USPS rejects La Jolla plan to have county negotiate building sale

— From Save Our La Jolla Post Office Task Force reports

On Thursday, Aug. 1, volunteers with the La Jolla Historical Society’s (LJHS’s) “Save Our La Jolla Post Office Task Force” were informed that their latest proposal to save the Wall Street post office building from being sold (and services relocated) was turned down by the United States Postal Service (USPS).

Task Force members had been working with County Supervisor Ron Roberts to urge the USPS to pursue a negotiated sale with a certified local government, such as the county, that would be willing to represent the community in the purchase.

“Working with the Task Force, we had devised a creative way for the county to help the community acquire and preserve La Jolla’s iconic post office,” said Supervisor Roberts, whose district includes La Jolla. “Unfortunately, the Postal Service proved incapable of addressing this issue in an innovative manner that would have provided it funding while retaining a convenient and historic location for postal employees and the public to conduct business.”

Since being notified officially in a July 3 “Final Determination” letter that the USPS had denied the community’s appeal of the USPS’s planned sale of the Wall Street facility, the Task Force has focused its efforts on negotiating a sale prior to the property being put on the open market. A negotiated sale would have allowed a purchase by the community at a price determined by a mutually agreed upon property assessment. Supervisor Roberts, who took the lead on the community’s behalf, supported this solution.

The USPS has said the community is welcome to make a bid for the post office should the property be put on the market, but would not entertain a negotiated sale at fair market value. Task Force members said they believe the USPS is determined to seek the highest price possible for the historic Wall Street property once it is placed on the market.

The Task Force is now writing a business plan related to the purchase and operation of the post office building that would include a “lease back” provision. It would allow the USPS to lease a portion of the property from its new owner that is commensurate with the USPS’s current needs. The leaseback plan would to keep postal operations in place, if and when the building is sold — whether to a community group such as the LJHS, or to an outside buyer. The LJHS board must approve the plan before the commencement of a formal pledge drive.

The focused effort to save La Jolla’s original post office from relocation and sale has been ongoing for more than 18 months in response to the announcement of such intentions by the USPS in January of 2012. The Task Force was successful this year in having the property placed on national and local historic registers, providing a layer of protection for the building and its interior, WPA-Era Belle Baranceanu mural.

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