Residents discuss campaign to prevent post office sale

Joe Wright/File
The Berkeley main post office has been a point of contention since the Postal Service announced its intent to sell the building.

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About 50 community residents gathered Wednesday night at the Berkeley Art Gallery to discuss campaigning to prevent the potential sale of the Downtown Berkeley Post Office.

At the meeting, members of the Committee to Save the Berkeley Post Office announced the progress made and separated into committees to delegate activities, including methods to raise awareness and plans for upcoming events.

“Berkeley has a very roused citizenry that is very angry about selling the post office,” said David Welsh, one of the organizers of the committee. “We’ve got the whole community involved here.”

Residents have raised concerns regarding the privatization of government services and infrastructure and the inconvenience that may result if the post office is moved.

The committee is currently planning for a public hearing with administrators from the U.S. Postal Service and additional events, such as a march in San Francisco on St. Patrick’s Day, Welsh said.

Before the building is to be up for sale, the Postal Service must hold a public meeting to inform residents of the reasons for selling the building and future plans. They must also meet with the California Office of Historic Preservation, according to Postal Service spokesperson Augustine Ruiz.

Completed in 1915, the post office is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and contains two pieces of Works Progress Administration artwork.

“(The Berkeley Post Office) is the core of our Downtown center,” said Margot Smith, a member of the committee and a convenor of the East Bay Gray Panthers. “Our taxes and our parents’ taxes pay for these buildings, and we want to keep them.”

Last July, the City Council created a subcommittee composed of Mayor Tom Bates, Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, Councilmember Susan Wengraf and Councilmember Laurie Capitelli. The subcommittee will hold a meeting on Feb. 12 at 6 p.m. to discuss the role of the council in addressing the potential sale of the post office.

“Our goal is to speak out,” Arreguin said. “The outcome of the meeting is for the City Council to come up with a position so we can speak in a unified voice and to hear input.”

In November, community residents rallied outside of the Downtown Berkeley post office, and last December, they protested in San Francisco.

Berkeley is not the only city facing the sale of its post office. Through the U.S. Postal Service’s modified network consolidation plan, the organization is consolidating up to 229 mail processing locations to reduce costs by $1.2 billion annually.

“If for whatever reason the Postal Service does go through the sale … we need to push to make sure the building will be made for positive use,” Arreguin said.

Daphne Chen is the lead city government reporter. Contact her at [email protected]