By Jorge Casuso
December 12, 2013 -- U.S. Congressman Henry Waxman is asking the United States Postal Service (USPS) to make good on its promise to provide customers with on-site parking at the relocated postal facility in Santa Monica.
In a letter to the Postmaster General Wednesday, Waxman echoed reports published in The Lookout last week that residents fear the on-street parking at the replacement facility at 7th Street and Olympic Boulevard is inadequate and unsafe.
“The Carrier Annex opened for business on July 1, 2013, and there is still no on-site customer parking,” wrote Waxman, who tried to block the closure of the Downtown Santa Monica facility that had served the bayside city for 75 years.
“I am hearing from residents that the available street parking is not only insufficient, but potentially dangerous,” Waxman wrote. “Many feel they are risking an accident every time they back out of the available parking spots into oncoming traffic.”
The current orientation of the head-in parking requires drivers to back out into two lanes of opposing traffic, often with their views blocked by other parked vehicles, when they leave the facility.
Postal officials told The Lookout Tuesday that they plan to provide as many as ten additional parking spaces on site next month, a move that was applauded by worried residents.
But Waxman wants specifics.
“I request a written response detailing what the Postal Service's plan is, and how quickly that plan will be implemented, to provide on-site customer parking at the Carrier Annex,” he wrote Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe.
Waxman has been a vocal opponent of the closure of the Downtown facility. One month after the USPS announced in August 2012 that it would relocate its main Santa Monica office and put the Depression-era building on the selling block, the Congressman filed an appeal.
Waxman wrote in his letter Tuesday that he “was particularly concerned that the remote location of the Carrier Annex raised serious questions about access and safety.”
“In rejecting all appeals, USPS dismissed concerns about the location and pledged that customers would continue to have the same level of access to retail service,” he wrote. “That pledge relied, in part, on the promise of ample parking at the Carrier Annex.”
Waxman noted that Vice President of Facilities Tom Samra denied his appeal because "the Carrier Annex will provide customers on-site and on-street parking."
“USPS went so far as to argue that the parking situation would actually improve,” Waxman wrote in his letter. “In its motion to dismiss my appeal to the Postal Regulatory Commission, USPS wrote that ‘the Annex offers customers on-site and street parking whereas the Main Post Office location did not.’"
The USPS, Waxman concluded, “clearly used the promise of on-site parking to justify the relocation services over local objections.”
City traffic engineers are also looking at how to best address the situation, since the on-street parking spaces were put in place before City officials knew the 7th Street building -- originally only a sorting station – would be turned into a full-service post office.
The 44 existing on-street spaces were created to replace parking along Colorado Avenue removed to make way for the Expo Light Rail line scheduled to open in early 2016.