Tag Archives: Berkeley Post Office

Berkeley mail delivery prompts tidal wave of complaints

Local residents have reported numerous problems in Berkeley with postal service, particularly in recent weeks. Photo: Sonny Abesamis
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It’s definitely not just you. Late-night and skipped mail deliveries, suspect delivery “attempts,” slow service and mis-delivered mail: Berkeleyside has received complaints about the U.S. Postal Service from more than 80 Berkeley residents in the past week who detailed a range of problems throughout October. And some say there has been trouble for much longer.

“USPS has been horrible lately – either very late nighttime deliveries or none at all,” wrote one resident. “I’ve lodged a complaint with the USPS but as yet have no reply, just confirmation of its receipt. Very very frustrating, especially at voting time.”

Said another: “You can’t get anyone to help you. The people in the post office might (at most) give you a number to call, but you can never reach an actual person. This is frustrating, and should be unacceptable for a federal organization, especially one that people rely on on a daily basis.”

Berkeleyside became aware of the widespread problems last week after breaking the news about a local man who found nearly 100 sample ballots dumped, along with their plastic bindings, into a Berkeley recycling bin. The carrier responsible has been identified and interviewed by authorities but the investigation is ongoing and no further information has been provided.

Berkeleyside has since received reports of more dumped ballot guides and actual vote-by-mail ballots, of people not receiving their guides at all, and of others who were still waiting for their ballots as of this week. But the shoddy service seems to be impacting more than just election mail. Reports have come in from all sectors of the city, as well as Albany, Kensington and Oakland.

“Very late deliveries many times after 10:00 p.m. The carrier is walking around with a head lamp,” wrote Bill Newton. “Budget cuts, staff shortages, anyone have any ideas?”

Berkeley’s new postmaster, Candace Champion, was “not available” to talk this week, according to the USPS spokesman for the region. Champion, who became postmaster in August, did not respond to an email request for an interview. … Continue reading »

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Federal probe launched into dumped Berkeley voter guides, returned election postcards

Scott Wheeler found nearly 100 Alameda County voter guides dumped in a Berkeley recycling bin. Photo: Scott Wheeler
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Update, Oct. 25: Berkeleyside has requested the investigator’s report related to the ballot guide dumping in Berkeley from Oct. 12. Glenn San Jose, from the inspector general’s office, says it’s not available yet because the investigation is ongoing: “Specifically, there is still the matter of a possible prosecution by the United States Attorney’s Office. The carrier had been identified and was interviewed by OIG agents on October 20.”

Berkeleyside will continue to follow up.

Original story, Oct. 18: Authorities with the U.S. Postal Service are investigating how nearly 100 sample ballots wound up in a Berkeley recycling bin last week along with the plastic ties that kept them bound together. As part of the same investigation, they are also looking into mistakenly returned mail that caused at least one Berkeley voter to lose his active registration status.

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters office says the problems are “isolated,” but some local residents say they aren’t so sure.

Longtime North Berkeley resident Scott Wheeler spotted the dumped voter guides last Wednesday, Oct. 12, in a bin near the 1600 block of Walnut Street when he was looking for discarded egg cartons for a friend’s chicken farm. … Continue reading »

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Feds file lawsuit over Berkeley’s main post office

Post Office Inspectors cleared protesters from the steps after nearly 17 months. Photo: Lance Knobel
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Berkeley’s attempt to limit commercial development of the Main Post Office conflicts with federal law and should be overturned, a lawsuit filed in federal court Monday by the U.S. Postal Service declares.

When Berkeley passed the Civic Center Overlay in September 2014, limiting the post office and eight other buildings to civic uses such as museums, libraries and performance halls, it violated the supremacy clause of the United States Constitution, said the lawsuit.

        Read about the fight surrounding the downtown Berkeley post office.

The law was “enacted primarily to prevent the sale of the Berkeley Main Post Office,” according to the lawsuit. “The shape of the Zoning Ordinance confirms that it was designed to regulate the Berkeley Main Post Office rather than to preserve the character of a neighborhood in the City. Within a given block, certain buildings are included, while others are not.”

Before the overlay was passed, the Main Post Office could have been used for retail or high-density residential. … Continue reading »

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Green Party’s Jill Stein joins Berkeley Post Office rally

Rally at the downtown Berkeley Post Office on Friday June 3. Photo: Ted Friedman
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US Presidential Green Party candidate Jill Stein took part in a rally at the downtown Berkeley Post Office Friday whose broad stated aim was to “let voters and the Department of Justice know how to keep the public sector viable.”

The US Post Office wants to sell the Allston Way post office, but has met resistance from the city and some Berkeley residents. In the latest salvo — in a battle that dates back four years to 2012 when the intended sale was announced — the DoJ warned the city of Berkeley that a lawsuit could be coming over the city’s “interference” with USPS plans to sell the building.

Read more about the fight surrounding the downtown Berkeley post office.

Friday’s rally, which was organized by the Green Party and the Berkeley Post Office Defenders group and attended by around 50 people, aimed to raise awareness of “public resources facing privatization by high-profit corporations;” to defend union jobs; to encourage the “wise use of common space; to allow access to the so-called Berkeley Post Office Community Garden established by protesters who camped outside the building for months before they were evicted; to promote postal banking; and to take action faced with “corporate control of government and media.” … Continue reading »

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DOJ threatens lawsuit over Berkeley post office

Post Office Inspectors cleared protesters from the steps after nearly 17 months. Photo: Lance Knobel
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In a strongly worded letter, the U.S. Department of Justice has warned the city of Berkeley that a lawsuit could be coming over the city’s “interference” with USPS plans to sell its downtown post office on Allston Way.

The DOJ’s Civil Division sent the letter — stamped April 28 — to Mayor Tom Bates, and asked for a response by May 20 if the city hopes to resolve the issue without litigation.

Read more about the fight surrounding the downtown Berkeley post office.

According to the letter, from Director Joseph Hunt of the Federal Programs Branch of the Civil Division, the city’s downtown historic overlay is the issue. The overlay restricts a nine-parcel section of the downtown to civic, non-profit uses. The main Berkeley post office, at 2000 Allston Way, falls within those boundaries.

“In purporting to restrict the Berkeley Post Office parcel… to such civic or nonprofit uses, the Ordinance prohibits any commercially viable uses for the Property,” Hunt writes. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley post office protesters cleared out in early morning raid

Post Office Inspectors cleared protesters from the steps after nearly 17 months. Photo: Lance Knobel
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Just before 5 a.m. Tuesday, U.S. Post Office inspectors cleared the protester encampment on the steps and on the side of the downtown Berkeley Post Office. Protesters from First They Came for the Homeless and the Berkeley Post Office Defenders had occupied part of the post office property for over 17 months.

“Since November 2014 we’ve been giving out information, providing materials saying you can’t stay,” said Jeff Fitch, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. “We’ve been encouraging people to not camp there. The decision was made to come in this week and conduct the operation.”

Read more about the Berkeley Post Office.

Fitch said eight people were removed from the site and four federal misdemeanor citations were issued, for obstructing access and for not following instructions from authorized postal security officers. No arrests were made.

According to Mike Wilson, an organizer of the Post Office Defenders, protesters had been assured that they would not be removed for trespassing. He said there were five protesters at the post office overnight and a number of homeless people not associated with the protest in the garden on Milvia Street.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley mail carrier Jack Karn retires after 38 years

Jack Karn, who has delivered mail to the 93705 zip code in Berkeley and Oakland for almost three decades, is retiring. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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For the last 28 years, Jack Karn has driven all around the 94705 zip code, delivering mail to 300 families in the hills. He has climbed up and down stairs, lugged packages, and slopped through rain and traffic.

Thursday, Oct. 1 will be his last day as a U.S. postal carrier, much to the regret of the people to whom he delivers mail. After 38 years with the postal service, Karn is retiring.

“It’s time for a change,” said Karn, 67, who lives in Berkeley. “I am ready for the next step.” … Continue reading »

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Judge dismisses Berkeley’s bid to stop sale of post office

Tents on the front of the building were not being taken down at lunchtime on Thursday. Photo: Lance Knobel
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A U.S. Federal Court judge on April 14 dismissed the city of Berkeley’s lawsuit to stop the sale and relocation of the city’s main post office on Allston Way. However, from the city’s perspective the news is not all bad.

In deciding that the city’s case was moot, Judge William Alsup ruled that the United States Postal Service “had to formally rescind its decision to relocate the post office from 2000 Allston Way,” according to a summary prepared by Berkeley city attorneys.

That means, for now, the Main Post Office is not officially for sale. … Continue reading »

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Legal battles over Berkeley’s main Post Office continue

Tony Rossmann, Brian Turner, and City of Berkeley employee Moni Law (from left to right) answer questions. Photo: Seung Y. Lee
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The city of Berkeley is pushing forward with a lawsuit to stop the sale of the downtown Berkeley Post Office, despite the U.S. Postal Service’s claim that it is unnecessary as there is no imminent plan to sell the building, an attorney working for Berkeley told a crowd at a community meeting Thursday.

After a deal between the USPS and local developer Hudson McDonald fell through in early December, and the building at 2000 Allston Way was taken off the market, the postal service filed a motion Jan. 22 to dismiss the lawsuits against it, saying they are moot without a prospective buyer interested in the building. Whether the Berkeley Post Office is placed back on the market is under consideration, according to USPS spokesperson Augustine Ruiz.

Read more about the Berkeley Post Office.

The city and the privately funded nonprofit National Trust for Historical Preservation, which filed separate lawsuits in November, argue that their original complaints remain unaddressed by the USPS, and the case needs to move forward to prevent repeated violations in the future. … Continue reading »

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Deal to buy Post Office fizzles; police clear encampment

Tents on the front of the building were not being taken down at lunchtime on Thursday. Photo: Lance Knobel
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The proposal by Berkeley developers Hudson MacDonald to buy the downtown Berkeley Post Office has fallen through after they were unable to reach agreement with the Post Office on a deal.

Meanwhile, police from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service prompted an orderly clearance of parts of the makeshift encampment at Berkeley’s main Post Office Thursday morning. Protesters, who call themselves Berkeley Post Office Defenders, and a homeless advocacy group, First They Came for the Homeless, have been camped around the building for four weeks.

According to a spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, officers provided protesters with a list of federal regulations and criminal statutes that prohibit the encampment. No arrests were made.  … Continue reading »

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New hotel project is a go again after defeat of Measure R

The developer for a downtown Berkeley hotel proposal at Shattuck and Center said his plans are on hold pending November's election. Image: JRDV Urban International
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Now that Measure R, the initiative that aimed to impose stricter standards on tall buildings, has been defeated, the project to build a hotel downtown is back on track.

Developer Jim Didion of Center Street Partners LLC had stopped all design work on the hotel planned for the intersection of Shattuck Avenue and Center Street pending the outcome of Tuesday’s vote. Didion had contended that the requirements called for by Measure R would make the project financially infeasible.

But after Measure R was delivered a resounding defeat — No on R captured almost 74% of the vote, according to the most recent tally — work was set to resume, said Matthew Taecker, one of the hotel’s consultants. He said revisiting the design will be one of the team’s first tasks. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley temporarily blocks sale of main Post Office

Post Office by Darius Wekwerth
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The city of Berkeley has gotten a temporary restraining order blocking the sale of the city’s main post office on Allston Way.

U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup ruled Nov. 5 that the U.S. Postal Service cannot sell the building before he conducts a full hearing in San Francisco on Dec. 10. USPS has committed to not closing a sale on the property before Dec. 17.

The city of Berkeley, along with its outside counsel Antonio Rossmann, filed for the TRO after learning online that the USPS was in contract to sell the building. Despite repeated requests and a Freedom of Information Act request, the USPS has refused to disclose the identity of the buyer.

On Nov. 5, Berkeleyside revealed that local developer Hudson McDonald was in negotiations to purchase the historic property. The firm would like the post office to remain in the front part of the building, according to Chris Hudson, a principal. The firm plans to put retail in the back portion of the property, which is currently sitting empty. … Continue reading »

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Exclusive: Local developer Hudson McDonald in contract to buy downtown Berkeley Post Office

Post Office by Darius Wekwerth
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After weeks of silence, Berkeley developer Hudson McDonald has acknowledged that it is the company that is negotiating with the USPS to buy the main Berkeley Post Office at 2000 Allston Way.

If successful, Hudson McDonald, which is best known for the construction of the Trader Joe’s building on University and MKL Jr. Way, said it plans to restore the 1914 building and develop the back for retail operations while offering the Post Office the opportunity of continuing to use the front lobby for postal services.

“There is a lot to be determined,” Chris Hudson, co-principal with Evan McDonald of the developer, said Tuesday. “But we want to preserve and restore the building, including retrofitting it, and we are having a conversation with the post office about them being tenant in the front part.” Currently about 80% of the building is empty.

Hudson said the Post Office had received several offers for the building but that Hudson McDonald was the only bidder in negotiation with USPS. … Continue reading »

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