UPDATE – the Press Democrat front page on March 18, 2010 includes a report by Martin Espinoza that the Census Bureau purposefully used wrong addresses for parts of Sonoma County! The Census Bureau purports to provide accurate data which governments and others rely upon. During these times when people appear to be particularly mistrustful of government and seem to becoming more so, it is disappointing to learn that the Census Bureau would further risk the public trust.

How do you lose the third most populated city in Sonoma County, which we believe has about 44,000 residents? It’s undoubtedly difficult even for the United States Department of Commerce Census Bureau, but that’s what has apparently happened again.

In my mailbox recently was an envelope from the United States Census 2010, upon which is printed ‘U.S. Census Form Enclosed YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW’ together with other ‘OFFICIAL BUSINESS’ type information. However, while it includes a street address quite familiar to me, having resided there for over twenty years, the city to which it was addressed is one where I have never lived – Cotati, CA.

Now, I like Cotati well enough. Lunch there at the Redwood Cafe earlier this week with a friend was excellent and the opening of the Cotati Historical Museum a few weeks ago was also very enjoyable. Nonetheless, Rohnert Park is where I reside and even served as its mayor. So, it’s important to me that Rohnert Park be acknowledged as the city where my house is located and one would think that it would be important to the Census Bureau as well. After all, isn’t that the basis for the census, counting people where they live?

Although not certain why the Census Bureau is unable to find Rohnert Park, don’t believe that it’s leprechaun shenanigans associated with Saint Patrick’s Day. For years the zipcode of Cotati was 94928. During their early years as incorporated cities, both Cotati and Rohnert Park shared that zipcode. As the population of Rohnert Park grew and surpassed that of Cotati, the United States Post Office eventually assigned the cities different zipcodes. When this was done, it was determined that there would be less disruption to permit the more numerous Rohnert Park residents to keep the 94928 designation and assign 94931 to Cotati residents. While uncertain as to the precise date this occurred, I do know that it took place prior to the 2000 census since I recall contacting the Census Bureau at that time to inform its staff that my city of residence is Rohnert Park, not Cotati.

As a former mayor I know that census data, especially population count, is a key component in the making of many governmental decisions. How reliable is the data derived from census forms that are addressed to the incorrect city?

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  1. ER

    This needs to be front page news, not buried in an online blog. There was another PD online blog, can’t find it, that said that people living in Rincon Valley got their census forms addressed to Kenwood. Mine, for better or worse, did have the correct city on it but people really need to check their census forms.

    March 17th, 2010 12:27 pm

  2. Ira Freed


    Below is a copy of the letter to the editor that I emailed on yesterday to the Press Democrat. I became aware of Rohnert Park’s zip code problem since I opened my office in RP in Nov, 1996. I could not understand why I was receiving mail at my RP office addressed to Cotati. But then I checked the zip code listings at the USPS and found out that the Post Office was listing Cotati as the first city for 94928. RP was second. I have mentioned this problem to various city, Chamber, and business people. I even asked the the local postmaster about it several years ago. He said there was no problem, that the Post Office knew where to deliver the mail. Thus, RP remains “lost”. No wonder RP has a problem with its image; and a problem attracting business: it doesn’t exist.

    I commend Debbie Bailey for her letter in the PD on 3/17/10 about her Census form addressed to Cotati. I too am dismayed when I receive mail at my residence or office in Rohnert Park that is addressed to Cotati. The U S Postal Service still lists Cotati as an acceptable alternative for zip code 94928, even though Cotati has its own zip code, 94931. Why does Rohnert Park share its zip code with Cotati? I am returning my Census form with a request to correct the address. I live in Rohnert Park, not Cotati. I guess that when the 2010 Census is completed, Cotati will have over 50,000 residents while Rohnert Park will have none! But this result is not much different from the Press Democrat’s weather reports, which often show the temperatures and rainfall for Rohnert Park as “na, na, na, na”.

    Ira Freed

    March 18th, 2010 7:48 am

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