La Jolla post office still open as battle to save it continues

Save Our La Jolla Post Office Task Force members held their first meeting of the year Jan. 4 to discuss their efforts moving forward. FILE
Save Our La Jolla Post Office Task Force members held their first meeting of the year Jan. 4 to discuss their efforts moving forward. FILE
photo
Save Our La Jolla Post Office Task Force members held their first meeting of the year Jan. 4 to discuss their efforts moving forward. FILE

Post office task force discusses 2013 priorities, takes heart in promises of new mayor and congressman

ONLINE:

savelajollapostoffice.org

and

savethepostoffice.com

By Pat Sherman

It has been a year since La Jollans learned that the Wall Street post office was among as many as 600 properties the financially beleaguered U.S. Postal Service (USPS) intends to sell, in an effort to slash operating expenses and generate revenue.

It has also been a year since a group of historic preservationists and other La Jolla professionals sprang into action to help save the 1935 post office building from being sold and its services relocated to a smaller leased space within the Village.

Though USPS initially suggested that the sale would occur sometime last summer, the task force’s yearlong efforts — including rallies, community surveys, letter writing campaigns and correspondence with elected officials and postal service personnel, has thus far prevented the property from being sold or posted on a website listing postal service properties for sale (

USPSpropertiesforsale.com

).

Last week, USPS Regional Property Manager Diana Alvarado confirmed via e-mail that the building is not on the market and USPS has received no offers on it.

Alvarado said USPS is currently initiating the Section 106 process on the building. Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires federal agencies such as USPS to consider the effect of a sale or other actions on historic properties.

Though Alvarado said she did not know when the Section 106 will be complete, she said USPS is working to define “covenants and restrictions that would be placed on the building should the building be put on the market for sale.”

Though the property does not yet have a federal or local historic designation — something task force members are working toward — key aesthetic elements, such as the building façade and a WPA-era mural on the interior wall by artist Belle Baranceanu could be deemed worthy of preservation under the Section 106 process (ideally preventing demolition and redevelopment).

Task Force member and La Jolla attorney Steve Milgrom is drafting language for covenants the task force would like to see attached to any sale of the building. The task force plans to submit the document to USPS real estate attorneys this month, after consultation with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and other agencies.

Task force members held their first meeting of the year Jan. 4 to discuss their efforts moving forward.

According to task force chair Leslie Davis, the strategy for 2013 is to “stay focused, stay engaged, remain optimistic, study the regu- lations and hold USPS accountable to them.”

The task force will continue its efforts to build allies at the state and federal level, she said.

Working with Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-53rd, no relation to Leslie Davis), the task force was successful last year in getting the congresswoman to author legislation that would give a La Jolla nonprofit group, such as the La Jolla Historical Society, first dibs on purchasing the post office, should it be listed for sale. However, the legislation (HR 6238), which was co-sponsored by Bob Filner in his final year as a congressman, “is now ‘dead’ after the election and redistricting,” Leslie Davis said, adding, “We are seeking to have the legislation brought back via one of our new representatives.”

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