Berkeley Post Office occupation update — April 16, 2015

First they came for the homeless's photo.

These are some of the people who have fought the sale of Berkeley’s downtown Post Office. We haven’t won the fight, but neither have they.

Here is the latest from Jp.

NO, YOU STILL CAN’T SELL THE PEOPLE’S POST OFFICE!

On April 14th, 2015 Judge Alsup ruled in favor of the US Postal Service’s attempt to dismiss the City of Berkeley’s lawsuit which sought to halt the sale of the people’s post office in downtown Berkeley. He ruled that since no sale is pending, the issue is not ripe for litigation.

While this is not the decision Berkeley Post Office Defenders (BPOD), First They Came for the Homeless nor the City of Berkeley was looking for, the judge did NOT rule that the Postal Service is free and clear to go ahead and sell the building at 2000 Allston Way. There is no doubt that the position of those of us who oppose a sale has improved: should USPS attempt to sell the building, Judge Alsup made it clear that the City is free to reinstitute the lawsuit on the same grounds, and must provide the City with 42 days notice before a finalized purchase can occur.

As notice of continued community commitment, BPOD strongly urges the Berkeley City Council to reiterate its firm stance opposing a sale by reaffirming its intent to sue should another sales attempt arise. We also wish to thank the entire community – which has persevered for three years in this fight – for the role each and every participant opposing the sale played, and we send notice to the Postal Service that none of us are going away.

Instead of a cycle of litigation without end, Berkeley Post Office Defenders and First They Came for the Homeless call on the Postal Service to permanently renounce a sale and enter into discussions with the community about how to best use the space for the public good in the spirit of the Zoning Ordinance we pushed for and which ultimately passed. We created the community garden on Milvia – transformed from a trash dump to blooming greenery. We have more ideas: using some of the excess space as an incubator for postal banking, as a library annex for online access, as a service center for homeless people and/or urban gardening. We suggest installing solar panels on the vast, flat roof, both for revenue and the environment. And there is office space along Milvia and the parking spaces in the back that could be rented – unused resources in the heart of downtown.

The Berkeley Post Office was built with the sweat and tax equity of our great-grandparents. It belongs to the people. It can and must remain as a Post Office in perpetuity – while additionally serving the community in other ways.

–Mike Zint

“Revolution Now!” by Ayat

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“Revolution Now”

The thought came like day breaks

Burning through the dark illusions,

Rising like a sun

A future, brightly colored by future

Covering the blood and sweat of today

The image reminded me of childhood

A junkyard with an ever changing theme

Broken dreams and false promises

Littering the yard

The sound was like a saw’s blade

Grinding sands into powder

With a human voice

Speaking thousands of tongues

Calling for justice

Demanding equality

Crying for love, making a change

The thought came,

Like day breaks

Filling the horizon

Closing all that’s around, in

Coming out, in us, in me

Pouring from everyone…

Revolution Now!

Berkeley Post Office: Good news for Berkeley but Postal Service evades judicial review

Attorneys left to right: Tony Rossmann (pro bono for the City of Berkeley), Zach Cowan (Berkeley City Attorney), Brian Turner (National Trust for Historic Preservation). Not pictured: Roger Moore (pro bono for the City of Berkeley).

Federal Judge Dismisses Law Suit

SAN FRANCISCO, CA: On Tuesday, April 14, 2015, Judge William Alsup dismissed as “moot without prejudice to the filing of a new lawsuit when plaintiffs have suffered a cognizable injury” two cases from the City of Berkeley and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Both legal actions asserted that the U.S. Postal Service has failed to comply with environmental and historic preservation laws while attempting to sell the Main Berkeley Post Office.

The Berkeley City Attorney’s office issued this statement:
While the cases were dismissed, the result of Judge Alsup’s order is actually quite favorable to the plaintiffs, because in order to render the cases moot, the USPS had to formally rescind its decision to relocate the post office from 2000 Allston Way.  The decision to relocate was the USPS’s first step in moving towards a sale. As a result, the USPS is back at square one, and there is no longer any decision to relocate postal services out of the Main Post Office at 2000 Allston Way.

Because the cases were dismissed as moot, the Judge did not rule on the merits, so all of our arguments about noncompliance with NEPA and NHPA remain intact and viable, and can be asserted if and when the USPS tries to sell the building again.  Judge Alsup also included in his order a provision that will prevent the USPS from selling the building without giving the City and the National Trust the opportunity to assert these challenges again:

  • The [USPS] must provide plaintiffs with written notice at least 42 calendar days in advance of the closing of any future sale of the Berkeley Main Post Office or any final determination to relocate retail post office services. 
In a nutshell, Judge Alsup has effectively granted the City and National Trust the relief we requested by requiring USPS to make a binding commitment that its decisions to relocate and sell the post office have been rescinded.

All in all, while it is disappointing not to be able to litigate the NEPA and NHPA issues to a final judgment, the litigation has accomplished its primary goal of keeping the post office at 2000 Allston Way.

Limited Victory:
Judge Alsup’s ruling protects Berkeley’s downtown post office from a secret sale.  Attorneys Tony Rossmann, pro bono attorney for the city of Berkeley, and Brian Turner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, did some great work pushing back against the U.S. Postal Service and developing the legal arguments to fight the Postal Service’s violations of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

But there’s no resolution to the issues. Had the case been heard on its merits, the federal courts would have spoken on whether the Postal Service must comply with historic preservation and environmental laws across the country.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee has introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that will prevent the U.S. Postal Service from closing or selling any historic post office without the approval of Congress. With Lee’s bill and the documented failings of the Postal Service, we will continue to push the administrators of the U.S. Postal Service to hold up their responsibility to safeguard America’s historic post offices.

Chronology and links to recent documents

On March 26, 2015, Judge Alsup heard arguments in his courtroom at 450 Golden Gate in San Francisco on whether to dismiss the suits as moot.  At that time, Judge Alsup questioned the Postal Service about rescinding its administrative decision “Final Determination on Relocation” to relocate/ sell Berkeley’s Main Post Office. Judge Alsup indicated that it was likely his decision would be influenced by whether or not the “Final Determination” was still in effect.

The Postal Service responded on April 2, 2015 , asserting that there was “no formal procedure for withdrawal of the 2013 Final Determination” on relocation. However, the Postal Service had indicated “that it would explore potential sales transactions that would include a lease-back provision, thereby allowing the Postal Service to lease a portion of the Berkeley Main Post Office for continued retail services.” As evidence that the Postal Service no longer intends to “relocate” the defendants offered the Court declarations from USPS real estate specialists Diana Alvarado and Joseph Lowe.

The City of Berkeley counter-responded on April 3, 2015. The Berkeley filing described the USPS response as “Lacking an authentic rescission, they provide a convoluted mirage designed to approximate one, which leaves in place the key decisions on which they relied to support sale of the property. It falls short in consistency, logic and law.”

On April 14, Judge Alsup issued an “Order Dismissing the Case as Moot” and a“Judgment” .  In dismissing the case as moot, Judge Alsup stated that “if the USPS enters into a sale agreement for the property, and if plaintiffs contend that future agreement violates NEPA and the NHPA, then that case would not evade review.”

For a full list of documents please go to our website .

Support Grows for Postal Banking!

Richmond City Council urges Postal Service to “implement without delay” financial services

RICHMOND, CALIFORNIA: On Tuesday night, April 7, 2015, the Richmond, California, City Council unanimously adopted a Resolution urging that the USPS Board of Governors “implement without delay the recommendations of the USPS Inspector General to provide financial services for the underserved.”

Read the text of the Richmond, California resolution.

Fight for $15: Fast-Food Workers Stage Day of Action in Historic Mobilization of Low-Wage Labor (via democracynow.org)

Protests are being held across the country today in what organizers call the “largest-ever mobilization of underpaid workers.” Fast-food workers in 230 cities are walking off the job as part of the “Fight for $15″ campaign, a push for a $15-an-hour minimum wage and the right to form a union. Hundreds of workers in Boston held their action one day early in deference to today’s anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. We hear from some of the workers who kicked off the day of protest this morning at a McDonald’s in New York City.