Federal judge denies dismissal request by city regarding USPS lawsuit

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Joe Wright/File

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The city of Berkeley’s request for dismissal of the lawsuit filed by the United States Postal Services was denied by a federal judge Jan. 12.

USPS filed the lawsuit in August alleging that the city had impeded on the sale of its building located at 2000 Allston Way. The postal service has been trying to sell the building since 2012, but according to USPS’ lawsuit, a change in the zoning overlays made by Berkeley City Council in 2014 caused the sale of the post office to become nearly impossible.

Judge William Alsup has denied the city’s request on the grounds that there is enough evidence against the city to “survive dismissal,” according to his decision.

“This action is ripe for adjudication. The facts alleged here show a ‘substantial controversy,’ ” Alsup said in his decision.

USPS spokespeople declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.

City spokesperson Matthai Chakko also declined to comment, stating in an email that a formal response has yet to be released by city officials.

When the USPS announced the potential sale of the building, they faced opposition from community members who accused them of ignoring federal preservation laws.

In 2013, City Council released a statement opposing the sale of the post office, claiming that it was an “official landmark of the City of Berkeley.” City Council then adopted a change in the zoning ordinances in 2014, which limited the use of the Civic Center District — including the post office — to civic and nonprofit usage.

According to the lawsuit, the new zoning ordinances made the building “unattractive to commercial developers” and significantly decreased its value.

Congress also called for the halting of sales of historic post offices — which the Allston Way post office qualifies as — in 2014.

Because of the denial of dismissal, the lawsuit will proceed.

Contact Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SakuCannestra.

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