Community: Post Office should be some sort of civic center

By Dave Schwab

La Jollans could visualize their Wall Street post office building redeveloped as a visitor, civic or cultural center but NOT as a restaurant or movie theater.

That was the consensus of more than 100 attendees at the March 29 public forum and panel discussion “re-imagining” alternative uses for the federal facility.

The financially strapped U.S. Postal Service in January announced plans to close the facility at 1140 Wall St., sell the building, and relocate services elsewhere in the Village.

Shortly thereafter, a community Save La Jolla Post Office Task Force was formed to thwart the post office’s plans. The group has since filed to have the Depression-era building and its interior Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) mural by Belle Baranceau declared “historic” for protection.

The task force’s intent has been to keep the facility as it is where it is. Failing that, the objective would be to create a nonprofit to purchase the building, or find a sympathetic buyer willing to preserve it.

The “re-imagine” event had a festive, playful tone with versions of the tune “Mr. Postman” playing in the background prior to introductions by First District Councilwoman Sherri Lightner for the meeting hosted by La Jolla Historical Society.

“We don’t want to lose another historical treasure,” said Lightner. “We’ve had that experience far too often in La Jolla.”

Wielding a “Save Our Post Office” sign, task force interim chair Leslie Davis, quipped, “Our No. 1 goal is to occupy Wall Street.”

It was announced at the evening’s close that Thursday, April 26 was set as the date for the U.S. Post Office’s mandatory public meeting, which would officially begin the countdown to closing the facility, which is a possibility, but would not happen before mid-June.

A four-person panel that included postal historian Diane Kane, architect Rob Quigley, Athenaeum director Erika Torri and community activist Joe LaCava, spoke out on re-adaptive uses of the Wall Street building.

“My fantasy is to see this become our civic center,” said Kane. “We have no meeting place in town, no governmental center. It would be really nice to have this be that civic core.”

LaCava, who’s been lobbying local legislators to save La Jolla’s postal facility, said, “This is a bipartisan issue. It’s a tough battle but we’ve got a good start and we’re at full steam right now.”

Torri said a prospective takeover of the postal building by a nonprofit would necessitate creation of an endowment to fund ongoing operations and maintenance of the facility. “It would be really wonderful to have a historical building on the other side of Wall Street that could be used for community activities, maybe a small theater or an art or exhibit space,” she said.

Quigley added that the most important goal in re-adapting the post office building would be to “free up some economic benefit without violating its integrity.”

“It’s so delightful to have a project that everybody is behind,” he said.

One new suggestion from the audience was that the post office could be reused as a full-blown La Jolla Visitors Center, a use that doesn’t require much parking and would create a community focal point.

Audience members also doubted that parking would be sufficient for a bistro or retail use in the area.

Next Meetings

• Save La Jolla Post Office Task Force: 1:30 p.m. Friday, April 6, Balmer Annex of Wisteria Cottage, 780 Prospect St.

• U.S. Postal Service’s Public Hearing: 6 p.m. Thursday, April 26, Cuvier Club, 7776 Eads. Ave.

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