The fate of Santa Monica's New Deal-era post office in downtown was cemented Friday, with the United States Postal Service affirming its decision to sell the property in spite of community opposition.
The property at Fifth Street and Arizona Avenue will be sold as soon as the begninning of 2013, a spokesman said, although an exact date has not be fixed. Its retail operations will be relocated to an annex carrier facility .8 miles away at Seventh Street and Olympic Boulevard.
"While the Postal Service is not insensitive to the impact of this decision... the relocation of the Santa Monica Post Office is in the best interest of the Postal Service and its customers," Vice President, Facilities Tom A. Samra wrote in his determination letter.
(The full letter is attched to the right of this article).
As it grabbles with a multi-billion budget hole, the federal agency has sold off dozens of properties across the country to generate cash.
The decision to sale the property was announced Aug. 17, but was reconsidered after appeals were sent by the city of Santa Monica, the Santa Monica Conservancy, the Wilshire-Montana Neighborhood Coalition, the Los Angeles Conservancy, the North of Montana Association and about 40 postal service customers.
Their protests centered on the building being historic and conveniently located in the heart of downtown.
On Fifth Street between Wilshire Boulevard and Arizona Avenue, the Main Post Office was built by then-president Franklin D. Roosevelt's Works Projects Administration. It opened with pomp—red, white and blue bunting strung across the lawn—in July of 1938. Some residents have likened the location of the annex facility to the desert.
Samra shot down those concerns and argued the annex facility will be easier to access, safer and efficient. He said the anenx facility is "readily accessible" by public transit because a bus station is directly across the street and offers "safer and better" access to large trucks at its loading platform.
He concluded his letter,
I considered all of the public input received, but the objections expressed do not outweigh the practical and operational benefits for both the Postal Service and its customers...
With current projections declining mail volume and the financial condition of the Postal Service, the Postal Service has a duty to make any feasible change to reduce costs and generate revenue.
It's estimated the Santa Monica relocation will save the Postal Service $3.36 million over 10 years.
Of the five post Postal Service properities sold in California after relocations were approved, four were retail Post Offices. One was sold to an art school and the others, including a New Deal-era station in Venice, were sold to be used as private business offices. The fifth facility was a USPS warehouse that we sold to a business for warehouse operations, according to spokesman Richard Maher.
"In other parts of the country, I know of Post Offices that have been sold and now used as banks, law offices, museums and even a bed-and-breakfast," he said.