Regular visitors to the historic Venice Post Office building along the Windward Avenue Circle have likely laid eyes on a mural depicting the early history of Venice with the image of community founder Abbot Kinney at the center.
The mural, created by artist Edward Biberman and entitled “Story of Venice,” was commissioned by the Section of Fine Arts of the United States and installed inside the post office in August 1941, according to the Venice Historical Society. The post office building itself was constructed as part of a project of the Work Projects Administration (WPA), an agency of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal that employed millions to conduct public works projects across the country in the 1930s and early 1940s.
Under a recent proposal of the U.S. Postal Service, customers may no longer be able to take care of their postal business where they have for decades, but some hope to ensure that the recognizable mural and the historic characteristics of the building are preserved.
The Postal Service has proposed to relocate the post office at 1601 Main St. approximately 400 feet away to the Venice carrier annex property at 313 Grand Blvd., which would be remodeled. Postal officials stress that the plan would not have any impact on mail delivery to residents or businesses, and the addresses of Post Office Box holders would remain the same.
Richard Maher, spokesman for the Postal Service in Los Angeles, said the service is looking to consolidate operations nationwide as the federal agency has experienced about a 20 percent decline in total mail volume over the past three years with the transition to online transactions.
“This will benefit us because the operations will be consolidated in one location and it will make it easier for management to have the resources in one spot,” Maher said of the planned relocation.
The goal of the Postal Service is to maintain quality service to the community, said Maher, noting that Venice customers will still have a facility in the Windward traffic circle area. The current post office stands at 28,000 square feet, but the 78,000-square foot carrier annex site has enough space to be expanded and remodeled, he said.
“We’re trying to operate as efficiently as possible,” Maher said.
After vacating the current post office and moving to the annex lot, the Postal Service plans to put the Main Street facility on the market, Maher said.
Some community members said that while customers would face little, if any, service inconvenience with the possible move, they are mostly concerned about potential changes to viewing the Biberman mural or the historic nature of the building.
“Everyone goes to the post office and everyone knows it is a historic building in Venice,” said Linda Lucks, president of the Venice Neighborhood Council. “The issue is going to be that if it is sold, will (the mural) be taken away from public viewing?”
Lucks believes the relocation plan, on its face, is “fine” and the historic building could serve a variety of uses, but she wants to ensure that the Biberman art piece is kept accessible. Having the post office on the larger annex site with more parking could provide improved access for the community, Lucks said, but she is concerned the Postal Service could eventually put that property up for sale as well.
Jill Prestup, president of the Venice Historical Society, said there is always some concern that a historic building might not be preserved when its use is changed, but she is hopeful that the Postal Service will work to maintain the integrity of the building and protect the mural.
“So little of old Venice is left so whatever we can do to preserve it is wonderful,” Prestup said.
Maher explained that due to the historic characteristics of the post office structure it is protected under state law, and the Postal Service will work with the state Historic Preservation Office to ensure that the historical aspects, including the mural are maintained. The historic status and preservation requirements would also be conveyed to the buyer in the deed to the building, he said.
Venice Neighborhood Council Vice President Carolyn Rios also feels it is important that the community continues to have a chance to view the inside of the building and the mural, and that residents can weigh in on the plans for the annex site. The Postal Service previously put the carrier annex up for sale in 2009, when community members offered a variety of suggestions for the area such as open park space, a community center and additional parking.
The sale plans were dropped after the Postal Service was unable to find another location that would not impact service to local customers, Maher said. The annex property is part of the original Venice of America tract subdivided by Abbot Kinney and over the years it has had various other uses, including the Venetian Villas and Cosmos Social Club.
Rios, who thinks the Grand Boulevard property could become more inviting with some additional greenery, encourages residents to work with the Postal Service and provide input on the plans for the consolidated project.
“I think we should put more energy into what they are going to build and try to make it something we like that enhances the neighborhood,” she said.
Maher said public comments and input on the Postal Service proposal are being solicited through Tuesday, May 17. Comments should be submitted in writing to: Consumer Affairs, U.S. Postal Service, 7001 S. Central Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90052-9631.