Tag Archives: Berkeley Post Office

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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Berkeley city attorney: Main post office may have sold

Post Office by Darius Wekwerth
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The Berkeley city attorney has informed the City Council he believes someone has purchased the downtown U.S. post office at 2000 Allston Way, and that it is time for Berkeley to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Postal Service to stop the sale.

A letter to that effect was leaked to the Berkeley Daily Planet, which published it on Thursday.

Zach Cowan, Berkeley’s city attorney, told Berkeleyside he could not share the letter he sent to council since it was privileged attorney-client communication. But Cowan said the version on the Planet website was accurate.

“It is my conclusion that at a minimum a buyer has been chosen, and that it is likely that there is at least a letter of understanding in place, if not a contract and perhaps an open escrow,” Cowan wrote to council, according to the Daily Planet.Continue reading »

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With Berkeley set to change civic center zoning, US Postal Service ponders lawsuit

The Berkeley City Council is poised to set up new zoning standards in Civic Center. Image: City of Berkeley
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The U.S. Postal Service is pushing back against a city proposal to limit development at its downtown Berkeley post office property, which has been up for sale since 2012.

Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council is slated to approve that proposal, to establish more restrictive development standards in Berkeley’s civic center on nine parcels, including the post office property at Allston Way and Milvia Street.

An attorney for the post office, R. Clark Morrison, has sent five letters to the city since January in opposition to the plan, decrying it as spot zoning, and saying the city’s decision not to pursue a full environmental review in connection with the plan is at odds with its own code and the law. On Monday, Morrison declined to comment on the matter, but one city staffer familiar with the issue said the USPS is likely to sue the city if council approves the zoning changes.

Postal Service spokesman Augustine Ruiz Jr. said via email Monday that “The Postal Service is evaluating all options with respect to the actions taken by the City of Berkeley, including evaluating the possibility of litigation.” … Continue reading »

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Ralph Nader speaks at rally to save Berkeley post office

Ralph Nader spoke out against the planned sale of the Main Post Office on Allston Way at a rally on July 29. Photo: Charles Siler
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Longtime political activist Ralph Nader spoke Tuesday afternoon at a demonstration at the downtown Berkeley post office on Allston Way in support of the on-going fight to stop the U.S. Postal Service from selling the 1914 building.

“This is not just a matter of stamps or delivery on Saturdays, important as that is,” Nader said to the crowd. “This is a fundamental institution that binds the country together.” … Continue reading »

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Satellite post office at Berkeley Staples draws protests

Anti-Staples postcard made by Berkeley Post Office Defense
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For the last 19 nights, Mike Zint, 47, has been sleeping sitting up in a chair in front of the Staples store at 2352 Shattuck Ave. He has set up vigil in downtown Berkeley to protest the “privatization” of the U.S. Postal Service, as well as chronic homelessness in the United States.

Zint is part of a small group of homeless activists that has established a camp of sorts on the sidewalk. During the day, they pass out leaflets protesting the seven-month-old deal allowing Staples to run satellite postal operations in 82 stores across the country, including the one in Berkeley. They have a table piled with leaflets talking about the deal, as well as information about the U.S. Post Office’s plan to sell the Main Post office on Allston Way. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley mayor to push for civic center overlay, also hopes it will reduce support for downtown ‘green’ initiative

Bates wants the city council to adopt a zoning overlay to protect historic buildings in the civic center area, like Veterans' Memorial Hall. He admits he hopes the push will undermine support for a Downtown Green Initiative scheduled for November ballot. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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Mayor Tom Bates has decided to push for a civic center overlay that will protect the Main Post Office, and admits he hopes his support will undermine the downtown zoning initiative scheduled for the November ballot.

Bates wants Berkeley to adopt the exact language of the initiative, which was put forward by City Councilman Jesse Arreguín, in part because of Arreguín’s frustration that council had not adopted the overlay previously. Arreguín first introduced the overlay idea in July 2013. Council sent the item to the city Planning Commission for review and, after discussing it at a September meeting, referred it back to city staff.

Bates now wants council to discuss the overlay at its June 24 meeting, and to consider an ordinance at its Sept. 9 meeting. Bates will suggest that timeline at an Agenda Committee meeting today (Item 21).

“There is general agreement on the council that we would like to save the Post Office, and this is a good way to do it,” said Bates. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Beware deceptive ‘Save Post Office’ ballot petition

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Don’t be deceived. Backers of a proposed measure for the Berkeley ballot in November are circulating voter-signature petitions under the guise of “saving the Post Office.” But the main thrust of the measure is to impose prohibitively restrictive fees and requirements on new projects in Berkeley’s core downtown. It would not guarantee that the Post Office would continue operating.

The result would be a devastating blow to our acclaimed Downtown Area Plan. This successful plan was formulated through extensive public … Continue reading »

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Federal report calls to stop sale of Berkeley post office

Post Office by DH Parks
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Local officials and preservationists are heartened by a new report that calls for the United States Postal Service to suspend the closing and sale of all historic post offices, including the Main Post Office at 2000 Allston Way.

The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), an independent federal agency that advises the President, Congress, and other federal officials on how to preserve the nation’s historic resources, issued a critical report Thursday. It said the USPS had not been following the law when it ordered that dozens of historic post offices – often the core of communities – be shuttered and sold. … Continue reading »

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Fairmont group and Richard Blum buy Claremont Hotel

The Claremont Hotel & Resort has been purchased by the  Fairmont hotel group and Richard Blum, the husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein Photo: Paula Steele
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Richard Blum, the husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein and a member of  the UC Board of Regents, has joined forces with FRHI Hotels & Resorts to purchase the Claremont Hotel and Spa.

Blum and the Fairmont group closed the deal on March 21, a few weeks later that initially expected. Terms of the deal were not announced. … Continue reading »

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Congress puts hold on sale of Berkeley’s main post office

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
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The House Appropriations Committee, in its recommendations accompanying the $1.1 trillion omnibus appropriations bill passed by the House yesterday, calls for the United States Postal Service to “suspend the sale of any historic post office” pending the completion of an investigation by the Inspector General into whether the USPS is following the requirements of the National Historic Preservation Act.

This could mean the sale of the downtown Berkeley Post Office, a landmarked building at 2000 Allston Way, could be halted.

According to a spokeswoman for Rep. Barbara Lee, who serves on the Appropriations Committee, recommendations do not have an enforcement mechanism, but are “typically followed.” She said she was checking with the Congressional Research Service to find any examples of recommendations not being followed, but it would be “very rare.” … Continue reading »

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News

Berkeley’s downtown post office is listed for sale

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The downtown Berkeley Post Office has officially been put on the market. The landmarked building at 2000 Allston Way, the source of much campaigning to prevent its sale over the past year, has been listed with USPS Properties for Sale.

No price has been listed for the 1914 Renaissance Revival-style building. When Berkeleyside talked to the realtor, CBRE, they said they are not releasing the price. Details on the listing are slim, including only the fact that 48,500 sq. ft of the total 57,200 sq. ft are available.

USPS announced that it intended to sell the building in June 2012 and relocate services to a smaller space in downtown Berkeley. Opposition to the decision has ben voiced by distinct groups at the local, state and federal level. The Berkeley City Council voted unanimously to try to stop the sale. A campaigning group, Save the Berkeley Post Office, has organized petitions and community meetings, and been in consultation with groups across the country who are protesting the divestment of post office properties. Protesters pitched tents outside the building for almost almost a month, until the encampment was asked to leave in August. … Continue reading »

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