Couple's non-existent address tricks mail carriers

February 14, 2011 7:23:39 PM PST
Have you ever had your mail delivered to the wrong address? Or, get someone else's mail in your box by mistake?

It often happens in neighborhoods where streets have similar names and one Sunnyvale couple is a prime example. Their neighborhood is a maze of streets with names so similar even residents can't keep them straight. One couple wasn't getting their mail and it turned out, their official address didn't even exist.

Julio Velasco recently showed 7 On Your Side the puzzling cross streets near his house. Hiddenlake is one way. Greenlake is another way. Lakefair is yet another way. It's the main reason he hasn't been getting his mail.

"Technically, we're supposed to be on Lakefair, but I don't know why it's considered Greenlake. It's very confusing," he said.

His is just one corner in a neighborhood full of streets named "Lake" something.There's Lakehaven, Lakewood, Lakemuir, Lakeknoll, Lakechime, Lakebird, Silverlake, Meadowlake and Twinlake. And, by the way, there is no lake anywhere around.

It seems ripe for lost visitors and misdirected mail, especially for Julio and his wife Viviana. Their house sits on Greenlake Drive right where it turns into Lakefair Drive. Because of this, the mail has been going where they don't live.

"Driver's license, tax information, and we started not getting that stuff. That's when it becomes really a big deal," Julio said.

Here's the problem. Their official address says the house is on Lakefair Drive, but it really sits over on Greenlake Drive. A mail carrier looking for the house on Lakefair won't find it.

"Neither of these addresses exist, so there's no such address as 654 Greenlake nor is there an address 654 Lakefair," Viviana explained. "They're sending our mail that way and when they go that way, there is no house.

Instead, their mail is returned to sender or returned to a mystery mail pile at the post office. It meant getting bills late, getting payments late, missing documents and bad credit reports.

"We would get calls saying how come you didn't pay your bill? And, it's kind of like well we didn't get our bill in the mail,'" Julio said.

The couple tried fixing the problem by calling the post office. They put a sign on their mailbox saying their house was on both streets. Mail still went missing. Two years of this and Viviana had had enough.

"Finally, she said, "I saw Michael Finney. I'm going to give him a call,'" Julio recalled.

7 On Your Side took the problem to the post office who agreed that all the "Lake" streets were pretty confounding.

"Lakemuir, Lakewood, Lakehaven," James Wigdel with the post office said laughingly."Apparently, there was some confusion as far as the address and where the house is actually located."

A postmaster paid a visit, realized the address didn't match the house, and contacted the city of Sunnyvale. The city looked into it too and said indeed, there was a clerical error way back in 1957 when he house was built. Official records mistakenly show the address on Lakefair Drive. So right away, the city changed it to Greenlake and waived the usual $176 change fee. Also, mail carriers in the area now carry a special note that says, "This house is officially on Greenlake Drive."

"It's a situation that would be confusing to any mail carrier," James Wigdel said.

"Within a month, this whole problem was resolved, which is kind of nice," Julio said. "So, after two years of not getting resolved, yeah, it was good. So, we got our mail now."

Amazingly, the Postal Service says even with the confusing maze of streets named "Lake," it has not received more complaints about misdirected mail. And, also, no one could say why there are so many lake names when there is no lake.

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