PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) --- It may take a while, but South Portland could become the city's 6th directional area.
The sextant -- which would take about 5 years to implement beginning in 2020 -- would join the designations of North, Northeast, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest Portland.
The plan would change about 5000 Southwest Portland addresses to, simply, South Portland.
About 8% of Southwest Portland addresses are in the area which includes a zero as the lead number in their mailing address.
Areas like Lair Hill, Corbett, the South Waterfront, Johns Landing, parts of Marquam Hill are included.
The plan has been under development by the Portland Bureau of Transportation. It would change addresses east of SW Naito Parkway.
PBOT said the eastward curve in the Willamette River is the reason the east-west addresses in that area begin with a zero. The zero is what differentiates them from addresses west of the dividing line.
Those addresses cause confusion with 911 dispatchers and emergency responders, plus Google Maps and delivery of packages to certain homes. Residents in the area say they have a hard time getting everything from mail to a pizza.
Captain Louisa Jones with Portland Fire & Rescue provided a hypothetical example of how the addresses can affect a response.
"You may have a '016 SW Gaines' and a '16 SW Gaines,' and those 2 addresses could be about 5 blocks apart, and in this case would be separated by I-5," Jones told KOIN 6 News. "So, for responders, that could be a difference of 5 to 8 minutes if they show up at one address and discover that's not the correct address and need to loop all the way around I-5 to get back to the other address."
"If they don't realize that zero matters, responders are going to be sent by dispatch to a different location completely," she said. "As we increase the urban density in this area, those overlaps are going to increase."
City leaders also say there are many computer systems and databases that don't recognize addresses that begin with zero.
"Google, Mapquest, UPS, FedEx, data bases the City of Portland uses, data bases our 911 uses, this is a widespread problem," Rivera said.
If this plan takes effect, that zero would be eliminated for east-west streets. No addresses would change for north-south streets.
"We think it's time, as the city continues to grow, this is a good time to take this problem head-on, to really address it in a big way," PBOT spokesperson Dylan Rivera told KOIN 6 News. "It's only going to get worse if we don't take action now. We have 5000 addresses affected by this. We don't want to wait until we have 10,000 addresses affected by this."
Rivera added they plan to "upgrade the street signage so it's more visible at night. We're going to fix some oddball addresses that don't make any sense."
People with affected addresses should have recently received a mailing from PBOT about the plan.
Jim Lakehomer, one of the residents whose address would be affected, said they've had "very minor problems." But he's not opposed to a change.
"I think the emergency system has to function optimally for the citizens and if there's data that shows that will improve response times and lead to better survivability, then I think it would make sense."
But those residents in the affected area shouldn't change their addresses yet, he said.
"The City Council needs to consider an ordinance."
The city will hold a number of open houses during March to inform the public about the plan, and the Portland City Council will hear this issue on May 31.
The transition period would begin in May 2020 and continue through May 2025.