USPS Problems Not All Their Fault

As much fun as it is to mock the US Postal Service, their inability to restructure their costs is not all their fault. Every time they try to close a facility, they get met by opposition from about everywhere.  Here is an example where Berkely, CA is doing all it can to prevent the USPS from selling a post office building.

The Postal Service over the summer began moving ahead with a plan to sell its 1914 Beaux-Arts post office in the heart of Berkeley near the old city hall and a park named after Martin Luther King Jr. The move drew howls from residents worried that the building would turn into condominiums or office space, even drawing dissidents to camp out for days by the columned building entrance.

Now, opponents are gaining traction with an unorthodox zoning restriction: that the mustard-colored building must remain open to the public

The Berkeley Planning Commission last month approved a measure that would restrict the use of the post office and adjacent government buildings to government agencies or public uses like a theater. Residential use and many other private functions would be banned by the action, which requires City Council approval.

This is simply bizarre.  What, do residents have so many fond memories of their time spent in the line at the post office that they want these golden memories preserved?    The assumptions made by local opponents are just bizarre -- they seem OK if the building is used for offices of the Social Security Administration but not if it is used for private offices.  Why would anyone possibly care.   From my experience, private urban office buildings tend to be cleaner and better maintained than government offices.


  1. Curtis:

    Berkeley is home to the City Council that wanted to ban low-income housing of any kind from Berkeley on the reasonable grounds that it didn't need any low-income housing. It would be wonderful if the USPS could turn the place into a methadone clinic and charge enough/patient to break even and then see what the council and city thought of the idea.

  2. FelineCannonball:

    Sounds like the losing side of a court challenge if the stated purpose is to decrease the economic value of the property. City lawyers are probably writing a memo.

  3. Guest:

    I wonder if the Post Office can get a developer to use 40B to get around those zoning rules...

  4. Chris Smith:

    I thought this was a nationwide rule, but it looks like it's just Massachusetts. We have rule 40B, which allows developers to sidestep many local zoning laws if they promise to turn put up 20% of their units as affordable housing. It's a nice way to get around froo-froo neighborhood zoning laws. Unfortunately for the buyers, the 40B units are white elephants. The law puts many restrictions on what the buyers can do with the property.

  5. John O.:

    From my experience, private urban office buildings tend to be cleaner and better maintained than government offices.
    Of course they are but in Berkeley I wonder if they're so use to unkempt public buildings downtown that they prefer it.

  6. MingoV:

    I don't understand the problem. If the USPS wants to close a post office, no local political flunkies can interfere. Federal buildings and the land they are on are NOT subject to local regulations (or local taxes). In this case, the USPS can close the post office and refuse to sell the property until the restrictions are removed. I doubt that the residents will want to look at an empty post office. And, if the property is unsold, it won't generate property taxes. That's an incentive for the city to help the sale instead of hinder it.

  7. Thane_Eichenauer:

    The federal government can largely ignore state and local regulations but pretty much nobody else has that option. Anybody that purchases the property will have to obey the rules.