Berkeley Post Office Defense: A Timeline.

July 26, 1775: Post Office founded by Continental Congress.
1914: Downtown Berkeley Post Office built.
1932: Rear annex added.
1937: New Deal artwork installed.
1981 Berkeley Main Post Office listed on the National Register of Historic Places
1999 Berkeley Historic Civic Center District listed on the National Register of Historic Places

2012

  • June: USPS announces services at the Downtown Post Office will be “relocated” and the building ultimately sold.
  • June 6: National Trust for Historic Preservation names America’s historic post offices to their “11 Most Endangered Places” list.
  • July: First rally to save the Post Office is held on the Post Office steps.
  • July 15th:  Talk by Gray Brechin at the Arts Festival Gallery: Saving The Art and Fighting Post Office Closings
  • July: Full house at Hillside Club to hear Gray Brechin and Dave Welch on fate of historic post offices.  Several hundred sign up to oppose the sale.
  • July 31st: Berkeley City Council unanimously passes its first resolution opposing the sale of the Downtown Post Office and requesting a one-year moratorium for consultation purposes. That request was never officially responded to.
  • Aug 6th: Organizing Meeting, at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, Exploring next steps for saving our post office.
  • Sept 13: Meeting between USPS and City Council. First big crowd in opposition to sale fills Council chamber. USPS rep is booed.
  • Sept ? :  First community meeting at Redwood Gardens to oppose sale
  • Sept 24: ADR Environmental Group, retained by USPS as consultants, releases a “due diligence” report, concluding that review under both NHPA (historic preservation) and NEPA (environmental) laws would be required.
  • Nov 14: Rally on steps of Post Office. Councilperson Max Anderson calls proposed sale “a slap in the face for the people of Berkeley.”
  • Dec: March to Blum Capital and Feinstein’s Office in SF.

2013

  • Jan. 31st: First blog post on the Save The Berkeley Post Office web site: “A Tale of Love Letters and Poison Pens.”
  • February 5th: USPS issues formal notice of intent to relocate service, so building can be sold.
  •   February 26th: Rally with “Ben Franklin” to save the Post Office at the old Berkeley City Hall.
  •   February 26th: A public hearing is held on the sale. There is almost unanimous opposition to the closing and sale of the downtown Post Office.
  •   March 5th: The City Council asks Postal Service for one year suspension of sale for negotiations, passing resolution opposing sale.
  •   March 13th: The closing of the written public comment period; nearly unanimous opposition.
  •   April 19th: Postal Service approves relocation. Says plans to sell the building after operations are relocated.
  •   ? A lawsuit is prepared, in conjunction with the nationwide Save the Post Office movement and the National Post Office Collaborate, set to challenge a sale should it occur.
  •   April 30th: Berkeley files an appeal of the Postal Service’s decision.
  •   May 7th: “Halt the Heist” rally takes place on the Post Office steps.
  •   May 21st: California legislature calls for Postal Service to rescind its decision to sell the Berkeley Post Office.
  •   June ?: People from Save the Berkeley Post Office and Strike Debt Bay Area get together to begin planning an encampment, resulting in a new group eventually known as the Berkeley Post Office Defenders (BPOD).
  •   June 9: The idea of a zoning ordinance restricting uses of the Post Office property is first floated.
  •   July 18th: The appeal of the Postal Service decision to sell the downtown Post Office is denied.
  •   July 26th: Encampment on the steps of the Post Office begins. There is wide media coverage.
  •   July 26th: Mayor Bates files an appeal with the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC).
  • August 10th: March from Post Office through downtown Berkeley to the UC campus, where a protest was held at the Blum Center.
  •   August 20th: Berkeley Police raid the encampment and threaten people with batons; camp is not cleared.
  •   August 26th: Encampment General Assembly votes to halt encampment as of August 31st.
  •   August 27th: The PRC denies Bates’ appeal saying it is “not ripe” since Post Office not yet officially up for sale. The decision also chides the Postal Service for announcing a sale without a site for equivalent service already selected. Bates decries the PRC as “a bunch of double-dealing sons of bitches.”
  •  August 28th: The encampment ends with police confiscation of tents and other possessions while most campers are in Oakland protesting the one year anniversary of the death of Trayvon Martin.
  • Early September: The Berkeley Planning Commission (BPC), for the first time, hears about the Zoning Ordinance  from City Councilperson Jesse Arreguin. The room is overflowing with supporters. A lawyer representing the Post Office gives a long presentation filled with lies.
  • Sept 3rd: USPS initiates Section 106, historical preservation, review.
  •  Sept 9: Byrne publishes “Going Postal,” an expose of rampant corruption surrounding the sale of Post Offices.
  •  Sept ?: The Historical Society / Preservation Trust  exchanges correspondence with the Postal Service regarding the historical nature of the Berkeley Post Office and covenants necessary to preserve the artwork and historic value of the property. Referred to as ‘Section 106’ negotiations.
  •  Late September: Another BPC meeting is held. Again, the room is full of supporters speaking about saving the Post Office and passing the zoning ordinance.  Consideration is pushed off until November.
  •  Sept-Oct: Various behind-the-scenes Post Office operations are moved out of the downtown location.
  • Oct 5: Using CBRE as real estate agent, the USPS lists the downtown property for sale, without an asking price.
  •  Late October: A court decision halts the sale of the Stamford, CT Post Office due to the work of the National Post Office Collaborate.  This is viewed as a significant victory.
  • Oct-Nov: Tours of the property are given to prospective buyers and invited groups by CBRE and Postal Service.
  • Nov 6th: A 3rd BPC meeting votes to send zoning recommendations to the City Council w/o a specific proposal, leaving it to Councilors to formulate an ordinance specifying the exact uses to be allowed on the property: nine community uses receive a majority vote as acceptable for the Historic District, under a Zoning Overlay.  These are also sent on to City Council.
  •  Early Nov: News of Post Office counters at Staples, staffed by non-postal employees, begins to be known.
  •  November 10th: New APWU President Mark Dimondstein calls for a “grand alliance” of seniors, civil rights organizations, veterans, the labor movement, community and faith-based organizations, the Occupy movement and business groups in defense of America’s right to vibrant public postal services.
  • November 15th: California State Historic Preservation Officer rejects USPS attempt to circumvent Section 106 process.
  • Dec 3rd: Wall Street Journal article on Zoning Ordinance tactic. Says property worth $10M w/o restrictions.
  •  Mid December: First BPOD demonstration at Staples in Berkeley.

2014:

  • Jan: BPOD and SBPO collect signatures on informal petition to Mayor Bates to pass the Zoning Overlay. Ultimately, some 2000 signatures are collected and presented to the Mayor.
  • Jan 7th: First BPOD blog post goes up.
  • Jan: First APWU demonstrations against Staples Post Office stations begin.
  • Jan 28th: Zoning Ordinance hearing held. It is sent back to staff to draft ordinance.
  •  Feb ?: Legislation in Congress passed requesting that the Postal Service refrain from selling Historic Post Offices until the Office of Inspector General’s report on Post Office Sales is published, due in March.
  •  Feb ?: An Inspector General’s report calling for Post Office banking and financial services is released.
  • Early March: Senator Elizabeth Warren comes out in support of Postal banking.  There is much discussion of the idea in the media throughout the month.
  • March ? : It is apparent that the Zoning Overlay has died in committee, and Mayor Bates is the primary culprit.
  • April 17th: The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation comes out with report highly critical of the way USPS is attempting to dispose of historic Post Offices.
  • April: Office of Inspector General’s report issued, mildly critical of USPS handling of sales.
  • April 28th: USPS rejects the Advisory Council’s conclusions.
  • May ? : The idea of passing the Zoning Overlay as a ballot initiative, in conjunction with other zoning proposals for the Berkeley Downtown, is floated.
  • May 9th: USPS offers proposed covenant to preserve artwork and building to City of Berkeley.
  • May : In a flurry of activity, volunteers from BPOD, SBPO and other organizations collect 4500+ signatures in just a few weeks and are successful in placing what eventually becomes known as ‘Measure R’ on the ballot for November.
  • June : The City Council enters into negotiations with USPS in regard to a preservation covenant for the Post Office building.
  • June: The City Council introduces the notion of passing the Zoning Overlay ordinance as it appears in Measure R, so as to provide people with a reason not to vote for the measure, which they say would interfere with Downtown development.
  • June: The Staples occupation, initiated by First They Came for the Homeless, begins.
  • July 11th: CAlifornia SHPO reject USPS’ proposed covenant as inadequate.
  • July ?: Measure R is formally placed on the ballot by City Council. In a stunning conflict of interest, the summary language is written by Tom Bates, a major opponent of Measure R, with a majority of the Council supporting him.
  • July ?: A lawsuit is initiated concerning the summary language by Jesse Arreguin, the City Councilor who was one of the primary sponsors for Measure R.
  • July: Unions across the country endorse the APWU’s Staples boycott.
  • July 18th: July City of Berkeley proclaims July 18, 2014 as Postal Heritage Day
  • July 29th: Ralph Nader speaks on the Post Office steps against privatization.
  • Late August: Judge rules partially in favor of modifying Bates’ summary language on Measure R.
  • August 27th: Planning Commission passes Zoning Overlay ordinance unanimously, goes to City Council.
  • Sept 9th: City Council passes first reading of Zoning Overlay ordinance unanimously with no debate.
  • Sept 22nd: Unbeknownst to anyone at the time, Hudson-McDonald, a local developer, enters into an agreement to buy the downtown Post Office property.
  • Sept 30th: City Council enacts Zoning Overlay ordinance; 2nd reading is again unanimous with no debate. Will take effect in 30 days  on October 30th.
  • Oct 19th: Staples occupation notes 100 days of presence outside of Staples.
  • October 22nd: Rumors of an imminent sale begin percolating.
  • October 24th: Postal Officials confirm that the Berkeley Post Office is “Under Contract.” to Hudson-McDonald, a local developer.
  • October 24th: Berkeley City Attorney announces  plans to proceed with lawsuit against the sale.
  • October 25th: Mobilization by the people of Berkeley against the sale begins with noon meeting on the Post Office steps.
  • Oct 31st: USPS rejects Advisory Council on Historic Preservation’s judgement that proposed covenant does not sufficiently protect the Berkeley Post Office.
  • Nov 1: Rally on Post Office steps with Barbara Lee. Commitment to file lawsuit against the sale reaffirmed.
  • Nov 1: 2nd Occupation begins; First They Came for the Homeless moves from Staples to the Post Office steps with support from Berkeley Post Office Defenders.
  • Nov 4th: Measure R fails.
  • Nov 5th: USPS announces the identity of the prospective buyer, Hudson-McDonald, a local developer.
  • Nov 5th: City of Berkeley files lawsuit against the sale, receives temporary restraining order (TRO)
  • Nov 7th: TRO extended through December 17th. Hearing on injunction to stop the sale while the lawsuit progresses scheduled for December 11th in Federal District Judge William Alsup’s court in San Francisco.
  • Nov 14th: APWU holds national day of action against service cuts and the closing of 82 processing centers around the country.
  • Nov 17th: David Rovics sings on the Post Office steps.
  • Nov 27th: 2nd annual Thanksgiving feed on the Post Office steps.
  • Dec 3rd: Hudson-McDonald, the prospective purchaser, backs out of the deal.
  • Dec 4th: Postal Police begin “raiding” the encampment, harassing the Occupiers.
  • Dec 6th: Sing-a-long on the Post Office steps. Benjamin Franklin addresses the crowd of about 60 people.
  • Dec 8th: BPOD greets Post Office police at 8:00 AM in significant numbers. Does not offer them donuts.
  • Dec 11th: Hearing on whether lawsuit should be dismissed in light of buyer’s withdrawal. Judge Alsup gives City of Berkeley until Dec 31st to file a more general amended complaint, one that does not mention Hudson-McDonald.
  • Dec 12th. Massive rainstorm. Occupation holds, despite harassment by Postal Police at 4:00 AM.
  • Dec 30th: Berkeley files an amended complaint with Judge Alsup.
  • Dec 30th: Postal Police refrain from early (or any) raids over Christmas week.

2015

  • Jan 5th: Lawsuit hearing on whether amended complaint should be dismissed is set for March 19th, later postponed until March 26th.
  • Jan 10th: Soil preparation for a Community Garden on the west side of the Post Office begins.
  • Jan 17th: Community Garden planting. All goes well. 50 people show up.
  • Jan 22nd: USPS files its expected “Motion to Dismiss” Berkeley’s lawsuit.
  • Feb 8th: The 2nd occupation of the Berkeley Post Office is 100 days old this day.
  • Feb 10th: Berkeley City Council passes a resolution calling for Post Offices to offer financial services to the unbanked (aka Postal Banking)
  • Feb 19th: Townhall meeting regarding lawsuit.
  • March 1st: Many homeless people begin gathering around the Post Office.
  • March 5th: The Post Office cuts off the outside water spigot community members were using to water the Garden of Common Good, our Community Garden.
  • March 12th: Postal Police begin daily, early morning clearing of the homeless from the Post Office exterior, however leaving the protest site in peace.
  • March 17th: Berkeley City Council passes anti-homeless ordinances plan.
  • March 26th: Hearing on the Post Office’s “Motion to Dismiss.” Judge gives Post Office one week to decide whether to rescind its “Final Determination” decision to move services elsewhere and sell the downtown Post Office.
  • April 2nd: Postal Service’s lawyers respond with duplicitous note saying they are not relocating but are silent about a sale.
  • April 7th: The Richmond City Council passes a similar resolution to Berkeley’s Feb 10th resolution calling for financial services for the unbanked.
  • April 8th: Postal Police become more aggressive in clearing Berkeley homeless off the steps of the Post Office, posting night guards.  The protest booth/camp is still untouched.
  • April 10th: The Community Garden produces its first cabbage.
  • April 14th: Judge Alsup declares the lawsuit moot, but orders the Postal Service to provide 42 days notice to the City of Berkeley before a sale, for the next five years, so that the lawsuit may be re-instituted. The Judge also declares the the Postal Service has renounced its intent to relocate services and if it wants to do so in the future it must start the legal process all over again.
  • April 15th: Judge Alsup issues an additional order maintaining his jurisdiction over any subsequent lawsuit for five years.
  • April 30th: Inspector General for the Post Office issues an stinging report on CBRE’s contract with the Post Office to sell and lease postal properties.
  • May 1st: Six month anniversary of the still-ongoing Occupation by First They Came for the Homeless at the downtown Post Office.
  • May 9th: Celebration rally on the Post Office Steps, sponsored by Save the Berkeley Post Office.
  • June 30th: City Council passes resolution reaffirming opposition to any sale and calling on Postal Officials to sit down and discuss the future of 2000 Allston Way.
  • July 25th: 100 year anniversary of the opening of the Post Office at 2000 Allston Way; celebration on the Post Office steps with Peter Byrne, et al organized by SBPO.
  • October. The resolution/letter the City Council passed in June is finally sent to Postal officials at the instigation of BPOD members.
  • Nov 1st: 1 year anniversary of the 2nd Post Office Occupation, populated by First They Came for the Homeless peeps.
  • December. No response is ever received from Postal officials for Berkeley’s letter sent in October.

2016

  • February. Alleged drug dealers and meth users take over some of the Community Garden space. Postal Police refuse to move them off, as they have done in the past multiple times.  Multiple allegations suggest the Berkeley Police have told these or other people to move themselves into this space.
  • March. Rumors of eviction of the Occupation surface. Letters are written protesting the continued residence in the Community Garden.  Berkeley City officials say they have met with Postal Police.
  • March 31st. Postal Police deliver eviction notices to everyone at the Post Office, informing them they will be removed on the morning of April 1st.
  • April 1st. Nothing happens.
  • April 12th. Postal Police arrive at 5:00 AM, evict everyone and throw all their possessions in trash trucks.  The Occupation lasted one year, five months and twelve days.
  • April 14th. 1 year anniversary of Judge Alsup’s decision, effectively putting the kibosh on Postal Service efforts to sell the downtown Post Office.
  • April 23rd. “Must Go On” Rally at the downtown Post Office.
  • April 26th. Postal Officials install iron fence around the Community Garden and the space formerly Occupied by First They Came for the Homeless, including the bike rack, which was removed.
  • May 9th. The public becomes aware that The Department of Justice, on behalf of the Postal Service, sent a letter to the City of Berkeley on April 28th. This letter demanded that the Historic Overlay Zoning Ordinance be rescinded, and that the City respond by May 20th, threatening a lawsuit otherwise. The letter claims that the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution prevents the rezoning of federal property if it would hinder a sale of said property.
  • May 17th. The Berkeley City Council meets in closed session about the DoJ’s letter and decides to take no action on it.
  • May 31st. The Berkeley City Council again meets in closed session about the DoJ’s letter and again decides to take no (reportable, at least) action on it.
  • June 3rd. Jill Stein, Green Party US Presidential candidate, speaks on the Post Office steps at the invitation of Berkeley Post Office Defenders. About 100 people attend.
  • June 16th. Community Garden is ripped up, presumably from orders given by Postal Officials.
  • July 11th. The East Bay Times reports that no response has been sent to the DoJ’s letter.
  • August 22nd. The Post Office files suit in Federal Court to overturn the Historic Overlay Zoning Ordinance.
  • Sept 22nd. Judge Alsup consolidates the Post Office’s lawsuit with Berkeley’s now moot lawsuit from late 2014 – early 2015, under his jurisdiction.
  • Oct 19th. Berkeley files its ‘Motion to Dismiss’ the Post Office’s lawsuit.
  • Dec 22nd. Hearing on Berkeley’s Motion to Dismiss before Judge Alsup in Federal Court in San Francisco. The motion to dismiss is denied. A trial date of Dec 4th, 2017 is set.  The judge orders the parties to begin settlement talks using a Federal Magistrate judge to mediate.

2017

  • Jan 7th. Postal Service announces that it is severing its relationship with Staples, effective March 1, after losing to the APWU at the National Labor Relations Board on a number of issues related to its Staples contract.
  • Jan 12th. Judge Alsup issues his written decision formally denying Berkeley’s Motion to Dismiss.
  • Jan 17th. Berkeley City Council meets in closed session to discuss lawsuit.
  • March. Judge Alsup tours the downtown Berkeley Post Office property.
  • March. One settlement talk meeting between the City of Berkeley and the US Postal Service happens.  Little, if any, progress towards a settlement occurs.
  • March. The Berkeley City Attorney, Zach Cowan, who presented oral arguments on Dec 22nd in the zoning overlay lawsuit and wrote the briefings, announces his retirement.
  • April 30th. Mayor Arreguin tells Berkeley Post Office activists that the City will, barring extraordinary changes, be taking the lawsuit to trial.
  • May 4th. The City of Berkeley tentatively chooses a new City Attorney, Farimah Faiz Brown, currently an assistant City Attorney for the City of Alameda.

One thought on “Berkeley Post Office Defense: A Timeline.

  1. Pingback: Block the Sale! All Out Against Privatization! Rally & Action Nov 1st! | Occupy Oakland

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