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.”