Under current U.S. Postal Service procedure, mail carriers aren't obligated to sort and deliver mail to individual occupants in single-room occupancy hotels, using instead a bulk delivery point like a desk clerk. Tenants' rights advocates and S.F. City Attorney Dennis Herrera have taken a case against the USPS to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that San Francisco's 30,000 low-income, SRO tenants deserve the same mail service as everyone else.

Lawyers for the USPS are claiming that if they have to treat residence hotels, like those that line the streets of the Tenderloin and around 6th Street, as apartment buildings, it will adversely affect the struggling agency financially. Justice Department attorney Lowell Sturgill argued that doing away with single-point delivery in all SROs nationwide would cost $300 million per year.

Also, the transient nature of SRO tenants creates a further headache for the USPS, because mailbox rosters would constantly be switching around. (SROs, by the way, tend to be buildings with shared bathrooms and kitchens in which the tenants pay rent on a weekly or monthly basis.)

It's an intriguing case, especially given the huge number of long-term SRO tenants in the central core of San Francisco, all of whom have to deal with the indignity of having their mail looked over by whomever. But that's surely not the greatest indignity they're dealing with.

[SF Examiner]