The United States Postal Service announced Monday that it has officially approved the relocation of its Downtown Berkeley branch due to the organization’s need to reduce its current multibillion-dollar deficit.
Serving the Berkeley community since 1914, Downtown Berkeley’s main post office is one of the city’s historical landmarks listed in the National Register of Historic Places and contains two pieces of Works Progress Administration artwork. Monday’s announcement means that the Postal Service will be selling the property and moving operations from the historic building to another location nearby, which has yet to be determined.
The decision comes after the Postal Service announced in June of last year that it intended to relocate the Downtown branch as part of a nationwide strategy to consolidate up to 140 locations by 2013 and another 89 by 2014. The Postal Service has been facing a nationwide $25 billion deficit over the past four years, according to Postal Service spokesperson Augustine Ruiz.
“It doesn’t mean we’re going to go out of business,” Ruiz said. “All we’re saying is that we don’t need a 57,000-square-foot building anymore when we only need 4,000. It makes good business sense.”
Since the plan to relocate the post office was revealed, residents and city officials have opposed it.
Local groups, such as Save the Berkeley Post Office, have held several protests outside the building, and the mayor and several Berkeley City Council members created the Post Office Subcommittee last July to lobby the USPS.
“I’m really disappointed,” said Mayor Tom Bates. “It’s a beautiful building. We talked to the Postal Service about the need to keep the building public, but they just seem to have it in their minds that they want to sell it no matter what.”
According to the statement, there is a 15-day appeal period during which anyone can send a letter to the Postal Service, which will review the complaints prior to making a final decision.
Bates and Arreguin both voiced plans to take part in appealing the decision. A special City Council session may be held to organize a collective letter of appeal from the city on April 30, Arreguin mentioned.
“We’re going to appeal, but I think the chances of the appeal going through are about one out of 20,” Bates said.
Save the Berkeley Post Office also intends to hold a protest against the decision and has been talking with lawyers about the possibility of challenging it legally, according to Harvey Smith, spokesperson for Save the Berkeley Post Office.
“In the end, even if the outcome of the appeal is not favorable, what we can certainly do as a city government is to work with the USPS to make sure who buys the building uses it for a positive use,” Arreguin said.