The Postal Service is in the process of closing two post offices in San Diego, and it’s using the fact that the leases have expired as one of the rationales. Considering that about three out of four post offices in the country are in leased spaces, that explanation puts thousands of post offices at risk every year.
The two San Diego offices headed for closure are the Escondido Finance Unit at 403 N. Escondido Blvd. and the Mission Valley Postal Store in the Westfield Mission Valley mall (1640 Camino Del Rio).
The Postal Service says the two locations were chosen in part because they are in retail centers where their leases have expired. The Mission Valley lease expired April 1 and the Escondido lease ended June 1. The Postal Service says both sites will remain open until a decision is made, but you can guess how that’s going to turn out.
The federal regulations governing post office closures (39 CFR 241.3) list the “permissible circumstances” for initiating a discontinuance study, such as a postmaster vacancy and “insufficient customer demand.” An expiring lease is not one of them.
If the Postal Service and landlord cannot agree on a lease renewal, the office may be suspended, and the suspension can be cause for initiating a discontinuance, but an expiring lease is not cause for a suspension, and it’s dubious whether it is an appropriate cause for initiating a discontinuance study. In any case, there’s no indication that the Postal Service was unable to renew the leases at these two locations, and the offices have not been suspended.
The federal regulations do say that the “permissible circumstances” are not limited to those listed, so maybe the Postal Service thinks it’s fine to add expiring leases to the list. That would means, though, that any one of the 24,000 post offices in leased spaces could be studied for closure simply because the lease expired.
From Inside Bay Area: "More than a dozen uniformed postal police and nonuniformed postal inspectors turned up the heat on protesters at the downtown post office late in the afternoon on Aug. 5, warning those occupying tents on the post office steps that they were violating federal law.
"All U.S. Postal Service property is closed to the public after normal business hours," a notice stated. "Violators are subject to arrest and prosecution."
Activists have been camping and demonstrating at the post office since July 24, protesting the postal service decision to put the historic 57,000-square-foot building up for sale.." Read more.
There's a also good piece by David Welsh on Counterpunch.
On Monday two post offices in Illinois, Alorton and Cahokia, were closed by emergency suspension because mold was discovered in the building. Now a third Illinois facility has been hit. On Tuesday the Dupo post office was also closed after an inspection discover mold in the heating and cooling system.
It’s not clear at this time if the mold is spreading, and if so, how. Dupo and Cahokia are near East St. Louis, and they’re just a few miles apart; Alorton is 180 miles away in central Illinois. Maybe the hot, humid weather is causing the problems.
Customers are angry that the post offices closed without warning and they now have to travel to other post offices to get their mail. For some of them, it means a long trek to East St. Louis on public transportation.
Alorton Mayor JoAnn Reed is doubly disturbed. As mayor, she’s concerned that citizens won’t be able to get their mail.
"Alorton is one of the poorest communities in the state of Illinois,” Reed told the Belleville News-Democrat. “The folks here don't have a way or the means to go to East St. Louis or Fairview Heights … to get their mail."
Mayor Alorton is upset for another reason. The Village of Alorton owns the building where the post office is located, so she’s basically the Postal Service’s landlord.
"They are our tenants. We were not told anything about this. If there were problems, you have to make your requests known. We were given no opportunity to comply with any maintenance concerns.”
The mayor thinks that the Postal Service wants to close the post office, and this was an easy way to accomplish that. “I think they did it this way because they want to avoid a fight with the citizens,” said Reed. “But it won't be avoided here."
The discovery of mold has led the Postal Service to close two more post offices. The offices in Cahokia, Illinois, and nearby Alorton were both closed on Monday, without further notice. The Postal Service says the mold poses a health risk to employees and customers. The mayor of Alorton says she thinks “it’s a tool they’re using to justify the closure.” Read more.
The mold problem seems to be spreading. In 2011, the post offices in Royalton, Kentucky, and Cottonwood, California, were closed because mold had rendered them unsafe, according to postal officials. Last year, post offices in Knox, New York, and Bangor, Wisconsin, were closed because of mold and other problems. A few weeks ago, the post office in Dupree, South Dakota, was closed because of mold that developed after some water got into the building.
Who knows where the mold will strike next. Postal patrons beware!
(Photo credit: Cahokia, IL post office)
Gray Brechin, the project scientist of the Living New Deal based in the UC Berkeley Department of Geography, has an Op-Ed in The Daily Californian that's well worth reading.
Responding to the Postal Service's explanation that it doesn't need all the space in the Berkeley post office and it would be better to lease a smaller space, Brechin writes, "Disposing of a tax-exempt property one holds to lease space elsewhere doesn’t make long-range economic sense, but doing so doesn’t enter into the accounting of current Postal Service management. That the public paid for Berkeley’s post office also goes unmentioned in the service’s press releases. Indeed, the very notion of the public good represented by the ennobling architecture of the Downtown post office as well as the buildings at the center of the UC Berkeley campus has faded in tandem with the right of every American to have quality and tuition-free education along with a cheap and efficient postal service mandated by the Constitution." Read more.