Temporary Restraining Order Halts Sale of Berkeley's 1914 Post Office
In late September the USPS walked away from negotiations with the city of Berkeley and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The parties were attempting to draft a covenant to be held by the city of Berkeley that allowed the Postal Service to sell Berkeley’s Main Post Office but also (as required under federal law) protected the building's historic characteristics including its historic use and public access. In terminating negotiations, the USPS made a stunning announcement: The USPS would itself hold the preservation covenant.
"USPS has no apparent interest in the long-term preservation of the property"
On October 24, 2014, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) responded to the USPS proposal. Their response tells you all you need to know about how well preserved Berkeley’s post office would be under this unprecedented Postal Service proposal:
"It is the ACHP’s opinion that the proposed covenant does not sufficiently ensure the long-term preservation of the property since the USPS, as covenant holder, has the unfettered authority to approve adverse effects to the property (including demolition) while having neither the demonstrated experience in holding preservation covenants nor an apparent interest in the long term preservation of the property."
On the same date, October 24, 2014, the joint CB Richard Ellis/ USPS website listed the Berkeley Main Post Office as “In Contract.”
On October 31, 2014, the USPS unilaterally concluded the Section 106 process against the advice of the President’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the California State Historic Preservation Officer and without the agreement of the city of Berkeley or the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
On November 4, 2014, the city of Berkeley's counsel Tony Rossmann filed for a temporary restraining order against the U.S. Postal Service in U.S. District Court. The legal action stated that the Postal Service in concluding the Section 106 process had taken final agency action without ensuring compliance with either the National Environmental Policy Act or the National Historic Preservation Act.
On November 5, 2014, U.S. District Judge William Alsup issued a temporary restraining order preventing the USPS from completing the sale of Berkeley’s Main Post Office.
Hearing Set for Thursday, December 11, 2014
On November 6, 2014, the date for a hearing on a preliminary injunction was set for 8 a.m. Thursday, December 11, 2014. The hearing will be held in Judge Alsup’s courtroom, Courtroom 8, 19th floor, 450 Golden Gate, San Francisco.
We anticipate that the National Trust for Historic Preservation will take part in the hearing on December 11th.
The USPS has bullied communities around the country. Berkeley and the National Trust for Historic Preservation are standing up. It’s the right thing to do and our Mayor and City Council deserve praise for staying the course.
Each sale of an historic post office across our country is a cumulative loss to our national heritage. We hope that the court will halt this heist of our national heritage. There are future options for Berkeley’s historic post office that have yet to be analyzed as alternatives. Those options include the Postal Service retaining custody of the building in trust for the American people.
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On November 6, both parties stipulated a request to extend the temporary restraining order to December 17, 2014. The tentative date for the hearing on the motion for a preliminary injunction is 8 a.m. Thursday, December 11, 2014 at 450 Golden Gate in San Francisco.
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Declaration from Joseph Lowe, a real estate specialist with the U.S. Postal Service. Mr. Lowe states that the USPS and Hudson McDonald LLC have entered into an agreement regarding the sale of the Berkeley Main Post Office. If the buyer does not terminate the contract before December 5, 2014, the closing of sale will occur by December 22, 2014.