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Post office public meeting rallies Berkeley residents

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FEBRUARY 27, 2013

Following the next steps in the process of selling the Downtown Berkeley Post Office, the U.S. Postal Service held a public meeting Tuesday night to discuss the potential sale.

As part of a mandatory procedure before continuing with the sale, the Postal Service hosted the meeting to inform residents about the financial reasons behind its proposal and to allow for public comment before any plans are finalized. More than 100 residents attended the meeting to campaign against the potential sale of the historic building, which they claim is a vital part of Berkeley.

“Our post office is not for sale,” said Mayor Tom Bates at the meeting. “It is something we truly love and value … we are not going to stand by and watch this happen.”

Community members have protested the potential sale since the Postal Service’s decision in June to later close and sell the post office.

The reason behind the proposal is a 26 percent drop in mail volume for the Postal Service since 2006 caused by the increasing use of electronic mailing systems, said Postal Service spokesperson Augustine Ruiz.

“We no longer need the space we once did,” Ruiz said. “The Berkeley post office is a good example of a building that is underutilized.”

However, residents said that the sale is part of larger trend of privatizing public spaces and cutting services.

“The post office was how my family later found a gateway to middle-class life,” said Berkeley resident Moni Law. “Do not slash the jobs that will disproportionately slash the jobs of people of color.”

Postal Service Regional Property Manager Diana Alvarado guaranteed, however, that under the new location, employees would not be impacted.

Still, residents emphasized the historical significance of the city’s post office building, which was recognized as a Berkeley landmark and by the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

“It is a short-term gain for a long-term loss,” said Susan Cerny, a member of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association. “Many cities in California and across the country have a beautiful post office. The pride the federal government had should not be lost.”

Alvarado said the Postal Service would acknowledge the historical significance of the building and work with affiliated parties like the city, the Landmark Preservation Commission, the Berkeley Historical Society and the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association to preserve the space once the process has begun.

The Postal Service must meet with the California Office of Historic Preservation next before it makes its decision to sell the property, and the public can make appeals, according to Ruiz.

Alyssa Neumann covers City Government. Contact her at [email protected]

FEBRUARY 27, 2013