Currently graced by natal plum, a few palm and ficus trees, potted plants and bushes, the La Jolla Post Office landscaping is due for some sprucing. Enter the La Jolla Historical Society Landmark Group (comprised of members who own historic properties), who, with a little help from the La Jolla Rotary Club and the Village Garden Club of La Jolla, are embarking on a project to re-landscape the entire front of the 82-year-old historic resource. The Post Office sits at 1140 Wall St.
“The landscaping has been there for a while and it needs to be refreshed,” said Heath Fox, executive director of the La Jolla Historical Society. “We want to improve the Post Office’s appearance and contribute to the aesthetics of the community, so it’s even more beautiful for patrons. It’s such a public building, so many people use it. It’s a centerpiece of the community and it has historical value as well.”
Seonaid McArthur, chair of the La Jolla Landmark Group, said work has been underway to develop a landscaping plan since February 2016. After meeting with the Village Garden Club of La Jolla and landscapers with experience working on historical properties, a group charrette was held and ideas were drafted. “We wrote out our goals and then met at the Post Office and looked at what would be appropriate. A team of about 20 gardeners brainstormed plans and came up with ideas,” she said. “We want to do the whole thing — both the Wall Street and Ivanhoe Avenue sides. It’s a huge lot and has so much potential.”
But before plans can proceed, Fox said there’s the issue of funding and some red tape. The pricetag is about $25,000 and the Historical Society has applied for grants through Enhance La Jolla and the U.S. Postal Service. Once the group has a better idea of how much they will receive, they can work to raise the rest. “Each of the groups involved is giving a modest amount, so we are confident we can generate the remainder,” Fox said.
However, according to the U.S. Postal Service Facilities Guide to Real Property Acquisitions and Related Services (a document dated October 2015), it is against policy to accept donations of “any physical improvements, including ... exterior improvements, landscaping, additions, renovations or maintenance services,” so the group is exploring ways to work with the Postal Service for an exception.
McArthur added that they hope to meet with Congress member Scott Peters to see if he could assist on the political side, and she reports that the area’s U.S. Postal Service Postmaster is “100 percent behind this effort.”
A portion of the property is managed by the City, which can accept donations or volunteer services. McArthur said volunteers currently pull weeds and pick up trash around the building, so work on the City-managed portion could begin later this year.
In December 2016, the Landmark Group did minor landscaping as a “holiday gift” to the Wall Street Post Office. Volunteers trimmed the drooping palm trees, revitalized the landscaping, and decked the halls with holiday greenery. RLP Development donated gardening services and helped with project.
The La Jolla Post Office (and its 1930s Belle Baranceanu mural therein) are historically designated on the local and national scale. But there was a time when the Wall Street Post Office was nearly lost.
In 2012, the U.S. Postal Service announced its intention to sell the building.
From 2012 to 2014, the Save the La Jolla Post Office Task Force held rallies, conducted community surveys and facilitated a letter-writing campaign to elected officials and postal service personnel, urging cancellation of the sale plan. Since then, the USPS has not pursued it.
In addition to the landscaping, McArthur said the group would like to post a new plaque commemorating the building’s historicity.