BERKELEY POST OFFICE DEFENDERS STATEMENT ON THE ADVISORY COUNCIL’S HISTORIC PRESERVATION REPORT TO CONGRESS AS IT AFFECTS THE BERKELEY POST OFFICE SALE AND THE SALE OF OTHER SUCH HISTORIC POSTAL BUILDINGS.
On April 17th, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation issued its Preserving Historic Post Offices report to Congress “on compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act for the closure and disposal of its historic postal facilities.” This report was requested by legislation initiated by Berkeley’s United States Representative in Congress Barbara Lee.
The report tells us some that is new, and much that we already know from Berkeley’s experience attempting to interact with Postal Service management. We are well aware that they refuse to care about the community’s concerns – when they deign to listen at all (public meetings attended by hundreds of Berkeley residents in near-universal opposition to the sale of Berkeley’s Post Office whose voices were totally ignored showed us that); we know that Postal Service management ignores the law when it is inconvenient to their purposes; and we know that they are hell-bent on selling Post Office assets in pursuit of immediate revenue, all as the report suggests.
We also know from other sources such as Peter Byrne’s investigative reporting that Postal Service management has allowed its real estate agent, CBRE, to engage in unethical and possibly illegal practices as it sells off Historic Post Offices in violation of procedures it has sworn to abide by; it has allowed CBRE to act as both appraiser, buyer’s agent and seller’s agent; and has stood by as CBRE has sold properties for below market value to its board members’ cronies.
What we gleaned from the report that we didn’t know before is telling but therefore not surprising:
- the USPS has refused to allow other public entities, such as cities or counties, to purchase Historic Post Offices at market rate bids in violation of various laws such as Section 111 of the NHPA.
- the USPS is not correctly applying the “Criteria of Adverse Effect”, incorrectly classifying sales of Post Offices as having no effect on the community or the environment.
- USPS regulations and procedures regarding sales are in conflict with applicable law in certain cases.
- the USPS refuses to consider leasing uneeded space, a sensible way to preserve its assets, gain revenue, and preserve our heritage.
- the USPS is putting publicly funded murals and other works of art in historic post offices at risk for deterioration and loss.
- the USPS should be using the GSA’s Office of Real Property Disposal to sell Post Offices, not a private firm.
- the USPS should be taking advantage of the Historic Surplus Property Program, set up by Congress in 1949.
All of these observations are important, but the most crucial part of the Report is its second recommendation:
The USPS should suspend any further actions to relocate services out of historic postal facilities and dispose of those historic facilities until such time as it fully implements the recommendations of this report. If the USPS fails to suspend such actions, the ACHP recommends that Congress direct the USPS to suspend all relocation of service decisions and disposal actions for postal facilities that are listed or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places until such time as the USPS fully implements the recommendations of this report directed to it.
Berkeley Post Office Defenders enthusiastically endorses this recommendation while stating the obvious: it does not go far enough.
OUR HISTORIC POST OFFICES SHOULD NOT BE FOR SALE, PERIOD!
These buildings belong to the people of the United States; our grandparents and great-grandparents labored to build them and also paid for them with their tax dollars. As such they must remain as the property of the United States, in common for the benefit of us all. It is criminal to privatize them for any reason, let alone for a quick cash fix and to the benefit of one-percent real estate moguls.
In light of the Advisory Council’s report, Peter Byrne’s investigations and common sense, Berkeley Post Office Defenders
- Demand that the United States Postal Service permanently halt the process of selling the Historic Downtown Berkeley Post Office and other such properties around the country.
- Thank all of the thousands of people who have worked in the past two years to defend and preserve our post offices.
- Ask the people of the United States to continue to demand of their elected representatives not to allow this theft of public assets, nor the privatization of our commons, to continue.
- Call upon the people to take such actions as are necessary to demonstrate that their will be heard and acted on in this matter.