Santa Monica residents are facing a similar prospect as their neighbors to the south of having a centrally located post office move away.
But unlike in Venice, where the postal facility was relocated in the same general area, 400 feet away, the Santa Monica Post Office is proposed to be moved less than a mile away to an area that some residents say is not as accessible by bus or for pedestrians.
Some residents note that the current main post office at 1248 Fifth St., built in 1937, is in a central part of the city but say a planned move by the U.S. Postal Service to an annex facility at 1653 Seventh St., near the Santa Monica Freeway, would be away from the downtown area and could create safety concerns for those who have difficulty accessing it. The transfer of retail operations to the carrier annex would be classified as a relocation rather than a closure because 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 Santa Monica and Venice post offices have been placed on the list of pending relocations or closures nationwide as the Postal Service seeks to reduce costs and generate revenue through the sales of its buildings. The federal agency, which is not supported by tax dollars, has suffered a $25 billion net loss over the past five years and a 25 percent drop in first class mail volume since 2001, Maher said.
Mail volume has been impacted by the public’s shift toward electronic communication and the Postal Service also faces a congressional requirement to pay $5.5 billion each year for employee retirement benefits, he said.
“I understand the bind that you’re in but I still feel that you should stop to look at some other locations – somewhere that’s downtown,” resident Jerry Rubin told Maher and other postal officials, adding that he doesn’t believe that people will be able to access the annex site as easily as Fifth Street.
Like their counterparts in Venice, Santa Monica residents have expressed concerns about possible impacts to the historic characteristics of their post office. The Santa Monica facility was built during the Works Project Administration era, as was the 1939 Venice building, which also has a 1941 mural by Edward Biberman that residents have fought to preserve.
Santa Monica community members offered input on the proposed relocation at a community meeting July 19, where Maher and other postal officials were in attendance.
Diana Alvarado of the Postal Service Pacific facilities office told the audience that the move to the annex would save approximately $3.4 million over the next 10 years. The new property, which would have to be remodeled to accommodate the retail, would provide both on-site and street parking, and no employees would lose their jobs in the relocation, Maher said.
The Postal Service considers the Fifth Street building to be historic and its historic features would be maintained as part of covenants attached to the deed of the building if it is sold, he said.
“Because of the age of the Santa Monica Post Office, if we sell it we will treat it as a historic property whether it’s on the registry of historic places or not,” Maher told the audience.
A coalition of Venice residents is continuing to work to ensure that sufficient covenants are in place to protect their old postal building on Main Street following the move to the remodeled annex on Grand Avenue last month.
“I’m glad you’re respecting the historical aspects of the building – that’s crucial,” said Rubin, referring to Maher’s pledge for the covenants.
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. When the Fifth Street post office was surveyed for the historic resource inventory it was considered to be eligible for the national historic registry, she said.
The conservancy has also asked the city Landmarks Commission to consider the structure for landmark designation, she said.
“We want to make sure everything is in place to landmark that building,” Lemlein said.
Aside from the property’s historical significance, residents commented on the beauty of the building and argued that a primary issue for them is maintaining a post office in the downtown area with easy access for buses, pedestrians and cars. Others say they also fear that the move is already considered a done deal.
Written comments on the proposal are being accepted by the Postal Service until Friday, Aug. 3. Comments should be submitted to:
Diana Alvarado, Pacific Facilities Service Office, U.S. Postal Service, 1300 Evans Ave. Ste. 200, San Francisco, CA, 94188-8200.