It may not have ended with a thrilling three-pointer by Stephen Curry with 0:00:01 left… In fact the day it ended no one actually noticed.
But on July 13th, 2018, at 11:59:59 PM, 60 days after Judge Alsup’s decision in USPS v City of Berkeley that Berkeley’s Zoning Overlay Ordinance as it applied to the Downtown Berkeley Post Office was constitutional, the clock ran out on the government’s ability to appeal.
On July 18th, 2018, Matthew Zinn, of Shute, Mihaly and Weinberger, one of the lawyers who defended the City of Berkeley, spoke to the author and informed him that indeed, no appeal had been filed by the government and thus
“unless there has been some kind of major SNAFU which I am not aware of, that is definitive.”
That is, the lawsuit is over. Judge Alsup’s decision is final. Berkeley wins.
The lawsuit spanned more than two years, from spring of 2016 when the Department of Justice sent a letter to Berkeley demanding it rescind its Zoning Overlay Ordinance insofar as it applied to the downtown Berkeley Post Office property, until this month, July, 2018.
The lawsuit was only part of a battle between the Postal Service and the people and City of Berkeley, spanning some six years (see timeline) and encompassing occupations, protests, sing-a-longs, petitions, letters, ballot initiatives, legislation and more.
It is not necessarily over. The Zoning Overlay Ordinance does not (nor could it) prohibit the Postal Service from selling the property. What it did was limit what a new owner could do with the property (along with a number of others in the Civic Center Historical District) to non-commercial uses. According to testimony taken during the lawsuit, the Ordinance diminished the value of the property somewhere between thirty and fifty percent, a good number of millions of dollars. But the Postal Service could still decide to sell the property at this discounted value.
Or not. In a very recent development, the Postal Service, which had put the Richmond, CA downtown post office up for sale a year and a half ago, gave notice that it had decided NOT to sell the building. Perhaps the Postal Service has taken a new look at the value of its assets and their historical significance.
Here’s to the people and politicians of Berkeley, who were not going to allow the condo-ization and privatization of one of Berkeley’s most historic buildings without doing everything they could think of to prevent it. At least for the moment, they’ve succeeded.