Regulatory commission to hear mayor’s appeal of post office sale

Kevin Hahn/Staff
Mayor Tom Bates announces his appeal of the Berkeley Main Post Office sale in May.

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The U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission has agreed to hear an appeal filed by Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates protesting the sale of Berkeley’s main post office, Bates announced Monday.

Bates has until Sept. 3 to submit a formal brief to the regulatory commission, which comprises five presidentially appointed members and oversees the United States Postal Service. The commission will rule on the appeal by Nov. 27.

The committee has two options: reject Bates’ appeal and allow the Postal Service to go forward with plans to sell the building or return the plans to the Postal Service for further review and consideration. For now, the appeal has halted any sale of the building.

On July 18, the service rejected a March effort by city officials asking for a one-year stay on the sale of the post office.

Bates’ complaint was filed in May and contests designating the post office sale as a relocation, as the Postal Service has done. Bates said that if the service truly wanted to relocate, a site should be “located and secured” before the current building is sold.

“The Postal Service is putting our historic Berkeley Main Post Office building up for sale under the guise of a ‘relocation of retail services,’” Bates said in a statement. “I believe USPS never had the intention to relocate postal services and is playing semantic games with our community — what they really want is to sell the building.”

Should Bates’ appeal fall through, Berkeley residents do not plan to back down. Save the Berkeley Post Office — which has protested the sale since it was announced last year — and other groups have committed to a lawsuit in federal court for an injunction to stop the sale. Additionally, about 20 protesters have been camped in front of the post office for about two weeks and have no plans of moving out.

“I think it’s great an appeal has been approved to be heard,” said Berkeley resident and UC Berkeley alumnus Jonathan Dignes. “But why give up any ground?”

Berkeley City Council is notorious for being divided but has shown unanimous support against the post office’s sale.

Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin recently introduced a zoning overlay to restrict the property to civic, cultural or community-oriented uses.

“We’re not going gently into the night,” Bates said. “We’re fighting this every step of the way. This is a seven-act opera.”

Contact Nico Correia at [email protected]