Postal Service mailer sent to La Jolla merchants raises suspicions

By Pat Sherman

A mailer sent to La Jolla business owners earlier this month has left a bad taste in the mouths of Save Our La Jolla Post Office Task Force members.

The mailer states that the United States Postal Service (USPS) is offering “monetary compensation” to business owners willing to open a so-called “Village Post Office” (VPO) in their shops.

Task force members who have worked for more than a year to preserve the Wall Street post office building and its services question whether USPS may be reneging on its recently stated intent to explore leasing back a portion of the historic Wall Street post office building, once sold, in order to keep postal services in place.

Meanwhile, the Postal Service is moving forward with plans to locate a rental space to house postal services currently offered at the Wall Street post office, prior to selling the building.

Formal appeals of the USPS’s plan to sell the building were recently submitted by elected officials, from District 1 City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner and Mayor Bob Filner to Congressmember Scott Peters and state Assemblymember Toni Atkins.

An e-mail sent to elected officials last month by task force Vice-chair Joe LaCava told of the group’s 15-month effort working with the USPS to find a “win-win solution” that addresses the USPS’s financial challenges and the community’s needs.

“Regrettably, the conversation with the USPS has turned both silent and for the worse,” LaCava wrote. “Now, to add insult to injury, the USPS is trying to find a ‘village post office’ location inside one of our local merchants. ... A ‘village post office’ is a clever name for a very poor substitute for a real post office. It is the manner in which the USPS sidesteps the nationwide moratorium on ‘closures’ by claiming there is still a ‘postal presence’ in downtown La Jolla when in fact a ‘village post office’ is anything but a post office.”

LaCava said a VPO would be a weak and “disingenuous” substitute for the current post office. “The La Jolla Post Office is extremely busy, reportedly profitable, and has an extraordinary amount of foot traffic,” his e-mail stated. “It is a real economic engine for our merchants in our walk-able community. Only a true post office can sustain that economic engine.”

Speaking with the

La Jolla Light,

USPS Regional Property Manager Diana Alvarado maintained that the VPO notice is not related to the pending relocation of the Wall Street post office.

According to the USPS’s San Diego District Marketing Manager, the notices were sent to businesses throughout the San Diego region to “alleviate some of the traffic at the main (post) office, to improve wait time in line, and to increase the alternate access revenue percent for La Jolla,” Alvarado said, via e-mail.

“Wait time in line and alternate access is a performance indicator for the district,” she added. “Alternate access is where customers can purchase postal services without going to an actual post office.”

Task force chair Leslie Davis said her group has learned how the USPS uses VPOs as a replacement when selling post offices. “Our fears are being realized,” Davis said. “We may have slowed the train for a time, but it’s gaining speed and heading straight for us.”

While some have questioned whether the USPS may be considering relocating Wall Street’s retail operations to USPS’s Silver Street postal annex, Alvarado said that is not an option.

“We are beginning to canvas the area and should the (Wall Street) building be placed on the market, we will also pursue the option to right-size in-place at our current location,” she said. “The appeal period has ended so the (USPS’s Facilities Implementation Vice-president Tom Samra) will be analyzing these comments carefully prior to issuing his final decision.”