Buyer Backs Out: Berkeley’s historic Post Office still standing

Temporary victory: Buyer backs out
Berkeley’s historic Post Office still standing as part of our public commons

By Dave Welsh

The announced buyer of the Berkeley Main Post Office has withdrawn their bid for the building. This is according to Antonio Rossman, the attorney who had obtained a temporary restraining order to stop the sale. 

Mr. Rossman stated on Dec.3, 2014: “Earlier today we received notification from the US Attorneys’ office that Hudson McDonald have exercised their option to cancel the sale set to close on 22 December.” However, the attorney cautioned that the threat to sell the building was not over and that the US Postal Service “could enter into another contract right away” with a different buyer to sell the building.

Although the attorney was not told the reason for developer Hudson McDonald’s decision not to proceed with the sale, local activists threw out two ideas of what could have been deal-breakers:

1. Berkeley Post Office Defense and a homeless advocacy group, First They Came for the Homeless, have been occupying the post office steps and grounds with their tents 24/7 for four weeks, even in heavy rain. Their sign says: “The Post Office is Open – Let’s Keep it That Way!” The occupation has evoked comparisons to the well-publicized Tent City at the post office in August 2013, which lasted 33 days until broken up by police — as well as the four-month occupation in front of the Berkeley Staples store earlier this year. [Staples is the subject of a national boycott since it set up so-called “postal” counters in their stores, as part of the ongoing campaign to dismantle and privatize the Postal Service.]

2. A new city “zoning overlay”ordinance requires that the Post Office [along with other buildings in the historic civic center district] are to be used for public or civic purposes. This could well restrict a potential buyer’s ability to use the building for a profit-making purpose. Intense citizen pressure, and a nearly year-long campaign by the Save the Berkeley Post Office group and other postal defenders, along with steadfast support from City Council member Jesse Arreguin, was what got the zoning overlay voted into law. [A similar fight may well be necessary in coming months, to keep the ordinance from being weakened by “pro-developer” forces in the city government.]

The temporary restraining order, halting any sale of the Post Office until December 17, appears to be still in effect. A court hearing on the matter has been scheduled for 8:00 AM on Thursday, December 11 at 450 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco. The City of Berkeley is the lead plaintiff in the case, which cites numerous violations of law by the USPS in their attempt to sell off the people’s Post Office.

The struggle continues.

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