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A grass roots movement is growing in Berkeley, California to stop the sale of the beautiful Downtown Post Office.  Tuesday afternoon over a hundred citizens gathered on the steps of the historic 1914 building.
07_24_BerkeleyPostOffice
In between songs written for the rally, UC Berkeley Geography Professor Gray Brechin spoke of the charismatic building and how it served as a model for the thousand or so post offices that were built during the New Deal.  Post Office buildings were intended to inspire and remind each of us of our government’s commitment to the general welfare.  The Berkeley Post office has two New Deal works of art.  Even though the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the U.S. Post Office has announced its intention to sell the landmark 1914 building.

Dr. Brechin put this sale of our patrimony in perspective:

If that sale (of the Berkeley Downtown Post Office) goes through as planned, it will be only the latest instance of an accelerating heist from the public domain as the USPS Board of Governors and Congress incrementally unravel America’s 237-year old postal system.
Nationwide the Postal Service is being advised on the sale of its often valuable and irreplaceable properties by real estate giant CB Richard Ellis.  Interesting fact: the Chairman of CBRE is Richard Blum, a regent of the University of California and husband to California Senator Dianne Feinstein.
The plan this evening was to petition the Berkeley City Council to go on record against the sale.  But the City Council re-scheduled the meeting to next week.  The talk is that Mayor Tom Bates received an advisory letter from the United States Post Office in mid-June. Instead of filing a protest within the 15-day filing period, Bates sat on the letter.  Mayor Bates writes that his concern is preserving the appearance of the building but not the function and that the City of Berkeley will work…
with the Postal Service…in the sales process…(to) develop… the sale covenants needed to safeguard the interior and exterior of this lovely building.  …I also want to make sure that the public is guaranteed access to the interior of the building and especially to the 1936 mural that depicts figures from California’s Spanish and pioneer history.
The City of Berkeley is committed to working with the United States Postal Service to make this transition as smooth as possible while maintaining our historic building.
The best use of this building is as a post office, not as a pizzeria or coffee shop or sports apparel store.  Much of the financial crisis of the Postal Service is manufactured.  Jim Hightower analyzes the Postal Service financial crisis:
The Post Office is not broke--and it hasn't taken any of our tax money since 1971.

Originally posted to blue denim on Tue Jul 24, 2012 at 08:51 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  They are doing this throughout California (17+ / 0-)

    and I -- for one -- am diametrically opposed to these closures, period.

    Thanks for diarying on this. It's an underdiscussed topic. To me, it has the same implications as the closures of libraries in this State: it excludes knowledge and communication from people without the privilege to have certain kinds of access, and these people are predominately less wealthy.

    This, in addition to the issue of cultural heritage a la UNESCO, trouble me both.

  •  Feinstein and hubby.. (13+ / 0-)

    no surprise there. California could and should have another Sen. Boxer.

    This Rover crossed over.. Willie Nelson, written by Dorothy Fields

    by Karl Rover on Tue Jul 24, 2012 at 09:12:30 PM PDT

  •  Beautiful Building. A treasure. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blue denim, Bernie68, pixxer

    This makes me very sad for your community that this is even being considered.
    They've gone to far with these types of actions.

  •  Criminal that post offices& libraries are targeted (13+ / 0-)

    all over the country.
    That the Post Office as an institution is being destroyed!

    It is a bit surprising and sad that , even in Berkeley, ONLY 100 or so people showed up...

    Perhaps not enough people realize the implications.

    Frogs slowly cooking in the pot....

  •  Every day on the streets and highways (6+ / 0-)

    I see someone with a "We buy gold." sign trolling for customers. Apparently the weak economy keeps that kind of business a going concern.

    Meanwhile the same thing is going on with the commons--our post offices, libraries and other public assets are being sold off at fire sale prices to benefit the private sector which will use that money to further eat away at public property while vilifying government at every turn.

    The US is being bled dry by these vampires.

    "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

    by Lily O Lady on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 03:34:32 AM PDT

  •  The USPS is just one aspect of the Putin-style (7+ / 0-)

    financial strip-mining of public assets being waged by the GOP and its Democratic enablers.

  •  I've looked at this USPS building for months (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blue denim, pixxer

    and wondered how I could justify moving to North Carolina to do something with it. I see it's now under contract. I hope someone is going to save it and not tear it down.

    link

    •  That's a gorgeous P.O. in Lexington, N.C. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mok, Zinman, pixxer

      Closing of post offices is a national problem.  The National Trust for Historic Preservation has put historic post offices on their list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.  

      Last year, the U.S. Postal Service identified nearly 4,400 post offices – large and small – that it plans to study for closure....Local post office buildings have traditionally played an essential role in the lives of millions of Americans. Many are architecturally distinctive, prominently located, and cherished as civic icons in communities across the country.
    •  What's amazing to me is (0+ / 0-)
      Old Lexington Post Office
      CONTRACT PENDING

      Beaux Arts landmark on large corner lot in Uptown Lexington!

      ---Price reduced significantly from $575,000---
      $ 375,000
      8460.00 sq. feet

      ...that a middlin' house in Berkeley - say 1000 sq ft bungalow with a 30-ft wide yard - could sell for $575k. For $375K you could get a small condo with no yard, or a serious fixxer-upper. It's astonishing to think of that P.O. building selling for that kind of cash. Ouch.

      "Maybe this is how empires die - their citizens just don't deserve to be world leaders anymore." -Kossack Puddytat, In a Comment 18 Sept 2011

      by pixxer on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 10:06:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Chicago Style Privatization (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blue denim, beforedawn, maryabein, pixxer

    These bandits have no shame.  PO buildings and functions, parking meters, you name it.  Win The Future!  Wait until the election ritual is over.  That is when the knives come out for "some government programs" like Social Security and Medicare.

  •  The economic crash was set up with this in mind (5+ / 0-)

    The economic crash in Russia was a trial run for the screwing of the USA.   Create a massive economic downturn, steal public wealth, squeeze government and force the sale of public assets on the cheap to connected oligarchs and cronies.

    Victims of bigotry are the poorest, least influential members of society.......never the wealthiest, most educated, most overrepresented in high levels, and most influential. Bigotry hurts the least influential. To claim or say otherwise is absurd.

    by dailykozzer on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 05:04:24 AM PDT

  •  I guess I don't understand... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pixxer

    ...people are using mail less than ever and the expense of maintaining a historic building mounts every year the building gets older.  So long as you have a development plan that preserves the space and lets people enjoy it, why can't it be sold?  

    I disagree - I don't think it's best use IS as a post office.  Such a place can be a centerpiece of the community - a place to live and work and a place that people can enjoy.  I Washington, DC, government buildings which are no longer practical are being redeveloped and put to good use.  The old pension building is now the wonderful National Building Museum.  The old DC post office is about to go its second - and far more sustainable - redevelopment.  

    Times are changing.  And the way we Americans use mail is changing.  We are supposed to be liberals and liberals are the ones who are supposed to know how to embrace change.  

    I'm neither a fan of the current way the Post Office does business...let's get into the 21st century and run it sensibly.  

    No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices. - Edward R. Murrow

    by CrazyHorse on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 05:29:47 AM PDT

    •  Creative Re-Use (7+ / 0-)

      Sure there's a time when buildings outlive their original purpose.  And then better they find a new use than tearing them down. But I believe you're missing what's going on here.

      There's the land grab.  Convert public to private.  Somebody gets rich, we get poorer.

      Much of the art is post office specific.  Doesn't work so well in an insurance office.  Like in Berkeley the bas-relief of postal workers holding a package addressed:

      "From: D.S. (the artist: David Slivka) To: All Mankind, Truth Abode on Freedom Road"
      The Post Office moves to a rented store front.  Yeah cause who wants to feel good about government?  Ukiah, the Mendocino County seat is a case in point.  Nothing downtown.  Generic P.O. in a parking lot instead.

      "The internet is making them do it" is a bogus argument.  It's more an anti-labor agenda.  Read Hightower for a short course on this.

      Many of these buildings are not and will not be effectively re-used. It's just lose-lose for the public.

      OK, finally.  Most of the people who were there were old.  Shoot, I'm 66 and I was one of the youngsters.  Since the '80s the theme is that government is bad, private sector good.  I remember when it wasn't that way.  See "frogs slowly cooking in the pot" above!

      •  I do see CrazyHorse's point: people don't use (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pixxer

        mail as much as they used to, because of the internet, so these buildings should be re-used properly.

        But, and this is just a local example, the big, historic train station in my hometown was recently renovated by my city. They used our tax dollars to tear out a bunch of old, bad construction and completely re-do the interior and exterior. They said that they were going to make it into a tourist attraction and that it would be good for business. They worked on it for nearly 10 years (I think. It felt like 20 years that they were on it.), and when it was done? They sold it to a local millionaire restaurant owner and land developer, who turned it into a banquet hall that only the richest people in town can afford to rent. So, no one ever gets to see the result of their tax dollars, unless they are attending a prom or an expensive wedding reception.

        I'm not saying that this is what they would do with this post office, but it's just something to think about.

        Whose interest does ignorance serve? - Carl Sagan

        by spgilbert on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 08:40:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Berkeley DT PO is heavily used (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blue denim, Zinman, pixxer

      There's rarely a time when I go there when it is not packed. The crowds move through quickly but it is always filled with people picking up mail and mailing letters and packages. Moving it out of downtown means it will be more difficult for people without cars to get there. Right now, you can go to our beautiful newish library and walk half a block to the post office. It is within walking distances of all of the amenities of downtown including a number of movie theaters and many restaurants, and so on.

    •  If Berkeley could buy it as, say, an art gallery, (0+ / 0-)

      that would be super, indeed. So long as it was a public building. But Berkeley is broke.

      We still do need a p.o. in the city, though, so if we could keep only one of all of them, this would be my first choice (and second, and third).

      "Maybe this is how empires die - their citizens just don't deserve to be world leaders anymore." -Kossack Puddytat, In a Comment 18 Sept 2011

      by pixxer on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 09:47:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I love that post office (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pixxer

    It's near the equally lovely livrary, isn't it? Haven't been in Berkeley except as a brief stopover to see a friend and show Charles where I grew up. Been a long time gone.

    It's just a beautiful building. Airy, with lovely stone everywhere, and a quality to the light that is rare to find elsewhere. Who are we become that we must now not only strike down our cultural commons and spit in its eye, but see it torn from the pages and places where it has long had vibrant life, destroying all that it has been a part of along with it?

    Organ donors save lives! A donor's kidney gave me my life back on 02/18/11; he lives on in me. Please talk with your family about your wish to donate.

    Why are war casualty counts "American troops" and "others" but never "human beings"?

    by Kitsap River on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 07:01:14 AM PDT

    •  You remember well. The library was recently (0+ / 0-)

      added to (Berkeley will pay anything for our libraries) and they did a terrific job of it.

      "Maybe this is how empires die - their citizens just don't deserve to be world leaders anymore." -Kossack Puddytat, In a Comment 18 Sept 2011

      by pixxer on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 09:49:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I love that post office (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    linkage, maryabein, blue denim, zane, pixxer

    It's near the equally lovely livrary, isn't it? Haven't been in Berkeley except as a brief stopover to see a friend and show Charles where I grew up. Been a long time gone.

    It's just a beautiful building. Airy, with lovely stone everywhere, and a quality to the light that is rare to find elsewhere. Who are we become that we must now not only strike down our cultural commons and spit in its eye, but see it torn from the pages and places where it has long had vibrant life, destroying all that it has been a part of along with it?

    Organ donors save lives! A donor's kidney gave me my life back on 02/18/11; he lives on in me. Please talk with your family about your wish to donate.

    Why are war casualty counts "American troops" and "others" but never "human beings"?

    by Kitsap River on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 07:02:06 AM PDT

  •  Thank You ... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    maryabein, blue denim, pixxer

    an example of selling off our commonwealth.

    JON

    "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

    by linkage on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 08:30:14 AM PDT

  •  The Hightower article is great, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blue denim, pixxer

    any idea what the citations would be?  as in, .gov links that confirm USPS hasn't been taxpayer funded since 1971.  There's some conservatives that need to know that, but Hightower wouldn't fly as a sole source...

    •  Postal Reorganization Act of 1970... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      martini, pixxer

      ...got rid of the United States Post Office Department and set up the United States Postal Service starting in 1971 as an independent, self-funding agency.  

      The 2011 Postal Service Financial History Summary puts the accumulated deficit from 1971 to 2007 at $1.9 billion.  By 2011 that accumulated deficit number grew to $22 billion thanks to the Great Recession and the 2006 Postal Accountability Act that requires pre-funding of 75 years of retiree health care costs.  

    •  Here's one source (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blue denim, martini, pixxer

      Generally, Hightower's point is good about USPS self-funding, but it is not exactly correct. One example is what is known as "revenue foregone", such as funding the USPS receives to process and deliver "Free" matter for the blind. Here's a link:

      http://about.usps.com/...

      Other subsidies continued from the creation of the USPS in 1971 until 1982 or so. It's complicated.

      Eradicate magical thinking

      by Zinman on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 01:14:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The German Solution. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pixxer

    I have spent quite a bit of time in Germany.  Like most other places the PO has changed.  They no long need huge downtown buildings.    Sorting is done far away or near the airport.  What they have done is saved the buildings.  Put the retail PO is a corner and convert the rest into a shopping mall.  Works very well.

    It is impossible to defeat an ignorant man in argument.

    by GrinningLibber on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 08:39:03 AM PDT

  •  Bates is up for replacement in November. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blue denim

    There is at least one good challenger - perhaps two. Keep your eyes peeled. Two of his machine-mates are also being challenged - Laurie Capitelli and Darryl Moore. Wouldn't it be great to have a progressive Council again?

    Back to the main topic:

    How do I help save the post office? We've had a box there since about 1975. I am repeatedly struck by the beauty of the place. It should not fall into private hands, even those of the religious group around the corner, who I expect would love to have it.

    "Maybe this is how empires die - their citizens just don't deserve to be world leaders anymore." -Kossack Puddytat, In a Comment 18 Sept 2011

    by pixxer on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 09:41:23 PM PDT

  •  If it has to cease to be the P.O. ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blue denim

    which is a stupid, stupid idea, I think it should be made into a museum. Berkeley Historical Society and the Oakland Museum of California, and maybe UC, could work on making a local history museum out of it. It would be appropriate, at least. But it damn well ought to just remain the P.O.

    Cry, the beloved country, these things are not yet at an end.

    by rcbowman on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 10:28:15 PM PDT

  •  Hey, blue - First diary! Good work! (0+ / 0-)

    What district of Berkeley do you live in, if you don't mind saying. The pixxers are near the newer Berkeley Bowl - Darryl Moore's district (so far ;)

    "Maybe this is how empires die - their citizens just don't deserve to be world leaders anymore." -Kossack Puddytat, In a Comment 18 Sept 2011

    by pixxer on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 10:38:46 PM PDT

    •  District 6 (0+ / 0-)

      Susan Wengraf is the councilperson.  Haven't had any contact with her.   Thanks for the kind remarks!

      •  Oh hey - we just found out Wengraf is up for (0+ / 0-)

        election this year. Someone is running against her, but I don't remember who at the moment. Worth looking into. We could end up with an actually progressive council if we get rid of Wengraf, Capitelli, and Moore. I live in Moore's district, and we are very excited about the two people running against him!

        "Maybe this is how empires die - their citizens just don't deserve to be world leaders anymore." -Kossack Puddytat, In a Comment 18 Sept 2011

        by pixxer on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 12:23:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Fred Dodsworth (0+ / 0-)

          is the other candidate in District 6 for the City Council.  His name is familiar but I don't know anything about him.

          In the mayoral race Kriss Worthington is a strong candidate.  A few years back, Kriss listened to my next door neighbor and was instrumental in getting her a good response from the Berkeley PD.  Briefly, my neighbor was dealing with a stalker at the same time she was dealing with a terminal illness.  To say it was a difficult situation is an understatement.  And, of course, she did not live in Kriss Worthington's district.  

          •  Dodsworth I don't know anything about. (0+ / 0-)

            We've got time to figure that one out, however :) Kriss is definitely a strong contender. Jackie McCormick would also be a good choice, but is more of a long shot b/c she is not on the Council now. Remember we have Ranked Choice Voting! Vote Kriss first, Jackie second, or the reverse (and then stop!). In District 2, I know both Adolfo Cabral and Deinsha Delane, and either one would be an excellent representative for our district - much better than grandstander Moore. He is basically just part of or allied with the Bates machine as far as we can tell.

            "Maybe this is how empires die - their citizens just don't deserve to be world leaders anymore." -Kossack Puddytat, In a Comment 18 Sept 2011

            by pixxer on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 07:05:35 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

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