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New area code for the 805 could overlay or divide region

What the 805 area code means to Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Firestone Walker Brewing Co. headbrewer Dustin Kral talks about what the upcoming 805 region's area code changes mean to the brewery, which brews the popular 805 beer.
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Firestone Walker Brewing Co. headbrewer Dustin Kral talks about what the upcoming 805 region's area code changes mean to the brewery, which brews the popular 805 beer.

The 805 area code that stretches from San Luis Obispo south to Ventura County has inspired local pride in various forms, but that regional enthusiasm will soon have to be shared with a new number.

Some have inked 805 tattoos on their skin, Paso Robles-based Firestone Walker Brewing Co. crafted an 805 beer and radio DJs often make reference to their listener base “in the 805.”

But two years from now, the tricounty region will adopt a new area code sibling that’s expected to share the same zone with those who currently possess 805 phone numbers.

“I heard somebody say on the radio that it could be 806,” said Joe Cocke, a senior area code relief planner with Nuestar, the company that contracts with the Federal Communications Commission in an administrative role to assess area code planning. “We wouldn’t choose a number that’s very similar to 805 to avoid confusion. It would be one that’s very different.”

I heard somebody say on the radio it could be 806. We wouldn’t choose a number that’s very similar to 805 to avoid confusion. It would be one that’s very different.

Joe Cocke, senior area code relief planner with Nuestar.

The local area code change is set to take place in June 2018 with the anticipated exhaustion of available new numbers by the end of 2018.

Of the 792 possible three-digit prefixes that follow the 805 area code, only 40 prefixes remain. Prefixes are assigned to a community, cellphone user area or a grouping of communities. Familiar ones are 466 for Atascadero, 781 for San Luis Obispo and 481 for Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and Oceano.

The 805 area code likely will see an overlay, meaning that those with existing 805 phone numbers will keep their digits, and people assigned new phone numbers will get the new area code.

Another option discussed at a meeting held Tuesday in San Luis Obispo City Council Chambers by the California Public Utilities Commission was to split the geographic region so part of the tricounty area maintains its 805 area code and the remaining zone is assigned a new area code.

The dividing line would be Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, meaning residents in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties would have one area code and those in Ventura County would have another, though it hasn’t been determined which area might keep 805.

But the trend nationwide in recent years has been to use the overlay system, Cocke said.

“The last time a split happened in the United States was nine years ago,” Cocke said. “The last time it happened in California was 12 years ago.”

Cocke said that when businesses are forced to take new numbers, it can confuse customers, and money is lost. Other problems have arisen such as the case of a mother who posted notices about her missing child nationwide and wanted to make sure she could use the same number to communicate with tipsters.

A question that arose from two members of the public Tuesday concerned the burden on customers during the switch.

For example, an overlay would require all local phone users to dial 1 and then the area code and then the telephone number, totaling 11 digits. Currently, users of landlines only must dial seven digits for local calls.

That means that any seven-digit phone numbers programmed into alarm systems, fax machines, or even emergency dispatch systems will have to be automated to 11 digits to include 1 and the area code.

“There will be a phasing-in process that would take several months in which people would be encouraged to dial using 10 digits, and then 10-digit dialing will be mandatory,” Cocke said. “You’ll get a message on your phone if you don’t dial 10 digits.”

The phasing in of 10-digit dialing would begin in the months leading up to the issuance of the new area code.

If you wish to comment

Written public comments on the new area code change may be sent to the California Public Utilities Commission, Public Advisor’s Office, 320 W. Fourth St., Suite 500, Los Angeles, CA 90013. Emails may be sent to public.advisor@cpuc.ca.gov. And phone calls may be made to 866-340-6147.

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