Tag Archives: Berkeley Post Office

Government

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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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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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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