Protesters clear a makeshift encampment at Berkeley’s main post office on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014. Photo: Lance Knobel
Protesters clear a makeshift encampment at Berkeley’s main post office on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014. Photo: Lance Knobel

The proposal by Berkeley developers Hudson MacDonald to buy the downtown Berkeley Post Office has fallen through after they were unable to reach agreement with the Post Office on a deal.

Meanwhile, police from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service prompted an orderly clearance of parts of the makeshift encampment at Berkeley’s main Post Office Thursday morning. Protesters, who call themselves Berkeley Post Office Defenders, and a homeless advocacy group, First They Came for the Homeless, have been camped around the building for four weeks.

According to a spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, officers provided protesters with a list of federal regulations and criminal statutes that prohibit the encampment. No arrests were made. 

Some tents in front of the building were not being taken down at lunchtime on Dec. 4. Photo: Lance Knobel
Some tents in front of the building were not being taken down at lunchtime on Dec. 4. Photo: Lance Knobel

By lunchtime today, protesters were packing their tents and property on the Milvia Street side of the building. On the front steps of the building, on Allston Way, there was no sign of dismantling tents and other structures.

“The Postal Inspection Service is committed to providing a safe environment for its customers and its employees,” said David Guerra, the PIS’s spokesperson. “We’re giving them as much time as possible to clear their property.”

This morning from around 9:15 a.m., activists were putting out calls, via email and Twitter, for protesters to go to the Post Office at 2000 Allston Way. In an email blast, Mike Wilson wrote: “Please come down to the downtown Berkeley Post Office immediately! The Berkeley Post Office Defenders are being forcibly removed by a few cops. If enough people show up right away… we can still prevent the theft of our public post office.”

Guerra said that PIS officers will remain on site until it is secure.

The U.S. Postal Service announced plans to sell the building in June, 2012, and officially placed it on the market in April, 2013. Berkeley politicians have been unanimous in opposition to the sale and a vocal community group, Save the Berkeley Post Office, is fighting to keep the building as a post office.

Last month Berkeleyside revealed that local developer Hudson MacDonald was negotiating to buy the building with a view to rehabilitating the building and then leasing it to retailers, retaining an area for post office services. Yesterday, Hudson MacDonald exercised its option to drop the purchase, according to Anthony Rossmann, Special Counsel to City of Berkeley. Rossmann said he received notification from the US Attorneys’ office that Hudson McDonald had exercised their option to cancel the sale that had been set to close on Dec. 22.

Chris Hudson, principal at Hudson MacDonald, said his company had been unable to reach agreement with the Post Office by the time when the contract reached its expiry date. Hudson said they asked the Post Office for an extension, but the Post Office declined, saying they had “things to figure out.” Asked if he was disappointed, Hudson said he was hopeful they might be able to get back at the negotiating table. “Maybe it’s not over,” he said.

This story was updated with new information after a conversation with Chris Hudson of Hudson MacDonald.

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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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...