floor.




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