Congressional Reprieve: task force continues fight to save La Jolla’s post office
By Pat Sherman
The La Jolla Historical Society’s Save Our La Jolla Post Office Task Force received good news as it prepared to mark its second anniversary.
The group of community volunteers banded together on Jan. 27, 2012 to fight the U.S. Postal Service’s planned sale of La Jolla’s historic Wall Street post office and relocation of its services.
During a Jan. 25 rally outside the post office, Congressmember and La Jolla resident Scott Peters (D-52nd) said a provision inserted into the omnibus spending bill passed into law last week calls for a moratorium on sales of USPS’s historic post offices, such La Jolla’s.
“The (House Appropriations) Committee is concerned by reports that the postal service is attempting to sell off many of its historic properties without regard to the preservation of these buildings — particularly that the postal service may not be following Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act,” Peters said.
The spending bill provision calls for the moratorium until results from ongoing audits of the sales and relocations are made public.
The USPS’s independent Office of Inspector General is conducting the audits. Inspector General David Williams has criticized the USPS’s drastic pre-funding of its retiree health benefits, as well as what some consider the privatization of USPS’s public assets — specifically via USPS’s real estate contract with CBRE (whose president, Richard Blum, is the husband of U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein).
Peters thanked task force members for keeping him educated on the issue, and applying pressure on the USPS. In the past year, the task force was successful in its efforts to have the post office designated as both national and historic landmarks.
“(Your efforts) have made a difference, and will continue to make a difference,” Peters said. “When we have such powerful logic behind us, obviously in government that’s not entirely determinative, but it is something to start with.”
Task Force chair Leslie Davis noted that community preservationists in Stamford, Ct. were successful in their attempt to temporarily thwart the sale of their historic post office. Several months ago, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction to block USPS’s sale of the Stamford’s post office to a developer who wishes to build an apartment complex. The court ruled that the USPS failed to follow National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) regulations. Davis said the moratorium gives the task force time to organize a similar strategy.
“Two years ago, we said that a sale would be an adverse effect (on La Jolla’s post office),” Davis said. “We’ve always thought there was a case for that, but there was no legal precedent, and now there’s a legal precedent. These kinds of delays from Congress are helping us get our ducks in a row and do the next thing we need to do to save the post office. We have always said that delaying this was part of our strategy — and that’s so far been successful.”
Task Force vice-chair Joe LaCava said the task force has “had its low points in confronting a bureaucracy that played hide and seek with the facts, the process, the decision-making, and conformance to local and federal laws.
“This journey is not over,” LaCava said. “Two years in, the building has not been placed on the market, the post office retail operations continue, and this building remains as vibrant as ever as the center of La Jolla’s walkable Village.”
District 1 City Councilmember Sherri Lightner, who also attended the rally, noted the “kudos” the task force received from the federal government on its handling of the appeals process and how “well organized and rational” task force members were throughout. “I am hopeful that by this time next year this (will be) our post office, forever,” she said.
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