A Works Progress Administration-era post office in Santa Monica has been dealt the same news as that of another historic postal facility in a community to the south.
The U.S. Postal Service has recently announced plans to close the Santa Monica Post Office at 1248 Fifth St., near Arizona Avenue, and relocate retail operations to a carrier annex facility at 1653 Seventh St. The move would be classified as a relocation rather than a closure because retail services would continue to be provided less than a mile away and the city’s two other postal retail facilities would be unaffected, Postal Service spokesman Richard Maher said.
The federal agency is working on a similar relocation situation in nearby Venice, where its WPA-era post office is on the market and retail services are slated to be moved across the street to an annex site. Residents in the community have united in a campaign to save the historic structure, which contains a 1941 mural, The Story of Venice, on a wall of the lobby.
The two Westside post offices have been placed on the list of pending closures with postal facilities nationwide as the Postal Service, which has struggled with a drop in mail volume, seeks to reduce costs and generate revenue through the sales of buildings.
Maher said the agency is only at the beginning of the process in Santa Monica and it first notified employees of the proposed relocation. The service will next meet with city officials and begin holding meetings to gather input from the community on the move, he said.
In hearing of the plans, Carol Lemlein, president of the Santa Monica Conservancy, said while many members might like to continue using the building as a post office, the board’s major concern would be to ensure that its historic characteristics are preserved. The Fifth Street post office was built in 1937 and when it was surveyed for the historic resource inventory it was considered to be eligible for the national historic registry, she said.
“Our primary concern would be to see that some adaptive reuse is chosen for the building and that we don’t lose it,” Lemlein said. “It’s an iconic building in Santa Monica.”
She noted there has not been a lot of time to consider other possible opportunities for the building in the event of a sale, but some ideas are likely to come forth at public meetings.
“If we put our creative minds together I think we can come up with some number of propositions on how that building might be kept in service to the community,” she said.
In response to concerns from Venice residents, Maher has asserted that the Venice Post Office’s historic features would be maintained as part of covenants attached to the building’s deed. He said the same protective measures would be applied for the historic Santa Monica postal facility if it is determined to be sold.
“Because of its age, just as in Venice, we will treat it as a historic building,” Maher said. “We would work to preserve the historic nature of the building for the community to ensure it is not purchased and torn down.”
Santa Monica Councilman Kevin McKeown said local leaders are limited to take action regarding federal properties but he believes Postal Regulatory Commission chair Ruth Goldway, a former city mayor, could help convey the need to keep the building as a working post office.
“This piece of Santa Monica history, contemporaneous with our City Hall, is now fully under the control of the federal government, so our options at this point are limited,” he said. “If the post office use cannot be saved, and if that building were to go on the open market, I suspect the city would be interested.”
Under the proposal, the carrier annex would have to be remodeled to accommodate the retail and post office box services, Maher said. The newer annex building provides for better parking access, although the parking area would need to be reconfigured to allow for the public use, he added.