It’s Official! Developers Staying Away from Post Office Purchase.

Categories: Front Page, Open Mic

It’s not often one has reason to quote the Wall Street Journal pointing as evidence that what you are doing is having an effect. But as the Journal just reported, a novel tactic seems to be having the desired effect of making developers wary of purchasing the downtown Berkeley Post Office.

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The idea, a restrictive zoning ordinance, was first proposed by an Occupy Oakland participant and developed into a concrete proposal by organizations hoping to save the downtown Berkeley Post Office from sale and Berkeley Councilperson Jesse Arreguin. Along the way it garnered serious community support and it, along with direct action by the Berkeley Post Office Defenders (a co-mingling of people from Strike Debt Bay Area and Save the Berkeley Post Office) in the form of a month-long encampment on the Post Office steps, and the threat of a lawsuit challenging the sale, has sent a strong message: “Stay Away. Public Property. Not For Sale.” (The sign you see to the right appeared mysteriously at the downtown Berkeley Post Office about two weeks ago).

Here’s some of what the WSJ has to say:

BERKELEY, Calif. Community groups and elected officials across the country are protesting as the cash-starved U.S. Postal Service shuts down and sells post offices…

But few cities are going as far as this one…

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…

The rezoning strategy is being closely watched by other communities resisting sales in search of opposition techniques. But it has drawn the ire of the Postal Service, which calls the measure “unduly restrictive,” an attorney for the agency wrote to the planning commission last month.

Opponents to the Berkeley sale said they are considering lawsuits to block it. But they said the zoning measure is a backup plan should a sale go through.

So far, they appear to have succeeded in rattling the market. “This one struck me at the get-go as one to stay out of,” said Patrick Kennedy, an active developer in Berkeley. He isn’t planning on bidding, he said.

Mr. Kennedy estimated that, without zoning changes, the post office would be valued at roughly $10 million. But the rezoning would significantly reduce its value, and it opens up the prospect that the building could even stay vacant should the sale go through because so many income-producing uses would be barred, he said.

The Berkeley Post Office Defenders, the Green Party, Save the People’s Post Office, and Community and Postal Workers United are holding a Town Hall TOMORROW:

When: Thursday December 5, 2013, starting at 7:00 PM

Where: Berkeley Arts Festival Space, 2133 University Ave., Berkeley, CA 94704

Why: Organize the Bay Area to save our public postal service

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We will be discussing the call by Mark Dimonstein, newly elected President of the American Postal Workers Union, for a Grand Alliance to prevent the privatization of the Postal Service.

Writing to Congress is important, but it is not enough. Lobbying for legislation is important, but it is not enough. To succeed, postal workers must build a movement. We must build a grand alliance between the people of this country and postal workers. We must mobilize our allies and their organizations, including seniors, retirees, civil rights organizations, veterans groups, the labor movement, community and faith-based organizations, the Occupy movement, and business groups in defense of America’s right to vibrant public postal services.

– Mark Dimondstein

We will also be discussing continued and invigorated efforts to save the Berkeley Post Office and with it, helping to prevent the selling off of our Commons.

Please join us!!


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