Statement from the Berkeley City Attorney's Office
While the cases were dismissed, the result of Judge Alsup’s order is actually quite favorable to the plaintiffs, because in order to render the cases moot, the USPS had to formally rescind its decision to relocate the post office from 2000 Allston Way. The decision to relocate was the USPS’s first step in moving towards a sale. As a result, the USPS is back at square one, and there is no longer any decision to relocate postal services out of the Main Post Office at 2000 Allston Way.
Because the cases were dismissed as moot, the Judge did not rule on the merits, so all of our arguments about noncompliance with NEPA and NHPA remain intact and viable, and can be asserted if and when the USPS tries to sell the building again. Judge Alsup also included in his order a provision that will prevent the USPS from selling the building without giving the City and the National Trust the opportunity to assert these challenges again:
The [USPS] must provide plaintiffs with written notice at least 42 calendar days in advance of the closing of any future sale of the Berkeley Main Post Office or any final determination to relocate retail post office services.
In a nutshell, Judge Alsup has effectively granted the City and National Trust the relief we requested by requiring USPS to make a binding commitment that its decisions to relocate and sell the post office have been rescinded.
All in all, while it is disappointing not to be able to litigate the NEPA and NHPA issues to a final judgment, the litigation has accomplished its primary goal of keeping the post office at 2000 Allston Way.
But there’s no resolution to the issues. Had the case been heard on its merits, the federal courts would have spoken on whether the Postal Service must comply with historic preservation and environmental laws across the country.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee has introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that will prevent the U.S. Postal Service from closing or selling any historic post office without the approval of Congress. With Lee’s bill and the documented failings of the Postal Service, we will continue to push the administrators of the U.S. Postal Service to hold up their responsibility to safeguard America’s historic post offices.
Recent chronology and links to latest documents
The Postal Service responded on April 2, 2015, asserting that there was “no formal procedure for withdrawal of the 2013 Final Determination.” However, the Postal Service had indicated “that it would explore potential sales transactions that would include a lease-back provision, thereby allowing the Postal Service to lease a portion of the Berkeley Main Post Office for continued retail services.” As evidence of this, the Postal Service cited declarations of Diana Alvarado and of Joseph Lowe to the Court.
- Document 54 filed April 2, 2015, Defendants "Notice of the Status of the USPS 2013 Final Determination"
- Document 24 filed November 25, 2014, Declaration of Diana Alavarado
- Document 24-1 filed November 25, 2014
- Document 25, Declaration of Joseph Lowe
The City of Berkeley counter-responded on April 3, 2015. The court filing described to USPS response as “Lacking an authentic rescission, they provide a convoluted mirage designed to approximate one, which leaves in place the key decisions on which they relied to support sale of the property. It falls short in consistency, logic and law.”
- Document 55 filed April 3, 2015, Plaintiff City of Berkeley's Initial Response to Notice of the Status of the USPS 2013 Final Determination
On April 14, Judge Alsup issued an “Order Dismissing the Case as Moot” and a “Judgement”. In dismissing the case as moot, Judge Alsup stated that “if the USPS enters into a sale agreement for the property, and if plaintiffs contend that future agreement violates NEPA and the NHPA, then that case would not evade review.”