It's not often one has reason to quote the Wall Street Journal, pointing to it as evidence that what you are doing is having an effect. But as the Journal just reported, a novel tactic seems to be having the desired effect of making developers wary of purchasing the downtown Berkeley Post Office.
The idea, a restrictive zoning ordinance, was first proposed by an Occupy Oakland participant and developed into a concrete proposal by activist groups and Berkeley Councilperson Jesse Arreguin. Along the way it garnered serious community support - three hearings on it by the Berkeley Planning Commission were jampacked with supporters. It, along with direct action by the Berkeley Post Office Defenders (a co-mingling of people from Strike Debt Bay Area and Save the Berkeley Post Office) in the form of a month-long encampment on the Post Office steps in August, and the threat of a lawsuit challenging a sale should it happen, has sent a message:
(The sign you see to the right mysteriously appeared at the downtown Berkeley Post Office about two weeks ago.)
BERKELEY, Calif. Community groups and elected officials across the country are protesting as the cash-starved U.S. Postal Service shuts down and sells post offices...
But few cities are going as far as this one... Opponents are gaining traction with an unorthodox zoning restriction: that the mustard-colored building must remain open to the public.
The Berkeley Planning Commission last month approved a measure that would restrict the use of the Post Office and adjacent government buildings to government agencies or public uses like a theater...
The rezoning strategy is being closely watched by other communities resisting sales in search of opposition techniques. But it has drawn the ire of the Postal Service, which calls the measure "unduly restrictive," an attorney for the agency wrote to the planning commission last month.
Opponents to the Berkeley sale said they are considering lawsuits to block it. But they said the zoning measure is a backup plan should a sale go through.
So far, they appear to have succeeded in rattling the market. "This one struck me at the get-go as one to stay out of," said Patrick Kennedy, an active developer in Berkeley. He isn't planning on bidding, he said.
Mr. Kennedy estimated that, without zoning changes, the post office would be valued at roughly $10 million. But the rezoning would significantly reduce its value, and it opens up the prospect that the building could even stay vacant should the sale go through because so many income-producing uses would be barred, he said.
The proposed zoning ordinance is not law yet. It has to be approved by the Berkeley City Council, and it will be up for a vote some time in January. Berkeley activists have been working for a year and a half, ever since the Postal Service announced its intentions in June of 2012, to stop the sale and "Halt the Heist" of our commons by privateers. (For more background, see the links at the bottom of the diary.)
While waiting for the City Council to act, the Berkeley Post Office Defenders, the Green Party, Save the People's Post Office, and Community and Postal Workers United are holding a Town Hall tomorrow (Thursday):
When: Thursday December 5, 2013, starting at 7:00 PM
Where: Berkeley Arts Festival Space, 2133 University Ave., Berkeley, CA 94704
Why: Organize the Bay Area to save our public postal service.
Writing to Congress is important, but it is not enough. Lobbying for legislation is important, but it is not enough. To succeed, postal workers must build a movement. We must build a grand alliance between the people of this country and postal workers. We must mobilize our allies and their organizations, including seniors, retirees, civil rights organizations, veterans groups, the labor movement, community and faith-based organizations, the Occupy movement, and business groups in defense of America’s right to vibrant public postal services.We will also be discussing continued and invigorated efforts to save the Berkeley Post Office and by doing so, helping to prevent the selling off of our Commons.
- Mark Dimondstein
Please join us!!
Postal Occupation Diaries: