More than a year after the U.S. Postal Service first announced plans to transfer retail services from the historic Venice Post Office to a facility across the street, the federal agency is scheduled to officially make the move this month.
The Postal Service has announced that retail operations at the 1601 Main St. post office will be relocated to a newly remodeled carrier annex building at 313 Grand Blvd., which will be open to the public beginning at 8:30 a.m. Monday, June 18. The retail lobby of the Venice Post Office will be closed as of Saturday, June 16 as a result of the consolidation.
Post Office Box operations will be transferred at the end of the day June 15 and customers will be able to retrieve their mail the following day at the new location.
Postal Service officials say mail delivery will not be impacted for residents and businesses and P.O. Box customers’ numbers will be unchanged.
The parking lot at the new site has been reconfigured with a new entrance to accommodate the retail operations, and four customer service windows have been installed in the building, compared with five at the old post office, Postal Service spokesman Richard Maher said.
The Postal Service has put the Work Projects Administration-era post office on the market, receiving multiple bids on the property prior to the May 18 deadline, and the agency is in the process of reviewing the applications, Maher said.
The pending relocation and sale of the Main Street building has been a sore spot for many Venice residents, who hope to keep it as a post office and are concerned about preserving its historic characteristics, as well as access to a 1941 mural on the wall of the lobby. The “Story of Venice” mural by Edward Biberman depicts the early history of Venice with the image of community founder Abbot Kinney in the center.
Some residents who have been actively challenging the Postal Service’s plans say they are not surprised to learn of the new postal facility’s scheduled opening, given that construction has taken place at the site in recent months.
“It’s not a surprise. The Postal Service has consistently proceeded like a juggernaut without any input from the community at all during the process,” said Jed Pauker, a member of the Venice Neighborhood Council and Coalition to Save the Post Office.
Neighborhood council Vice President Marc Saltzberg added, “They said they were going to do it and they acted on that intent. Whether they are able to do it or not depends on a lot of factors.”
Since the plans were first presented, the Venice community has united on a variety of fronts to fight the decision, including filing legal challenges and submitting a nomination to the state Historic Preservation Office. The effort has also involved local elected officials such as Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl and Rep. Janice Hahn, who have expressed a desire to maintain the WPA structure as a post office and preserve its historic features, including the mural.
Rosendahl said he too, was not surprised to see the Postal Service follow through on its intent despite residents’ objections.
“I’m very disappointed. To me, they showed no sensitivity to Venice, an iconic community in the world with its old post office that is a beautiful icon and an incredible postal facility,” Rosendahl said of the move. “I’m not surprised; the federal government doesn’t listen on the local level.”
In an April letter to the Postal Service inspector general, Rosendahl and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich urged the office to immediately cease all construction activities at the annex due to an apparent violation of the postal regulatory code that states the agency should comply with local planning and zoning codes. The agency said that since it is a federal entity, it is not obligated to acquire local permits for its properties. Hahn had also asked in a letter to the postmaster general that the service refrain from further demolition until a final decision is made on a moratorium on post office closures across the country.
Mark Ryavec, president of the Venice Stakeholders Association, claims that the newly configured parking area on the annex property does not provide a sufficient amount of parking for the public and has a reduced number of spaces from the old facility, forcing people to park on nearby streets on busy days. Rosendahl said he hoped the Postal Service would have instead considered selling the Grand Boulevard site, which could have allowed residents to explore options for a community use.
Maher noted that the federal agency followed the process of meeting with the community and decided to proceed with the relocation after an appeal was denied.
“The Postal Service has the right to relocate operations within the community,” he said. “We went through the process of receiving community input, accepting public comments, and after we went through the appeal process a final decision was issued.”
Rosendahl believes elected leaders “did everything we could conceivably do at our local level” to try to stop the relocation from happening, but he added that he never gives up hope on situations like this.
Ryavec said he is not particularly hopeful of the possibility of overturning the move to the annex, but that residents remain steadfast on ensuring that the post office’s historic features have the proper protections.
Others stress that they are not yet willing to stand down when it comes to the annex move and are continuing to work on strengthening covenants that will be attached to the building’s deed. Maher has stressed that the post office’s historic characteristics, including mural access, will be maintained through covenants that will be conveyed to the future buyer.
“We’re pressing on; we haven’t accepted defeat at this point,” said Venice Neighborhood Council member Amanda Seward, who previously prepared the application to the California Register of Historical Resources for the Lincoln Place apartment complex. “We’re also working on an alternative to beef up the covenants. The covenants offered so far have absolutely no teeth and need to be strengthened.”
Ryavec also called the draft covenants inadequate, saying they provide no requirements for the public to be able to view the Biberman mural, have no itemization of what interior or exterior features should remain and no inventory of the historical resources. “What’s the point of preserving the mural if no one can see it?” he asked.
Maher noted that the Postal Service has completed a consultation with the Los Angeles Conservancy and the Venice Stakeholders Association on the draft covenants and were not able to reach an agreement. The service has asked its advisory council to review the issue.
Adrian Fine, director of advocacy for the conservancy, said the group urges the Postal Service to be proactive in selecting an owner who understands the significance of the building and will work with the community to preserve it.
Pauker said the Coalition to Save the Post Office and other community members are continuing to pursue the preservation effort and any options that might halt the relocation.
“We all believe that we should do everything we possibly can to keep the closure from happening but we must also try to preserve the historic aspects as much as we can,” Pauker said.
Seward believes the post office’s unique history with architecture designed by Louis Simon, inclusion of the “Story of Venice” mural and location in one of the town centers of Venice are a main reason why many residents have stepped up to support it.
“That’s worth fighting for; we had to fight for that,” she said.
While Venice residents have differed on a number of controversial issues over the years, most became united in recognizing the importance of the post office and the need to keep it a part of the community.
“I think it shows there are probably more instances of common ground than a lot of Venetians think,” Ryavec said.
Pauker said, “People from the entire spectrum of the community saw an issue and said they all feel the same about this. In a way, (the effort) is a statement about what happens when you have incredible diversity in the community.”
Rosendahl said he was thrilled to see Venice become more united than ever through the post office campaign.
“For me, the collective brains of Venice was in an all-time unified way and I was very proud about that.”