Berkeley residents protest relocation of historic downtown post office

Community members protest the sale of the main branch of Berkeley's post office on July 24th. Another protest took place on Wednesday.
Gracie Malley/File
Community members protest the sale of the main branch of Berkeley's post office on July 24th. Another protest took place on Wednesday.

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Berkeley residents gathered in front of the Downtown Berkeley Post Office in protest of proposed plans to sell the historic building and relocate the post office.

The rally and information session was held Wednesday to raise awareness about the health of the post office system. The 98-year-old branch on Allston Way is one of a number of locations that are either being closed down or relocated in order to offset declining revenues and increased costs.

Selling the building would be an inconvenience for residents, said Susan Hammer, chief steward of the American Postal Workers Union.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” Hammer said. “There are a lot of companies, like UPS and FedEx, that would like a piece of the pie and would benefit from the post office closing down or moving.”

The building is in the process of being examined by the state historical preservation office, and no action will be taken to put the building on the market until after the results are presented in an open meeting with residents in January, said Augustine Ruiz, spokesperson for the Bay-Valley District of the Postal Service.

The plan to relocate the Downtown branch was proposed in June, since the current 57,000 square-foot location is too big for the Postal Service’s needs, and the first-class mail volume has decreased from its 2006 peak by 26 percent, according to Ruiz.

Under the plan, retail services would be moved to  another location, which has yet to be determined, and postal carriers would be moved to an existing detach delivery unit on 8th Street. This would ensure that there are no service interruptions to postal customers, Ruiz said.

“We want people to know that we are not going to vacate and leave them,” Ruiz said. “We are doing everything we can so we can continue to serve them.”

About 50 residents gathered with signs stating “Our Post Offices are Not For Sale” in front of the post office, along with members of City Council. Those in attendance agreed that selling the building is not the best use of resources.

“I don’t think it makes sense to sell a building we own in order to lease another space,” said Councilmember Jesse Arreguin after the protest. “It’s an important community resource, and selling it is going to have a negative impact.”

Arreguin said he would put forth the suggestion that the building space, which is sitting empty, should be rented out and utilized as an alternative source of revenue for the post office.

“It is troubling that our post offices are under attack, and it is happening in Berkeley,” Arreguin said. “We have to fight it … this is really a sort of battleground that is happening all over the country, and if we stop it here, that will send a strong message.”

Contact Aliyah Mohammed at [email protected].

A previous version of this article left out the word “not” from the following sentence: “Those in attendance agreed that selling the building is the best use of resources.”

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  • Nunya Beeswax

    “I just can’t forget all the hours I’ve spent waiting in line at the old Post Office,” Thorna Thornhill reminisced. “Closing it down would be like closing the ice-skating rink!” When informed by another protester that Iceland had, in fact, closed for good recently she began to wail bitterly.

    “NO CHANGE EVER!” shrieked Shubba Nushnik, toothlessly gumming a raw vegan chocolate kale sandwich cookie from Blessing’s Alive and Radiant Foods and shaking a tambourine. “JOOZ OUTTA PALESTINE!” he continued, spitting out half-chewed fragments of green leaf.

  • I_h8_disqus

    I don’t expect Hammer from the postal workers union to like this. She would just like to have the government bail out the post office and continue to pay all the union workers even when there isn’t as much work. However, Jesse Arreguin should know better. He is always having trouble understanding the economic advantages of doing things. Selling the building in downtown Berkeley would provide a lot of cash to pay for Berkeley postal services. It would also cover leasing costs for quite a long time at the location operations are being moved. Plus the city of Berkeley will now be able to collect substantial property taxes from the new owner of the building. This is a win for Berkeley.

  • Berkopinionator

    The money USPS would get from selling our historic centrally located post office would be enough to pay for about 30 seconds of bloated USPS expenses. We the taxpayers are paying billions to bail out USPS, and still paying for postage. We paid for the building. If USPS doesn’t want to provide service in downtown Berkeley they should just go ahead and shut down the entire postal service. This is a jackass stupid proposal. Why pay hundreds of years of rent with taxpayer money when the building is owned free and clear? Instead of liquidating property for ultra-short term money, just raise to price of a stamp to an even 50 cents and get back to delivering the mail.

    Berkeley residents pay full price for stamps. We deserve full service.

    • Papa Bear

      Congress largely tells the postal service what to do. The USPS is losing huge amounts of money due to competition and the internet. When the USPS proposed going to 5 days/week service. Congress told them no.

      Because Congress won’t allow them to save money in a rational fashion, they’re resorting to selling facilities.

  • Another Guest

    > “About 50 residents gathered with signs

    > stating “Our Post Offices are Not For Sale”

    Is there any real logic behind this, or are these people with way too much time on their hands?

    • Papa Bear

      And then the next sentence…”Those in attendance agreed that selling the building is the best use of resources.”

  • Tony M

    Amazing how so many self-proclaimed “progressives” are completely stuck in the past…