Post Office by Darius Wekwerth
Downtown Berkeley’s post office is the subject of restraining order. Photo: Darius Wekwerth
Downtown Berkeley’s post office is the subject of restraining order. Photo: Darius Wekwerth

The city of Berkeley has gotten a temporary restraining order blocking the sale of the city’s main post office on Allston Way.

U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup ruled Nov. 5 that the U.S. Postal Service cannot sell the building before he conducts a full hearing in San Francisco on Dec. 10. USPS has committed to not closing a sale on the property before Dec. 17.

The city of Berkeley, along with its outside counsel Antonio Rossmann, filed for the TRO after learning online that the USPS was in contract to sell the building. Despite repeated requests and a Freedom of Information Act request, the USPS has refused to disclose the identity of the buyer.

On Nov. 5, Berkeleyside revealed that local developer Hudson McDonald was in negotiations to purchase the historic property. The firm would like the post office to remain in the front part of the building, according to Chris Hudson, a principal. The firm plans to put retail in the back portion of the property, which is currently sitting empty.

Mayor Tom Bates said Hudson McDonald had talked to Ace Hardware about moving from its University Avenue site to the back of the post office.

Current city regulations would prohibit that. The City Council recently adopted a new civic center overlay that bans commercial uses in the civic core. Buildings are limited to a height of 50 feet, and can only be used for civic or community uses, such as a museum or performance space.

Berkeley is contending that the USPS did not conduct a legally required environmental review of the sale, nor did it comply with regulations in the National Historic Preservation Act that mandates a public hearing on the sale of historic properties.

The USPS has contended it was not legally obligated to do either thing.

This story was updated with new dates after additional information was shared with Berkeleyside by Antonio Rossmann.

Local developer Hudson McDonald in contract to buy post office (11.05.14)
Federal report calls to stop sale of post office (04.18.14)
Locals, city fight on to stop sale of Berkeley’s historic post office (07.19.13)
Berkeley’s political firmament rallies for post office (05.03.13)
Post Office to sell its downtown Berkeley building (04.22.13)
Council asks for 1-year moratorium on post office sale (03.06.13)
USPS hears vocal opposition to sale of downtown building (02.28.13)
Post Office public hearing to focus on Berkeley sale plan (02.26.13)
Berkeley discusses future of main post office (02.13.12)
Protesters take Save Post Office demo to San Francisco (12.05.12)
Rally held to protest sale of Berkeley’s main post office (11.15.12)
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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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...