Continuing its challenge to the planned closure of the historic Venice Post Office, a Venice stakeholders group has filed an appeal to the Postal Regulatory Commission calling for the U.S. Postal Service’s decision to be overturned.

Late last month the Postal Service announced its final decision to move the retail operations from the post office at 1601 Main St. approximately 400 feet away to the Venice carrier annex property at 313 Grand Blvd. The Main Street structure, which was built under the Work Projects Administration and contains a 1941 mural, has since been placed on the market with the real estate firm Grubb & Ellis.

In a report following the community appeal process, David Williams, vice president of network operations for the Postal Service, said the agency carefully considered community concerns but it will not halt the consolidation effort. He added that there was no right to further administrative or judicial review of the decision.

But in its appeal to the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), the Venice Stakeholders Association claims that the Postal Service failed to follow its own rules for the closure.

The appeal states that the plan would result in the elimination of a large retail post office with five customer windows for a much smaller retail operation with no more than two customer windows. The dramatic decrease in size of the retail operations is the functional equivalent of a closure, or at least a partial closure, and thus is subject to the right of an appeal to the Postal Regulatory Commission, the appeal states.

“We fully understand the severe budget constraints facing the Postal Service. But in downsizing, the Postal Service still has to follow its own rules – and they haven’t in this instance,” claimed Mark Ryavec, president of the Venice Stakeholders Association.

Richard Maher, spokesman for the Postal Service in Los Angeles, disputed the claim that the move from the post office constitutes a closure. He said that under the regulatory code, the proposal would be classified as a closure or discontinuance if no replacement retail services were provided in the area. But because retail operations will be provided 400 feet away at the annex site, the plan is classified as a relocation, he said.

“We followed the process for a relocation, which this is classified as because we are continuing to offer postal services to the community in a nearby location,” Maher said. “We are confident that this is a relocation, and we will move forward with our plans and let the PRC respond to the (stakeholders group).”

Referring to the “dramatic decrease” in retail operations and the number of customer windows, Maher said it is not unusual for the number of windows to be reduced because they are based on the number of transactions, which have been declining at facilities across the country.

The stakeholders association additionally claims that the Postal Service announced its plans to issue a $400,000 contract for a customer service facility at the annex before it has submitted any plans to the city to review compliance with planning and zoning codes, including parking requirements.

Maher said the federal agency believes it has addressed community concerns and followed the proper approval process for relocation.

“We feel that we’ve followed that process and reached out to the community with this project,” he said.

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