Berkeley Post Office: For Sale by Owner
A gorgeous historic building that serves the public has been deemed too expensive to maintain. Boy, did the USPS pick the wrong town to irk.
It's happening all over the country: Stunning architecture created for the public is being put up for sale to the highest-bidding private owner. Here in the Bay Area, it's the Berkeley Post Office that the USPS hopes to hawk. But when the federal government meets a bunch of stubborn, aging radical hippies, things get messy fast.
Built in 1914, the post office was designed, as part of the City Beautiful Movement, to fit in with the University of California campus nearby; its architecture was based on Brunelleschi's Foundling Hospital in Florence, Italy. Two New Deal-era murals adorn the walls. The service is terrible, but package-senders have a lovely environment in which to stand in line.
This past May the USPS announced that the Berkeley Post Office was one of the next post offices to be put on the auction block. Because it's on the National Register of Historic Places, the facade can't be messed with, but it's kind of awful to think that the murals, carved wooden mailboxes and other details could be hauled out and trashed to make way for a behemoth Starbucks.
A vigorous grass-roots movement sprang up instantly. This is a city where the location of an organic grocery is a subject of bitter debate and a main thoroughfare was nearly renamed Dharma Way — it's quirky, and everybody has an opinion. Protesters vowed to occupy the building so it would be unattractive to potential buyers. The City Council adopted a resolution urging the USPS not to sell the building. The Save the Berkeley Post Office website is an impressive collection of facts, action items and possible legislative opposition to the sales of post offices not just here, but across the country.
Alas, the locals' passion may not be enough to save the building. Venice, Calif., recently had producer Joel Silver buy its post office. So let the jokes about the producer of Lethal Weapon "going postal" begin.