Residents at a Del Rey public housing complex are still in a state of anxiety following several weeks of having to retrieve their mail from a mobile unit, after postal delivery to their residences was suspended and a mediation meeting that had been scheduled was canceled.
Mail service to tenants’ apartments was suspended on September 23rd after a fatal shooting at the public housing development.
A meeting was scheduled for Monday, November 10th, in which U.S. Postal Service authorities were expected to join representatives of Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Housing Authority of Los Angeles, along with City Councilman Bill Rosendahl and members of the Resident Advisory Council at Mar Vista Gardens to address lingering tensions between the postal service and the residents.
But the meeting was postponed shortly before it was slated to take place, leaving many with a sense of increased frustration and desperation.
“We’re really disappointed that the meeting was cancelled,” Joanna Harvey Dixon, a member of the residents council, told The Argonaut. “We’re upset that we still have not had this situation taken care of, and we would like to know why it was cancelled.”
Representatives of the elected officials scheduled to attend the canceled meeting held a meeting at another location later that day.
According to Rosendahl, postal officials remain steadfast in their decision not to resume mail service to tenant buildings inside the complex.
The latest solution proposed by the Postal Service is to place a series of clusters of mailboxes at various locations within the complex, but Rosendahl and the tenants at Mar Vista Gardens reject that proposal as being unfair to those who live there.
“I find it outrageous that the mail is still not being delivered to their homes,” Rosendahl said. “I am not going to accept anything less than regular mail service.”
Harvey Dixon was also dismayed by the recommendation made by postal officials.
“Why can’t we get our mail delivered just like everybody else?” she asked. “It isn’t fair to [penalize] us for the actions of one person.”
After the September 23rd fatal shooting at the public housing development, a female letter carrier, who was present but not harmed during the shooting, subsequently complained to her union that she did not feel safe on her route in the housing complex, which has had problems with gangs in previous years. In addition, the postal employee claims to have been harassed frequently by gang members and attacked by stray dogs.
Tenants at Mar Vista Gardens were notified that they would no longer receive their letters, bills and packages at their buildings last month by postal officials.
“Our letter carriers are subjected to aggressive volatile
confrontational behavior from gang members as well as vicious dog attacks on a continuous frequency at this location which has resulted in injuries,” wrote Al Santos, the senior operations manager for the Los Angeles District of the Postal Service to Sanford Riggs of the Housing Authority, the agency that supervises Mar Vista Gardens. “We have copies of letters that document repeated notices to customers over a period of six years regarding failure to secure their dogs during delivery hours.
“Safety for our employees at this location is jeopardized and at high risk for danger.”
After a few weeks of having their carriers accompanied by armed guards, postal authorities temporarily suspended mail deliveries to Mar Vista Gardens. Postal mobile units now arrive at the gate of the housing complex Monday through Saturday, and residents are required to pick up their mail at the trucks.
In Hawthorne, the Postal Service now requires residents on a cul de sac to install curbside mailboxes due to postal employees being attacked by dogs. Residents were required to pay for the installation themselves.
Nearly 90 residents of Mar Vista Gardens walked to the Culver City Post Office, which handles the mail for their area, on November 1st to show how far some residents were required to journey during the period that they received no mail service.
Ruth Goldway, a former Santa Monica mayor and who is currently a member of the United States Postal Regulatory Commission, learned of the controversy at Mar Vista Garden while reading The Argonaut. She has been in touch with Rosendahl’s office to see what is currently transpiring.
“I am supportive of [Rosendahl’s] efforts to see that his community’s voices are heard,” said Venice resident Goldway in a statement.
The United States Postal Regulatory Commission regulates the United States Post Service.
Rosendahl sees this as a problem that has mushroomed due to the involvement of the postal employees union.
“They are playing hardball in defiance of our pleas,” the councilman said.
Waters’ office is aware of what is occurring at the public housing complex, and her staff say that they are monitoring the situation. Waters and Rosendahl represent Del Rey at the federal and municipal levels, respectively.
Harvey Dixon said that while she and many of her neighbors in Mar Vista Gardens have supported Waters over the years, they are surprised that to date the congresswoman’s office has offered little or no assistance.
“We have always felt neglected by a lot of our elected officials,” she lamented. “A lot of us were worried about getting our voting [guides] so that we could vote [on November 4th].
“We have sent at least 50 letters to her office and we’ve only had one response. We really thought that she would be able to help us.”
Harvey Dixon praised Rosendahl for his efforts to assist his constituents.
“He’s been great,” she said.
For Rosendahl and the tenants at Mar Vista Gardens, having their mail delivered to their homes is a constitutional right.
“There are senior citizens and people who are disabled in that complex that may not be able to walk long distances to get their mail,” Rosendahl pointed out. “People are being denied their basic constitutional rights.”
Both the Del Rey Homeowners and Neighbors Association and the Del Rey Neighborhood Council have stated that while they feel that postal employees have the right to have safe working conditions, they also believe that Mar Vista Gardens residents should have mail service similar to other Del Rey stakeholders.
Calls to Riggs at the Housing Authority had not been returned at Argonaut press time. Michael Levine, Waters’ communications director, did not return e-mails for comment for this story.