Berkeley City Council votes to oppose post office building sale

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Berkeley City Council voted Tuesday to mobilize against the sale of the city’s main post office in Downtown Berkeley.

The unanimous vote — with Mayor Tom Bates absent and his vote consequently not counted — approved the sending of a resolution that formally urges the U.S. Postal Service not to sell the main post office, asks it to provide the council and public with more information on the sale and asserts the council’s allegiance with the community affected by the closure.

The vote also authorized a subcommittee including Bates and Councilmembers Jesse Arreguin, Laurie Capitelli and Susan Wengraf to work with local congressional representation to navigate through the intricacies of formally opposing the building’s closure and sale.

“There is a very strict procedure for the process of dealing with the U.S. Postal Service,” said Bates’ Chief of Staff Judith Iglehart at the meeting, referring to the full report on both the interior and exterior of the building from the state agency in charge of landmarks.

According to Iglehart, Bates is already working with Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, with whom the council previously collaborated in the failed attempt to save Berkeley’s Parks Station post office, to keep the main post office open.

At the meeting the council members resolved not only to work with local government but also to reach out across the country to other cities fighting to keep their post offices open and set a national example for keeping a post office open.

“I think it was an excellent suggestion that we work with other cities that are facing the same thing so we have a much stronger block and a much bigger voice,” said Councilmember Linda Maio at the meeting. “In the course of doing this, we need to work with the workers and the union. We’re all furious about this because it’s a legacy that the prior generations worked for, paid for, struggled for, and made beautiful for us.”

The building’s proposed sale has sparked community outrage and has led to multiple protests — including a small one before the start of Tuesday’s council meeting — in light of the building’s historical and community importance, as well as its significance in the public sector.

U.S. Postal Service spokesperson Augustine Ruiz said while there are always “strong sentiments” from the public when closing a post office, it is a necessary business decision in the face of declining mail volume and an excess capacity of equipment.

Ruiz also said the Postal Service is hoping to hold the required meeting with city management and the public within the next three weeks to provide all the information currently available on the closing of the building, including the reasons for the sale and a timeline of action moving forward.