New area code for Sacramento still a mystery

The California Public Utilities Commission will be adding a new area code to the 916 region.
The California Public Utilities Commission will be adding a new area code to the 916 region. The Associated Press

By the fall of 2017, Sacramentans who are still dialing seven-digit phone numbers will have to start using all 10 digits, including the 916.

That’s because the California Public Utilities Commission will be adding a new area code to the 916 region, which includes West Sacramento and parts of Placer County. Prefixes, the three numbers that come after the area code, for the 916 code are due to run out by March 2018. A hearing at Sacramento City Hall on Monday marked the beginning of a public outreach campaign by the PUC on the changes.

The most pressing question for most people – what will the new code be – wasn’t answered. Vanity numbers, like 722 to spell out S-A-C or 459 for the Kings’ all-time winning percentage, aren’t issued, officials said. For instance, Las Vegas’ request for 777 was denied a few years ago.

The PUC could decide to overlay a new code over the region or to split the region into two area codes, which hasn’t been done in California in 12 years. The PUC will issue a decision on the split versus overlay question in spring 2017, after which a permissive dialing period will begin. During that time, people will still be able to make phone calls with only seven digits of the phone number.

Starting around fall 2017, dialers using seven digits will reach a recording telling them to dial again using the 10-digit number. A month after that, the new area code will be introduced.

Though there was some buzz on social media when the upcoming change was announced in March, no one spoke during the public comment section at the end of Monday’s hearing. Jonathan Lakritz, program manager for the PUC, said public interest in changing area codes has waned over the years.

“Ten, 15 years ago, area codes were a topic that really captured people’s imagination,” Lakritz said. Now, not so much.

“I think a lot of people are used to dialing 10 digits now,” he said. “A lot of people have smartphones, which makes it easier to accommodate an area code change.”

He said people in urban areas tend to care less about code changes than people in rural areas because a higher percentage of urban dwellers tend to be transplants who brought their old phone numbers with them.

There is a second public meeting in Roseville on Tuesday at 1 p.m. Written comments may be submitted to the PUC Public Advisor’s Office via email at public.advisor@cpuc.ca.gov or mailed to 320 W. 4th St., Suite 500, Los Angeles, CA 90013.

Ellen Garrison: 916-321-1920, @EllenGarrison

Area code overlay

Phone numbers issued after late 2017 in the region covered by 916 could receive the new area code.

Map of 916 area code