by Emilie Raguso, Berkeleyside
A federal commission that oversees the U.S. Postal Service has agreed to hear an appeal by Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates to halt the sale of the Berkeley Main Post Office at 2000 Allston Way.
The five-member Postal Regulatory Commission alerted Bates on Thursday that it would hear the appeal in the fall, the mayor’s office announced Monday. Bates has until Sept. 3 to submit a formal appeal brief, and the commission will have until Nov. 27 to make its final decision. The commission has authority over proposed major service changes related to any post office.
In March, the Berkeley City Council voted unanimously to oppose the sale of the post office, and asked for a one-year moratorium on any decision about its sale. In May, Bates, along with other local and state officials, sent an appeal letter to the postal service. According to Monday’s statement, Bates filed his appeal after a final determination letter dated July 18 from the postal service, which stated its plan to forge ahead to relocate services from downtown Berkeley.
In the case before the regulatory commission, Bates appealed as an individual postal recipient in the 94704 Zip code.
“The Postal Service is putting our historic Berkeley Main Post Office building up for sale under the guise of a ‘relocation of retail services,’ ” said Bates in the 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.”
The mayor’s appeal contends that, if the postal service wants to relocate, it should have a site secured “before it puts a successful public service up for sale. The PRC has the authority to remand the sale of the building back to USPS for further review and consideration,” according to the statement.
Members of the public have been instrumental in raising awareness about the possible sale. A group called Save the Berkeley Post Office has been lobbying since the move was first suggested in June of last year to keep the building operating as a post office. In July, advocates to keep postal operations in downtown Berkeley began camping on the site.
One organizer for the group, Dave Welsh, said Monday afternoon that the mayor’s announcement was good news.
“We welcome any possible extension of the time, and if there is an extension of time then we’ll have more time to organize to stop the sale,” said Welsh, who has been camping on the post office steps since July 27.
The group currently has no plan to de-camp, but Welsh said its members will take the mayor’s announcement into consideration.
“We’re going to discuss everything, and people will figure out what to do,” he said. “But at the present time, we’re still here.”
A group representative outside the post office last week said that many passers-by have expressed support for the push to keep the post office in downtown Berkeley, but Yelp reviews tell a slightly different story. A total of 100 people have rated the post office, resulting in an aggregate review of 1.5.