The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

April 24, 2014

Post office sales fight grows

SAN FRANCISCO — The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation has issued a report to Congress that criticizes the U.S. Postal Service’s disposal of historic properties and calls for a suspension of all sales until a host of recommendations are implemented.

The report by the independent federal agency was issued last week. It came a little more than a month after the council heard testimony in the Bay Area from Berkeley’s mayor, state and local preservationists and activists who contend the postal service has fast-tracked sales without taking local concerns or its legal obligations to preserve national historic treasures into account.

Communities around the country have balked over the last few years as the postal service has increasingly placed historic post offices filled with New Deal-era artwork on the market.

But in Berkeley, the push to sell its 1914 Second Renaissance Revival-style main post office prompted the fiercest reaction yet, including a monthlong encampment on the steps and the creation of a nationwide organization that is battling sales coast to coast.

City leaders have teamed with residents for the fight, promising litigation in the event of a sale and moving to impose a zoning overlay that would probably muddy any prospect of one.

In his March testimony to the advisory council, Mayor Tom Bates said Berkeley has responded “in its best traditions of civic and citizen resistance to the unwise exercise of authority.”

Others who expressed concerns in their testimony included the Los Angeles field director for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the state historic preservation officer and an architectural historian working with the Save Our La Jolla Post Office Task Force.

The National Historic Preservation Act requires federal agencies to consider the effects of their actions on historic properties and to consult with interested parties such as state preservation officers and city officials to resolve any negative effects.

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