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Santa Monica Residents Resist Closing of Historic Post Office
By Jason Islas
August 21, 2012 -- The United States Postal Service announced that it would close Santa Monica's historic Downtown post office two weeks after the public comment period ended, leading some to believe the closure was a forgone conclusion.
As part of an attempt to save an increasingly-financially desperate institution, 12 California post offices will be put on the market -- including Santa Monica's New Deal-era building -- despite the protestations of local residents who claim that the loss of the post office would be a detriment to the community.
Friday's decision to close the 5th Street post office building and move operations to a facility on 7th Street and Olympic Boulevard came two weeks after some 100 comments were sent by residents who opposed the move.
“The postal service could not have possibly considered the various written arguments sent in by more than 100 community members,” reads saveourpostoffice.pen.io, the website maintained by Reinhard Kargl, a Santa Monica local.
“They had pretty much made up their minds about it,” said Kargl.
But Postal Service's dire financial straits require drastic action, Postal Service officials said, adding that the more than 100 comments -- most of them urging that the facility be kept open -- were taken into consideration.
“The postal service has to do whatever it can to maintain service,” said Richard Maher, a spokesperson for the USPS. “Those comments had to be weighed against our financial situation. “The postal service needs to pay salaries.”
The Postal Service's year-to-date net loss is $11.6 billion, compared to $5.7 billion for the same period last year, Maher said in an official statement Friday.
The situation “gets more serious every day,” he said.
Postal Service officials maintain that the move will ultimately save the organization $300,000 a year, as well as net a yet-to-be-determined amount for the sale of the historic building.
Maher said that the USPS has received some positive comments about the move, although he did not specify how many.
“Our bulk mail customers are going to have easier access,” he said of the 7th Street location, which has a larger parking lot and better access for big vehicles.
Postal Service officials explored consolidating services in the historic Downtown building but determined that it lacked sufficient parking and that it would be difficult for large vehicle to deliver mail there, Maher said.
He also pointed out that Downtown building is much more valuable than the facility at Lincoln, which Kargl has likened to a “bunker.”
“If a piece of property is not that valuable,” said Maher,” does it make sense to sell it?”
But, Maher said, the Postal Service will make sure that any buyer of the property will be obligated to maintain the “historical nature” of the building.
“Someone couldn't just purchase this building and demolish it,” he said.
Recently, the USPS sold its post office in Venice, which like the Santa Monica facility was built during the New Deal. As part of the contract for that sale, Maher said, the new owner will have to maintain the facade of the building.
He said a similar agreement would be reached with anyone interested in purchasing the Santa Monica building.
Nonetheless, there are many who disagree with the relocation, including Congressman Henry Waxman and the Santa Monica Conservancy.
“Today I was troubled to learn that the USPS plans to sell the main branch of the Santa Monica Post Office," Waman wrote in response to Friday's decision.
"The entire city relies on the Santa Monica Post Office to mail packages, buy stamps, and rent post office boxes," Waman said. "It is as much a part of the community as Palisades Park, Santa Monica Pier, and City Hall."
Kargl has been using his website to encourage residents to appeal the decision, which they can do until August 31. For more details visit http://saveourpostoffice.pen.io.
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