SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge ordered the U.S. Postal Service to hold off on selling Berkeley’s main post office, after city officials made a last-ditch effort to save the century-old historic landmark.
“We’re happy he’s done that, because the Postal Service has entered into the contract with a potential buyer and we think it’s not appropriate to move forward until we deal with how we’re going to make available the landmark features of the building,” Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said.
Plans to sell the Beaux Arts style building have been in the works since June 2012.
The city’s lawsuit, filed Wednesday, claims the sale by the federal government would violate the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act, which require the Postal Service to conduct an environmental review and consult the public before selling an historic property.
“Taking such a consequential decision before consultation is completed precludes consideration of viable preservation alternatives and stifles public input,” the complaint states.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup’s order enjoining the sale until at least Nov. 10 notes that the city expects the sale to happen “at any moment.”
In seeking the injunction, the city claimed it would suffer irreparable injury should the sale go forward without NEPA and NHPA compliance.
Its complaint states: “Such injury includes loss of service to them and all Berkeley citizens of use of the Post Office, loss of access to the architectural and artistic features of its interior lobby, diminution (if not outright removal) of its contribution to the Berkeley Civic Center Historic District, conflict with the City’s authority over land use regulation, and ultimately a weakening of the integrity of the City’s century of planning for Downtown Berkeley.”
Berkeley’s main post office was built in 1914 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. Bates said he hopes the building eventually will be put to public use.
- Edward Felix