by Tracey Taylor, Berkeleyside

Mayor Tom Bates, flanked by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner and State Senator Loni Hancock, mailed a letter to the U.S. Postal Service appealing the planned sale of Berkeley’s main post office in May. Photo: Lance Knobel
Mayor Tom Bates, flanked by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner and state Sen. Loni Hancock, mailed a letter to the U.S. Postal Service appealing the planned sale of Berkeley’s main post office in May. Photo: Lance Knobel

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates’ appeal to block the sale of the city’s downtown Post Office was dismissed Tuesday by the Postal Regulatory Commission.

Bates had argued in his appeal that the Postal Service was wrong to characterize the planned sale of the downtown Berkeley Post Office as a relocation because an alternative location had not been identified, and a sale/lease-back of the building remained an option.

The dismissal, which the Postal Service had said was likely, was made on the grounds that Bates’ appeal was “premature.”

“This process represents the worst case of government bureaucracy that I have experienced in my 35 years of public service,” said Bates in a statement.  “I believe the Postal Service is simply playing shell games with the community and we are going to continue to fight to preserve this historical site.”

The commission concluded that actions of the Postal Service were insufficient to trigger the right to appeal at this point because there was no set date for when the main post office would close, or where and when a replacement facility would open. “Such information would be relevant in determining whether the  Postal Service’s actions represent a relocation or closing,” the order read.

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.

Berkeleyside-logo-smallIn this case, Bates appealed as an individual postal recipient in the 94704 Zip code.

Bates said he believed the commission’s decision leaves the door open for a new appeal in the future.

In the order, the chair of the commission, Ruth Y. Goldway, made a point of criticizing the Postal Service for what she described as the process it commonly takes when selling a centrally located, often iconic main post office and downsizing to another location. PRC chair Goldway wrote that “a decision to sell a building prior to identifying a relocation site bifurcates the community input and significantly reduces the ability of the Service and the community to evaluate the impact of relocation.

“The process the Postal Service is currently employing appears to cause needless confusion in the affected communities, as evidenced by the appeals filed with the Commission, and damages its relations with the customers it is trying so hard to  retain. The process would be improved if the Postal Service identifies the new post office location contemporaneously with announcing its decision to relocate the existing  post office.”

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