Weeks after the United States Postal Service's deadline passed for the public to comment on the unpopular sale of Santa Monica's Main Post Office, U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman fired off a letter Thursday that accuses the agency of violating federal regulations.
In his letter (copied in its entirety below this article), the Los Angeles Congressman contended USPS didn't give the public enough time to appeal the sale and didn't give enough detail when it justified relocating the retail services to an annex facility near the Big Blue Bus yard.
He also demanded the Postal Regulatory Commission "ensure that USPS follow appropriate procedure and suspend its efforts to close the post office until completion of the appeals process."
Waxman said he believes the public should have been given 30 days—not 15—to appeal the decision. Additionally, he wrote, "the USPS did not consider the effect of closing the 5th Street Post Office on the community it serves."
Santa Monica Churns Out Post Office Closure Appeals
Thirty days is required only when a post office is closed. The sale of the Santa Monica post office on Fifth Street is classified as a "relocation," because the services are being moved, not discontinued, said USPS spokesman Richard Maher.
"There are currently three USPS retail locations in Santa Monica and there will be three providing all the same services after the relocation takes place," spokesman Richard Maher wrote in an email. "The building may be closed and sold, but the same services will still be available at the Carrier Annex building."
Though he didn't state it in his letter, Waxman believes the relocation should actually be classified as a closure, his office said.
Here's what the federal statute says about the appeal period for relocations:
At any public meeting or hearing, advise local officials and the community of their appeal rights and the process by which an appeal can be made. Information provided must include time limitations and an address for the appeal.
In a footnote, Waxman makes the case for the relocation to be classified as a closure or discontinuance:
USPS’s decision to terminate all postal operations there, however, and its stated intention to sell the historic building constitutes a discontinuance, which is defined in Handbook PO-101 as “an action in which an independent Post Office, Classified Station, or Classified Branch is permanently closed or consolidated."
Here's what the federal code says about appealing closures:
Within the first 30 days after the written determination is made available, any person regularly served by a Post Office subject to discontinuance may appeal the decision to the Postal Regulatory Commission.
The USPS did provide the appeal information at a public meeting on July 20, and again in a news release to media announcing the final decision to sale the property.
During that meeting, USPS representatives said the relocation would save the Postal Service $3.36 million over 10 years. Postal Service properties are being sold across the country to generate cash as the agency wrangles with a multi-billion shortfall.
Is Post Office Closure a Done Deal?
— Waxman's letter —
Secretary of the Commission
Postal Regulatory Commission
901 New York Avenue, NW Suite 200
Washington, DC 20268-0001
Dear Secretary Grove,
As the Representative of California’s 30th Congressional District, which includes the City of Santa Monica, I am writing to appeal the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) decision to approve the closure of the Santa Monica Post Office located at 1248 5th Street and to consolidate its operations at the Santa Monica Carrier Annex located at 1653 7th Street.
The 5th Street Post Office is a classified station of the Santa Monica postal installation. In its August 17, 2012 Notice of Approval, USPS described the closure of the 5th Street Post Office as a relocation. USPS’s decision to terminate all postal operations there, however, and its stated intention to sell the historic building constitutes a discontinuance, which is defined in Handbook PO-101 as “an action in which an independent Post Office, Classified Station, or Classified Branch is permanently closed or consolidated.”
In its decision to close the 5th Street Post Office, USPS failed in a number of instances to comply with 39 CFR 241.3, which establishes the rules governing USPS’s decisions on post office closures.:
1. Notice -- USPS failed to provide the community with a 60-day notice of the proposed closure. Also, in its Notice of Approval, USPS failed to inform the public of the right to appeal a closure to the Postal Regulatory Commission within 30 days of the date the Final Determination was posted.
2. Effect on Community -- USPS did not consider the effect of closing the 5th Street Post Office on the community it serves, nor has it communicated the benefits of the Carrier Annex to the community. The 5th Street Post Office, which is located in the heart of Santa Monica, is easily accessible to thousands of residents who walk or depend on public transit. Many seniors and residents with disabilities depend on the easily accessible facility, which has plenty of parking and is well served by multiple local and regional bus lines.
In contrast, the 7th Street Carrier Annex is in a remote location that raises serious questions about access and safety. The Carrier Annex is surrounded on three sides by the 10 Freeway and a one way off-ramp to the south, the Big Blue Bus Maintenance Facility and Bus yard to the west, and a 5-lane stretch of Pacific Coast Highway to the north. On the northwest side, a planned light rail line will run down the middle of Colorado Avenue and terminate at a still unfinished site on 5th and Colorado. Pedestrians currently served by the 5th Street Post Office would have to cross these light rail tracks to get to the Carrier Annex. The attached pictures illustrate the stark contrast between the two locations.
3. Economic Savings -- The Notice of Approval does not give a specific reason for the closure beyond stating that “the reason behind this cost-reduction and revenue generation plan is the alignment of USPS workforce and infrastructure with a 20 percent drop in total mail volume over the past three years due to a diversion to electronic communications and business transactions, and other economic factors.” USPS has not provided the community with information about estimated economic savings of the proposed action. It appears, however, that the consolidation of the 5th Street Post Office at the remotely located Carrier Annex could result in a decline in revenue.
Finally, the 5th Street Post Office is a historic landmark that has been serving the residents of Santa Monica since its dedication in 1938. It is the policy of USPS that any facility project that will have an effect on cultural resources will be undertaken in accordance with Section 106 of the general provisions of the National Historic Preservation Act, 16 U.S.C. 470, et seq., Executive Order 12072 and Executive Order 13006. The Postal Service has failed to demonstrate how it intends to comply with this policy.
I urge the Postal Regulatory Commission to ensure that USPS follows the process required to make a decision on the closure of the 5th Street Post Office. I also ask that you suspend any effort to close the 5th Street Post Office pending the outcome of the process for appeals.