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National Trust Joins Fight to Save Berkeley P.O.

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - The National Trust for Historic Preservation in the United States has joined the fight to stop the planned sale of Berkeley's main post office.

The nonprofit sued the U.S. Postal Service in Federal Court on Monday, claiming the decision to relocate and sell the historic building to a private, undisclosed buyer violates the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

The Postal Service announced on October that the sale of the building was "in contract." The City of Berkeley sued to block the sale on Nov. 5. U.S. District Judge William Alsup then enjoined the sale until at least Nov. 10. A hearing on Berkeley's motion for a restraining order is set for Dec. 11.

In joining the fight, the National Trust said that it is being "adversely affected by the increasing frequency at which federally owned historic post office buildings are being sold to private owners without adequate consideration of alternatives to sale, and without adequate measures to ensure long-term preservation of these historic properties. Protection of the Berkeley Main Post Office has been a central focal point of the National Trust's ongoing National Treasures campaign."

The National Trust claims the Postal Service failed to consider leasing the building, and the effects of the sale on historic properties. It claims the Postal Service acted arbitrarily and capriciously when it determined that no adverse effects would result from the sale, and that it failed to ensure that the new owners would preserve the building's architectural features.

Built in 1914, Berkeley's main post office was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. Plans to sell the Beaux Arts style building have been in the works since June 2012. That year the National Trust added it to its list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

The National Trust seeks an order blocking the sale until the Postal Service has fully complied with NEPA and the NHPA.

It is represented by staff attorney Brian Turner.

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