Posted on December 20, 2014 by the the Communications Committee
Photo by George Cammarota
By Marsha Feinland
The historic downtown Berkeley Post Office is still public property and is still open. A group called “First They Came for the Homeless” and community supporters have been occupying the area outside the Post Office since Nov. 1, 2014. People are camping out and maintaining an information booth continuously, even during the recent rainstorms (see photo below).
David Welsh and other P.O. activists in front of information booth (photo by Marsha Feinland)
On Thursday, Dec. 4, U.S. Postal Service police removed a homeless encampment from the side of the Post Office. Over the next few days, they seized the tents on the front steps and the signs and banners that were not firmly pasted onto the columns in front of the building.
The Postal Service Police continue to show up periodically, but the occupiers have been able to assert their right to maintain the information booth and living quarters that are on public property and do not block access to the sidewalk or the Post Office steps.
PFP members Marsha Feinland and Edith Hallberg with other sing-a-long participants (photo by George Cammarota>
Community members held a spirited sing-a-long on the Post Office steps on Saturday, Dec. 6 (see photos above and at right).
The good news is that the developer that had contracted to buy the property withdrew the bid. However, a new buyer could appear at any time.
David Welsh, a Peace and Freedom Party registrant and retired U.S.P.S letter carrier, sent us the following article along with permission to repost it. It originally appeared on the website of Occupy San Francisco.
Marsha Feinland is an at-large officer of the Peace and Freedom Party and chairs its Communications Committee.
Temporary victory: Buyer backs out
Berkeley's historic Post Office still standing as part of our public commons
By Mike Zonta
The announced buyer of the Berkeley Main Post Office has withdrawn their bid for the building. This is according to Antonio Rossman, the attorney who had obtained a temporary restraining order to stop the sale.
Mr. Rossman stated on Dec.3, 2014: "Earlier today we received notification from the US Attorneys' office that Hudson McDonald have exercised their option to cancel the sale set to close on 22 December." However, the attorney cautioned that the threat to sell the building was not over and that the US Postal Service "could enter into another contract right away" with a different buyer to sell the building.
Although the attorney was not told the reason for developer Hudson McDonald's decision not to proceed with the sale, local activists threw out two ideas of what could have been deal-breakers:
- Berkeley Post Office Defense and a homeless advocacy group, First They Came for the Homeless, have been occupying the post office steps and grounds with their tents 24/7 for four weeks, even in heavy rain. Their sign says: "The Post Office is Open - Let's Keep it That Way!" The occupation has evoked comparisons to the well-publicized Tent City at the post office in August 2013, which lasted 33 days until broken up by police -- as well as the four-month occupation in front of the Berkeley Staples store earlier this year. [Staples is the subject of a national boycott since it set up so-called "postal" counters in their stores, as part of the ongoing campaign to dismantle and privatize the Postal Service.]
- A new city "zoning overlay"ordinance requires that the Post Office [along with other buildings in the historic civic center district] are to be used for public or civic purposes. This could well restrict a potential buyer's ability to use the building for a profit-making purpose. Intense citizen pressure, and a nearly year-long campaign by the Save the Berkeley Post Office group and other postal defenders, along with steadfast support from City Council member Jesse Arreguin, was what got the zoning overlay voted into law. [A similar fight may well be necessary in coming months, to keep the ordinance from being weakened by "pro-developer" forces in the city government.]
The temporary restraining order, halting any sale of the Post Office until December 17, appears to be still in effect. A court hearing on the matter has been scheduled for 8:00 AM on Thursday, December 11 at 450 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco. The City of Berkeley is the lead plaintiff in the case, which cites numerous violations of law by the USPS in their attempt to sell off the people's Post Office.
The struggle continues.
For more on the struggle to save the Berkeley Post Office see