Track the Ongoing Lawsuit: USPS v City of Berkeley.

Berkeley’s City Attorney has set up a web page with links to court filings in USPS v. City of Berkeley.

The USPS wants to kill our Zoning Overlay Ordinance for the Historic District as it pertains to the Allston Way Post Office.

Three Years Later – A Staples Victory!

The Postal Service has announced that as of March 1st it will sever its relationship with Staples. No longer will minimum wage workers with no benfits process the US Mail, taking living wage jobs away from unionized postal workers.

A Nov. 8 ruling by the labor board [NLRB] required the Postal Service to discontinue its retail relationship with Staples… The board ruled that the Postal Service had violated the union’s collective bargaining rights by implementing the Staples deal, and said it must end the partnership with Staples upon request of the union.

The fight against the Staplization of the Postal Service may have ended with a board ruling in Washington, but it began right here in Berkeley.

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Historic Overlay District Zoning Ordinance on Trial!

Image result for berkeley post office lawsuitThursday, December 22nd, in Federal Court in San Francisco, Judge William Alsup declined to dismiss the Federal Government’s lawsuit against the City of Berkeley. The lawsuit claims that Berkeley’s new zoning of the Historic District – which includes the downtown Berkeley Post Office – is unconstitutional. This zoning ordinance, which prohibits most commercial uses of the properties around Civic Center Park in downtown Berkeley, was passed in 2014.

In refusing the motion to dismiss, Judge Alsup stated something pretty close to “This case needs a trial. A real trial. With evidence and witnesses… With blood on the floor.” (Really. I’m not making that last up).

A trial date is set for December 4th, 2017.  The judge directed the Postal Service and the City of Berkeley to begin settlement discussions under the direction of a Federal Magistrate Judge.  Those could happen as early as February, 2017.

See here and here for more on the lawsuit.

Courthouse News reports on the hearing here.

The transcript of the proceedings is here: 16_12_22_transcript.

Judge Alsup’s ruling rejecting the City of Berkeley’s Motion to Dismiss is here: motion-to-dismiss-denied.

Berkeley Defends Against Post Office Lawsuit

Image result for zach cowan berkeleyOn October 19, 2016 The Berkeley City Attorney, Zach Cowan (middle), filed a “Motion to Dismiss” the US Post Office’s lawsuit against the City of Berkeley challenging Berkeley’s right to zone the 2000 Allston Way property, Berkeley’s downtown Post Office, as a part of the Historic District.

The lawsuit claims that the new zoning has dissuaded the USPS from putting the Post Office building up for sale again because it’s value has been reduced by the new zoning requirements, and that Berkeley cannot do this because it violates the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution.

The Motion to Dismiss is was original scheduled to be heard in Judge Alsup’s court on December 1st, 2016, but was postponed until December 22nd, sometime between 8:00 AM and 11:00 AM ,at 450 Golden Gate in San Francisco.  Judge Alsup’s courtroom is Courtroom 8 on the 19th floor.

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Feds Sue Berkeley Over Historic Zoning Overlay Ordinance.

Historic-District-OverlayIn April, 2016, the Postal Service through the Department of Justice, threatened to sue Berkeley if Berkeley did not rescind the Historic District Zoning Overlay Ordinance, passed in September of 2014, that made most commercial uses of the zone (see right) – which includes the Post Office at 2000 Allston Way (8) – illegal.

This ordinance was passed in the middle of a four-year fight to save the downtown Berkeley Post Office from sale and privatization, begun in 2012 and ended, at least temporarily, by a Federal Judge’s decision in April of 2015.

On August 22nd, 2016, after the Berkeley City Council over the summer essentially refused – by neither formally replying to the DoJ threat letter nor voting to rescind the ordinance – the Postal Service carried through with their threat. (C.f. The actual complaint as a PDF: Complaint-08-22-16).

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Guerilla Gardening, Germination and Green Governing.

stein-bpod-sign-6-4-16Jill Stein, candidate for the Green Party nomination for President of the United States, participated in a guerrilla gardening exercise through the fence of the Community Garden after she spoke at the invite of Berkeley Post Office Defenders (BPOD) and the local Green Party on June 3rd, 2016 on the steps of the downtown Berkeley Post Office.

fence-6-3-16In late April Postal officials had installed a metal fence, blocking access to the BPOD and First They Came for the Homeless initiated Community Garden at the Post Office. Two weeks earlier they had evicted the FTCftH protest occupation from the Allston/Miliva corner, removing the bike rack. That area was also fenced off.

About one hundred people came at 4:30 PM to hear Dr. Stein speak on the state of the economy, the state of our politics, the plight of the Post Office and what she would do about it all (good stuff!) if elected.

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Jill Stein to Speak on the Post Office Steps

jill-steinOn Friday, June 3rd, Green Party candidate for the US Presidency Jill Stein will speak at 4:30 PM on the steps of the downtown Berkeley Post Office at the invite of Berkeley Post Office Defenders.

Some excerpts from her “Power to the People” Plan:

…create deep system change, moving from the greed and exploitation of corporate capitalism to a human-centered economy that puts people, planet and peace over profit.

  • Create living-wage jobs for every American who needs work
  • Abolish student debt to free a generation of Americans from debt servitude.
  • Create democratically run public banks and utilities. Replace corporate trade agreements with fair trade agreements.
  • terminate unconstitutional surveillance and unwarranted spying
  • Abolish corporate personhood

Save the Garden: An Open Letter to the U.S. Attorney General

May 23, 2016

The Honorable Loretta Lynch

Attorney General of the United States

[Open letter: sent via Internet and by mail.

Available for website posting and email distribution]

Dear Madam Attorney General:

As I hope you know, protesters whose goal was to protect and defend Federal property from private encroachment set up a 24-hour information center on a corner of the land surrounding the Berkeley Main Post Office in Berkeley, California. That direct action presence was in place for over seventeen months. A free box for sharing clothes, tables for food and book sharing, and a community garden were created and maintained.  The community garden is in a space that had previously been used as a litter dump, and was done as part of our attempt to improve federal property. During this time the City of Berkeley and thousands of community members succeeded in quashing the Postal Service’s plan to privatize the land, sell the building to high-profit developers, and and endanger the future of the beautiful and historic Post Office Building building.

Residents of the community have been informed by Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin that your department was involved in authorizing the April 12, 2016 raid which demolished and cancelled these community services and displaced the people who were living there and providing them. This information was provided to Councilmember Arreguin by postal and/or postal police officials. Also please know that Berkeley city police were witnessed advising people to sleep in the community garden. When ongoing and open drug abuse by those who had been advised to stay there was reported to both the Berkeley and Postal police no action was taken. These actions and nonactions were disruptive and destructive to the whole area, especially as it is across the street from  Berkeley High School. Rather than help solve the open drug abuse problem and restore peace and well-being to the area, your team chose a scorched-earth option by fencing off the garden and corner and removing the bike rack.

Now, two people, one of them an active participant in the 17-month information center, is being charged for impeding access to the post office, which no one involved in the protest ever did. We note that none of the drug dealers have been charged with anything. It seems to us that the current barricade is impeding  access, which our protest never did.

We are writing now to ask you to have your marshals take down the barricade so that we can tend to the crops in the community garden. We have been watering our garden with a bionic arm water transport driver and a step ladder. It seems unduly harsh to let the vegetables die uneaten in the course of suppressing free speech and preventing access to federal land.

Ideally, of course, the barricade will be taken down and left down. Ideally, you would welcome peaceful public protest on federal land, as well as gardens, fresh vegetables, and sources of good information. However, if you can only see your way clear to taking it down long enough for people to tend to the garden, we can be reached through Debbie Notkin ( to arrange a date and time.

Sincerely yours,