Cracking the Code

Shortly after Sunny Isles Beach incorporated in 1997, residents voted against changing the name of the city to Aventura Beach in order to maintain a unique identity. Fifteen years later, in keeping with the “spirit of independence” efforts are being made to acquire an autonomous Sunny Isles Beach zip code – currently “33160.”

At the June 21 City Commission meeting, a resolution was passed expressing support for the establishment of a unique zip code – a mission originally initiated by Vice Mayor Lewis Thaler.

“In 2007, I tried to get Sunny Isles Beach its own zip code but we really had very little response from residents,” Thaler explained. “Since 2007, the city has grown and I think most people now realize that unless we get our own zip code, we will always be known as ‘North Miami Beach’ on every computer in this country… So we’re making an effort to go back and try to get an individual zip code for Sunny Isles Beach. Jennifer Levin [chair of the Special Projects sub-committee of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee] has been put in charge of doing the leg work for getting us a zip code.”

“My sub-committee has been conducting some research in preparation for making the request [for a new Sunny Isles Beach zip code] to the Post Office,” Levin said. “Although the Post Office must address its internal operations, based upon a 2006 Congressional research service report concerning the change of zip code boundaries, the Post Office should give careful, objective consideration to community wishes – even if they are based only on identity concerns.

“Born and raised in Miami, I’ve lived in Sunny Isles Beach since 1994 and have proudly watched the city morph into the gem it is today…Florida’s Riviera; pristine beaches; named number one of top ten U.S. destinations by Trip Advisors; home of world-class resorts and dining…’Exclusive, swank, luxurious, distinct.’

“The Congressional research report that I mentioned also stated that zip codes misaligned with municipal boundaries can cause higher insurance rates, confusion over voter registration, misdirected property and sales tax revenues for municipalities and diminishment of housing values because a shared zip code places a municipality in a less prestigious community… Community identity is also robbed. Further problems include misdirection of jury duty notices and emergency services. Particularly, [pertaining to] Sunny Isles Beach, mail is mis-delivered because we do not have directions such as Northeast or Southeast in our street addresses – and it’s also inconvenient to retrieve mail from the North Miami Beach Post Office.

“Based upon the foregoing, for other reasons which may not be clear, and the fact that there are no known substantial reasons why acquiring a unique zip code may be detrimental, I believe that it is in the interest of the city to pursue the branding of its unique identity and proceed with the application [for a new zip code].”

A memorandum drafted by city staff recommending the Commission approve the resolution to establish a unique zip code for Sunny Isles Beach supports Levin’s contentions, emphasizing, “Community identity can be enhanced by a unique zip code. This has been used by other communities as a way to create a sense of place and belonging for their residents…Eventually, letterheads would have to be changed, but the Post Office offers a substantial transition period during which the mail will be delivered to the same address while having either the old or the new zip code. This change would not result in the misdirection of important items like Social Security checks…If anything, it will make it more likely that those checks arrive on time to the correct address.

“There are many other benefits that have been cited as reasons for acquiring a unique zip code. The three most prominent are to simplify commerce, improve insurance rates and promote community identity. Regarding commerce, items destined for addresses in Sunny Isles Beach are sometimes misdirected to other addresses in North Miami Beach or Aventura because of shared zip codes. This also leads to complications in the ordering process for many consumers in Sunny Isles Beach when they try to order things on the telephone or online and are told that they live in North Miami Beach.

Regarding insurance, for example, homeowners insurance rates are predicated on local crime statistics. Unless residents are insistent with their carriers about where they actually live, their insurance rates are based on crime statistics that include statistics from other communities.


actually stands for Zone Improvement Code – a system designed to improve the sorting and delivery of mail that was instituted in the U.S. in 1963. When the zones were established they weren’t intended to be aligned with municipal boundaries.

According to an East Palo Alto newsletter addressing the need for a zip code change, several communities have been able to successfully petition for and acquire new zip codes including Elkins Park, Pennsylvania…In the District of Columbia, under pressure from former Mayor Marion Barry, the United States Postal Service realigned the postal boundaries between the District of Columbia and Maryland to match the actual boundary lines.

The newsletter goes on to explain a Congressional hearing in 1990 of a House postal sub-committee, acknowledging the misalignment of zip code and municipal boundaries, considered bills that would have allowed local governments, rather than the Postal Service to determine local addresses or zip code boundaries -but protests by the USPS led to the bills dying at the sub-committee level. However, the USPS was persuaded to develop a process for the regular review of zip code boundaries.

Under Section 439 of the Postal Operations Manual, postmasters are responsible for reviewing zip code assignments in their areas and proposing changes if operational and financial conditions justify them. According to the USPS, an average of 25,170 five-digit zip code changes are made on a monthly basis.

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1 Comment on "Cracking the Code"

  1. We love Sunny Isles, we have many customers there and hope to continue serving the community. Thought it was a good idea to post here the link to our Sunny Isles History Video:

    Greetings to all our Sunny Isles Friends, from ASAP Locksmith.

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