Appeal to stop Berkeley post office sale dismissed

Nathaniel Solley/Staff

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An appeal to stop the sale of the historic 99-year-old post office in Downtown Berkeley was dismissed by the Postal Regulatory Commission on Tuesday.

The appeal, filed by Mayor Tom Bates, contended that the U.S. Postal Service should select a site for the Berkeley main post office’s relocation before selling the building and did not consider how the sale will impact the community.

“The Postal Service actions concerning the Berkeley (main post office) are insufficient to trigger the right to appeal at this time,” the decision reads. Without information on when and to where the post office will relocate, any appeal is premature, the commission said.

In a concurring opinion, Ruth Goldway, chair of the commission, stated that the process the Postal Service has taken regarding the post office sale “appears to cause needless confusion in the affected communities.”

Bates filed the appeal after a Postal Service decision in July to relocate its Downtown Berkeley space as part of a nationwide effort to cut costs and consolidate offices. The Postal Service filed a motion to dismiss Aug. 9.

Bates said he was “disappointed and angry” with the commission’s decision. In his appeal, he argued that the closure of the office constituted a sale rather than a relocation, as he said there are no available spaces in Downtown Berkeley that are the right size and price to replace the current post office.

“It was really just an incredible maze of red tape and misinformation — wrong information and deception,” Bates said, adding that he has asked the Postal Service on several occasions where it is planning to relocate the Berkeley main post office but has received no response.

After the Postal Service’s decision to sell the building, community members rallied in opposition and set up encampments there in protest.

As of Tuesday afternoon, a handful of people were camped in front of the post office but declined to comment on the recent decision.

Bates said the city of Berkeley has joined a lawsuit led by Antonio Rossmann, a Bay Area lawyer and a lecturer at the UC Berkeley School of Law, alleging that the environmental impact of the sale must be reviewed before the closure is finalized.

“This is like a seven-act opera,” Bates said. “We’re on act No. 6. This is not over, even though this is a setback.”

According to Augustine Ruiz, a regional Postal Service spokesperson, the Postal Service is still looking for a suitable site to relocate to before putting the building up for sale.

“What we’re hoping — and it’s our first preference — that whoever entertains buying (the Berkeley main post office building) will let us lease (its front end), so we could still operate out of that building,” Ruiz said.

 Read the decision below:

Contact Daphne Chen and Sara Grossman at [email protected]. Megan Messerly contributed to this report.