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Berkeley mailboxes: Now you see them, now you don’t

USPS admits removing some Berkeley collection boxes in error. Seven have been replaced. Photo: wikimedia

Last month Liza Lutzker noticed that in the space of a week, three out of her four neighborhood USPS mailboxes, all within walking distance of her Berkeley home, had disappeared.

Lutzker wasn’t the only Berkeley resident to notice that mailboxes were being removed. Councilwoman Susan Wengraf, who serves District 6, said that, beginning in late September, her office started receiving calls from constituents saying that neighborhood mailboxes were disappearing without any notice being given to the community.

Wengraf made several calls to the Berkeley Post Office, and was told there were plans to remove up to 40 collection boxes. Boxes are earmarked for removal if there are fewer than 25 letters a day left in them, she was told. But the Post Master would not provide details on which boxes were affected, saying that was “classified information.”

“Many of the people in the hills who are my constituents are seniors and they rely on these boxes,” Wengraf told Berkeleyside. “They don’t want to leave their mail to be collected in their personal mailboxes as they worry about identity theft. They were upset about the removal of the collection boxes.”

Wengraf tabled an item for the City Council on Oct. 16 requesting that the City Manager seek clarification from the Post Office. This was done on October 18.

She also liaised with the office of U.S Representative Barbara Lee and they received an official response from the Post Office which suggested that due process in removing the boxes had not been followed:

“When collection boxes are removed, a review-audit would have to be conducted to justify removal of the collection boxes,” they wrote. “In the case of Berkeley, the collection boxes were removed without conducting the review/audit. Therefore the 40 collection boxes that were removed will be returned back to those 40 sites/locations. When the review/audit is completed and it is deemed that the collection boxes will be removed, then a posting will be placed on the collection boxes indicating when the removal of the collection boxes will take place. In addition, the local Post Office will retain and post a notice for the community that the collection boxes will be removed on a set date.”

Post Office spokesperson Augustine Ruiz Jr. said seven boxes were refurbished and reinstated in Berkeley after being removed because “density checks” had not made prior to removal. A density check is monitoring how many pieces of mail are left in a box over a two-week period. Ruiz said the Post Office will continue to monitor the use of collection boxes and remove those that are under-used.

A total of five boxes were permanently removed in Berkeley this year, according to Ruiz. Ruiz said that was either because the boxes had low density or because there were multiple boxes in the same general area. He said Berkeley currently has a total of 172 collection boxes in the city.

The Post Office does not suggest consumers leave mail in their personal boxes for pick-up as an alternative to USPS collection boxes. “We encourage customers not to leave outgoing mail at their mailboxes, and instead encourage them to drop it in a blue collection box or bring it the nearest Post Office and deposit it in collection boxes there,” said Ruiz.

Meanwhile, Lutzker has noticed her local boxes have reappeared. “All three are back!,” she told us this week. “They were removed for a couple of weeks, but suddenly reappeared. I can’t imagine why they were removed, as it certainly wasn’t to clean them  – one, in particular, was filthy.”

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  • Guest

    Thank goodness! My husband used to drop our mail off in a collection box as he walked to work, and all of the boxes along his route—no matter how he varied it—have been removed.

  • potheeny

    Hmmm. Wonder why the USPS is going Tango Uniform.

  • Eleanore

    Our box is back. Thank you Susan Wengraf!

  • ashberk18

    Our box was removed and magically came back a few weeks ago. I’m not afraid to admit that I was DEVASTATED when the box disappeared as it is a was a major convenience and family outing to go to the box.

  • the Deer

    Mine too, he mentions it every time we pass the corner up from our house. It’s not been replaced. : (

  • Iceland_1622

    I was told years ago by the postmaster’s office when they ‘first’ started disappearing in N. Berkeley, one another the other, that all would be removed if any of them were within a one or two miles walking distance from any post office. Has there been any conformation or denial of this assessment? I see that ours has been returned oddly, after being removed this year, however it was not re-painted and is still covered in graffiti. I suspect that the days of the post office as we knew it is near and end, especially at 50 cents to mail a letter and worse — now get ready for this — all of the stamp machines have been *removed* from all of the post offices due to what I was told were the “costs necessary to stock them with stamps and repair them when not functioning.” So no stamps and no mailboxes. Best to go to “You Send Me” on Walnut or any or the private mail and shipping places, however choose “wisely” as not all are created equal.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    “classified” ?? what on earth for? The CIA has a need to classify information, but the post office? No.

  • Mark L.

    “Classifiable information!” What a crock. He must be the brother of the guy at UC who wrote the memo withdrawing the ugly logo.

  • 3rdGenBerkeleyan

    this is all victim to lazy carriers and entitled people who think they can do the minimum and still get paid the employees have run the postal service into the ground…i cant remember the last time i actually saw a postal employee working hard…but they will all be complaining when they all get laid off.

  • Jimmy

    The way I see it is every mailbox costs the USPS money. They are struggling to do business profitably. Does the woman referrenced in the article really need 4 within walking distance of her house? What are you people mailing anyway? Am I missing something?

  • The Sharkey

    In this case “classified” just means “we didn’t follow procedure and are butthurt about getting caught.”

  • The Sharkey

    I don’t know either… When I have a letter to mail, I clip it to my mail slot for my postal carrier to pick up when they drop off my daily junk mail. works like a charm.

  • Sandy Green

    I don’t think so. It is because during bush’s time as president, it was decided that the USPS, unlike any other corporation, has to fully fund its pension fund. No other company is required to do this. Part of some squirrelly plan to privatize the USPS.

  • MDunn

    Why was the mailbox on Milvia across from
    Berkeley High around corner from Main post office
    removed? One of few in town accessible to cars & was VERY well used.

  • Alia

    I found that out the hard way, today. Went out of my way to swing by & drop some time-sensitive letters off, but no box! No space in front of the PO to pull over, no time to find a parking place, what a drag.

  • The Sharkey

    My mail carrier seems to do her job well, and I’ve had good experiences when I go into the back of the main building to drop off large numbers of packages. For some reason the front desk people at Berkeley Main seem to be the worst in the city.

  • Owen

    The real problem here is that the USPS is being forced to fund pensions fully for the next 70 years in an attempt to tank it. Why? So it can be privatized. WHY is NO ONE talking about this? They were fully in the black before this rule was imposed.

  • Jay Sheckley

    south berkeley: the one at ashby and adeline is gone. We’re amazed they took the one in front of the Tubman Senior Center!