Group has three-point plan for saving La Jolla’s post office


By Dave Schwab

Time is short for the grass-roots movement to save La Jolla’s post office.

“In 60 to 90 days, theoretically, the post office could be sold,” warned community planner Joe LaCava, one of a dozen members of Save the La Jolla Post Office Committee.

“This is moving really fast,” agreed Leslie Davis, chair of the ad-hoc group. “We want to let them (postal service) know we want to be considered a serious buyer.”

The newly formed postal committee is comprised of representatives from the La Jolla Historical Society, the La Jolla Village Merchants Association, community advisory groups and interested citizens including Ellen Merewether, who established a Post Office Preservation Fund on the historical society’s website with a $10,000 donation.

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Postal Service’s San Diego District identified La Jolla’s main post office at 1140 Wall St. as “a valuable asset whose sale would generate much-needed capital for the Postal Service.”

At that time, USPS initiated a formal process to appraise the Wall Street building, arrange for its sale to the highest bidder, and find a suitable spot nearby to relocate postal operations.

Holding its first meeting Jan. 27 at Balmer Annex of Wisteria Cottage, the new postal preservation group laid the groundwork for a multifaceted effort to achieve its objective. That drive is to include lobbying local legislators, resubmitting an application to have the Wall Street Post Office building designated “historic,” and launching a publicity campaign to save the post office to include a public meeting on an upcoming Saturday in February.

Each representative at the organizational meeting volunteered services in an area of expertise.

Diane Kane and Angeles Leira will spearhead the effort to have the Wall Street facility declared historic. The building, Leira noted, is not only deserving of preservation as “a part of the history of the community,” but because it has become a “a social meeting hub.”

Joe LaCava will enlist the aid of Congress members Susan Davis and Brian Bilbray and Senator Diane Feinstein. Realtor Patrick Ahern will investigate the property’s resale value, guess-timated at $4-$6 million. Murrieta of the La Jolla Village Merchants Association will evaluate the post office’s business impact and potential.

“This is critically important for our local economy,” Murrieta said.

Regarding the post office’s move to relocate its Wall Street facility, committee chair Davis noted the group must take community action to “slow this down and make a difference.”

Ideally, the committee would like to save the post office, preserving its existing status.

“That’s unrealistic,” pointed out LaCava after the meeting, “so our next priority is a beneficial purchase of the property with the post office being preserved in the front of the building, and some adaptive reuse for the remainder of the building.

“But the sense of urgency — that’s the main challenge,” he added.

David Rouse, a real estate specialist with the USPS on the East Coast, said there must be a public solicitation to put the Wall Street postal property on the market.

“That’s definitely something that’s going to occur,” he said. “We’re very early in this process and going through due diligence.”

Diana Alvarado, with the Postal Service in San Francisco, noted postal service in La Jolla is not being terminated.

“There’s a big difference between a closure, a consolidation, and a relocation,” she said. “We’re not leaving La Jolla without postal service.”

She said postal relocation in La Jolla could be a win-win. “We get out of a building that’s too large, save operational expenses, go into a right-sized facility, and the building goes back on the tax rolls,” she said, “

The Save the La Jolla Post Office Committee will next meet Friday, Feb. 3 at 1:30 p.m. at Balmer Annex of Wisteria Cottage, 780 Prospect St.