Rally held to protest sale of Berkeley’s main Post Office

Protesters held a rally outside downtown Berkeley’s main post office Wednesday to make clear their opposition to its sale. Photo: Kaia Diringer

Several dozen people gathered outside the downtown Berkeley post office Wednesday to protest both the potential sale of the building by the United States Postal Service, as well as what they see as the organization’s reluctance to hear the community’s views on the issue.

The group held placards with slogans including “Save the People’s Post Office” and “Save Post Office Union Jobs and Services.” They entered the post office building and held a rally on the plaza around the corner on Shattuck Avenue.

Campaigners protest the scheduling of a hearing in Thanksgiving week. Gray Brechin, who has been a leader in the fight,is the man with the hat.  Photo: Kaia Diringer

The “Save the Post Office” group has made it clear in recent email notices that it was unhappy with the USPS’s decision to hold a hearing on the sale on Nov. 20, two days before Thanksgiving. Mayor Tom Bates announced at Tuesday’s City Council meeting that the meeting, due to be held at Berkeley High, would be postponed to a date to be decided in January.

In its emails this week, the protesters had noted: “At a packed hearing in mid-September, the public was assured that the Postal Service would work with the City of Berkeley to set a date that would allow full community participation. Instead, Postal Service staff set the final public hearing on a date when many citizens will be away, the Tuesday night before Thanksgiving.”

The post office building is loosely modeled on Filippo Brunelleschi’s Ospedale degli Innocenti in Florence. Photo: Kaia Diringer

The cash-strapped USPS announced in June that the main Berkeley post office, a distinguished 1914 Renaissance Revival building, was for sale. The plan is to move all its carrier and bulk mail operations to the Berkeley Destination Delivery Unit at 1150 8th Street, and to find an alternate retail location for downtown customers.

The City Council passed a declaration in July asking that USPS not sell the Main Post Office. Shortly afterwards, Eddie Orton, an award-winning developer who specializes in historic properties, told Berkeleyside that he would be interested in buying the building on Allston Way.

The USPS has put 40 historical post offices up for sale in the last few years. in numerous communities around the country. The sell-off of such a large number of historic properties so alarmed the National Trust for Historic Preservation that in June it put historic post offices on its “2012 List of America’s 11 Most Endangered Places.” Despite the efforts of numerous activists in communities around the country, the USPS has never backed off closing a historic post office after its closure was announced.

Developer eyes Berkeley’s historic post office [08.01.12]
Chances are slim of stopping sale of Berkeley’s post office [07.23.12]
Postal Service plans sale of Berkeley’s main post office [06.25.12]

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside. Email: tracey@citysidejournalism.org.