No sooner did word get out that the Park Station post office at 2900 Sacramento Street would be closing on April 30 than community advocates launched another effort to save it.

Steveanne Auerbach, who has been deeply involved the last 18 months with the fight to keep the post office open, got on the phone and ramped up her email efforts on Wednesday to get postal authorities to change their minds.

“I didn’t want the post office to think nothing was happening,” said Auerbach. “I wanted to bring up the points again to see what they could do.”

The post office announced Monday that Park Station, at the intersection of Sacramento and Russell, would close April 30. All the P.O. boxes and other services will be transferred to Station A on San Pablo Avenue near Addison.

Unfortunately, there might not be enough time to change the minds of post office officials, given that the closing is a little more than three weeks away, according to officials. The last push involved a petition drive, letters, community meetings, and discussions with the offices of Congressman Barbara Lee and Senator Dianne Feinstein.

“I would like to believe it’s possible, but the time line is really short right now,” said Stephen Lysaght, the president of the East Bay Local of the American Postal Workers Union. “The post office to us does not seem to care about the needs of the community. We lobbied hard, as did the community. Unfortunately, the postal service made its decision despite that input.”

Eleanor Neal, who has worked at Park Station for 17 years, will be transferred to another post office in Berkeley, said Lysaght. Auerbach had nothing for kind words for the woman whom she regards as an integral part of the community fabric.

“She has worked so hard and served the community so long,” said Auerbach. “She helps people. She’s kind. She’s patient. She’s got a great sense of humor. She has a loyal group of customers.”

Neal would not talk to Berkeleyside about the office closure. Her bosses at the postal service reprimanded her last year for talking to patrons about the proposed closure, said Lysaght. In talking about the closure, she was performing “non-duty related,” activity, which is not permitted, he said.

Clerks don’t have enough information about the post offices’ deliberations to talk to customers about closures, said Gus Ruiz, a spokesman for the postal service.

“A clerk has one duty: to serve those customers,” said Ruiz. “She doesn’t have the information in hand except to tell customers, yes we are closing April 30 — end of comment.”

Auerbach has compiled a list of 25 reasons why the station should not be closed. One of the most important, but intangible reasons, is how it contributes to the community feeling in the area.

“When you go in there and are waiting in line, it’s like a community get-together,” said Auerbach. “As we are waiting in line were are all talking. It’s a friendly environment. There’s no other post office like that.”

Here is the letter Auerbach sent to Kim Fernandez, the district manager of USPS:

Dear Mr. Fernandez:

Please Save Park Station Post Office!

We were glad to see Berkeleyside address the sudden news about the pending closing of the Park Station on Sacramento St. especially given the tight time schedule provided in this notice. A year ago the community was involved in many meetings, discussions and petitions to save Park Station. Then, since no action was taken, everyone considered everything was status quo.

Now we are again upset that this station which has provided quality service to the community for many years is slated to be closed and with such short notice at the end of this month.  While this article is valued it does not address all of the larger community concerns. The needs of the entire South Berkeley community must be considered before this decision is made final. We hope it is not too late. We can manage to not have mail delivery on Saturday if that would help to offset the closing of this station.

  • Challenges of transportation to another station are especially difficult for those who are disabled and elderly
  • Long lines at other stations for services force customers to wait for one hour or more — and further erode use of the Post Office
  • Lack of friendly service at other locations

See below for 25 more reasons

25 REASONS TO SAVE PARK STATION POST OFFICE

1. Service at Park Station has existed for 67 years, in a historic building.
2. Customers are happily satisfied with the status of services provided.
3. Station makes money.
4. Station could make more money if given the right opportunity (install a wall of mail boxes, increase diversified supplies, improve overall appearance, provide lunch time backup, add community bulletin board).
5. Making money is not the only but it is an important consideration and many solutions exist.
6. Customers want Park Station to continue operating.
7. Many customers are seniors with limited ability to travel.
8. Many customers are disabled; need service and accessibility.
9. Causing hardships for current loyal customers is not acceptable.
10. Stop Saturday deliveries and save money system wide.
11. Listen to customers and improve quality of Post Office services.
12. Businesses in South Berkeley depend on Park Station.
13. Park Station is seen as great community asset.
14. Customers determined to save essential local services.
15. Customers submitted 80 pages of petitions.
16. Community made requests to Senator Dianne Feinstein (see letter below) Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Mayor Tom Bates, and members of the City Council — Max Anderson, Darryl Moore, Jesse Arreguin and Kriss Worthington.
17. Community reached out to the media.
18. Park Station serves everyone and provides parking space as the only location in Berkeley that offers no metered parking.
19. There is no parking available at other locations.
20. Park Station is viewed as central community benefit.
21. Customers who do not use technology prefer directly purchasing stamps, money orders, and sending packages at this station.
22. Service at other stations is not equal; waiting is challenging if person is disabled, a senior, or a person with a weak bladder or other health issues.
23. Alternative stations are too far a distance and mostly inaccessible.
24. Community encourages selling stamps at more retail outlets to benefit everyone.
25.South Berkeley Community urges Kim Fernandez, District Manager/Bay Valley District, and John Potter, Postmaster General, to recognize the important needs of the South Berkeley community and keep Park Station operating.

Frances Dinkelspiel

Frances Dinkelspiel (co-founder) is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California,...

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15 Comments

  1. I thought the Park St. Station was closing because it loses money. If that is not the case there is no really good reason to close it. I do not accept the argument that times change and we have to settle for inferior service. Is this the only post office in Berkeley that’s closing? Is it the only one whose primary clientele is African Americans. That smells like racism to me.

    FWIW, the wait at the Park St. Station is less than Station A, or Berkeley Main. And when you do have to wait the line is good natured, and never more than 15 minutes.

  2. I wonder how many of you who consider the closure a good, sound idea is old or disabled? The callous tone of most of these letters demonstrates the lack of empathy for others that is destroying our country.

  3. It’s unfortunate your attempt to save this office will have NO bearing on the outcome. It has been played out
    across the US over and over, and to my knowledge, never had ANY influance on the outcome. They will close
    the office regardless. On another note, I wonder why, with the deplorable economic status of the USPS, they
    continue to reward their managers with annual pay raises. Lots of histaria over the proposed APWU contract
    and its meager increase, but not a word about the 6% they give there managers!
    an

  4. Sad that it’s closing, but the list of 25 reasons is pretty weak. Sorry.

    USPS needs to scale back, the business landscape that caused them to open gazillions of local PO’s just doesn’t exist anymore. Just need to deal with it.

  5. Tizzielish; that was a complete waste of comment space. You could have summed up all that self-righteousness in a few neat paragraphs. Instead, you just wasted my time…. thanks.

  6. we already have the community equivalent of the mini-bus service you suggest: AC Transit. And for the disabled, there is disabled door-to-door service. No senior or disabled who needs to get to a post office is unable to get that need met, unless they doggedly insist that doing it the way they always have is some kind of guaranteed right, which it is not. Culture emerges. Things change.

    When you suggest Sat Delivery, have you considered the many thousands of Berkeley householders who work M-F and are only able to receive home deliveries that require signatures on Saturday?

    Have you heard of that old saw about how when a butterfly flaps its wings in Tokyo, that flapping can potentinally affect weather patterns on the other side of the earth? Every change we make in how we meet common needs affects everything else.

    I would much rather see federal money spent to save your local post office than to fight an undeclared war in Libyra or decades of war in Iraq and Afghanistan but, sadly, money for wars are unrelated to the post office, which does not receive federal tax support: the post office has a mandate to pay its own way and warmongering money is not an option. I would happily reallocate war funds to your post office if that were possible.

    Instead of working to save unneeded post offices, invest your fine life force in changing our monetary and tax systems. Work to get Congress to cancel those hideous Bush tax cuts for the rich that our cowering oreo president has maintained.

    I wonder if the post office has considered closing the hellhole of the downtown Berkeley office? I live one block from the downtown PO but I’d be happy to walk over to the Sacramento office. I bet closing down the downtown hellhole would save quite a lot of money. They could still use the loading docks and mail sorting facilities, just close the retail nightmare, reassign that staff (cause they all seem very senior in years of employment, all seem very entitled and know that doing a good job is irrelevant to whether or not they receive pay checks) . . .

    I’d love to see changing the post office done differently.

    I would like to read some public dialogue about how radically our culture is changing. This is not just about the service of delivering and sending mail, buying and using stamps, opening our home mailboxes. Look at all the empty retail space in Bekeley. Public leaders talk as if all those space will be filled with the same kinds of businesses that used to be there once the economy bounces back. I don’t think that’s gonna happen. The world of retail has been radically and permanently altered. What caused this radical shift? The internet. People buy things online. Gosh, some businesses have made it cheaper to buy and ship toilet paper to our homes than to go to a store and buy it. I am not advocating buying TP online: I am just saying that the culture of buying things we need to live by walking into stores is changing and post offices are a part of the past. Advocating to hang onto all the physical post offices is a bit like advocating that people who want to maintain horses and buggies as their local transportation vehicle should be able to do so.

    Things change. People not only have to adapt, they actually do, even seniors and disabled.

    Richard Russo, a Putlizer-Prize winning novelist, published “Bridge of Sighs” a few years ago. His novel is, only superficially, about the romantic footbridge in Italy known as the Bridge of Sighs. What it is really about is a middle class family in the recent past, with a stay at home wife and the father/husband supports his family with his own small business running a milk route. It used to be that was the only way to get fresh milk in your home. Then dairies began to distribute milk through grocery stores, then super markets and this guy in the novel refuses to believe that his milk route won’t bounce back. Eventually, economic reality shuts down his milk route and he finds another way to support his way of life. What really was the yearning in this novel’s many references to the Bridge of Sighs? Was it that real life footbridge in, I think, Venice? Or does the title remind us that we all yearn for elusive, romantic (the word means fantasy) lives based on how things ‘always were’? In the novel, the home delivery of milk changes, the surrounding society changes quite a lot, but there is a core of stability in the lives of the characters: that core is the work of being. I know my remarks are not the kind of dreamy discourse most folks consider part of the conversation about something as mundane as a post office but, in truth, isn’t this dialoue about this lost community amentiy really about how life changes constantly? I am not a Buddhist but a Buddhist approach might help folks keening over the loss of their neighborhood post office: let go, trust that your mail needs will be met and notice new ways that already exist in your neighborhood for you to get whatever needs were being met by that post office. This list of needs will be different for each person. The good news: we all have a right to get all our needs met, including our needs to feel connected to our community. This need will continue to be met: just not at this post office.

  7. When I contemplate all the ugly news about this society’s ongoing economic distress and this society’s ongoing collective unwillingness to raise taxes on those at the high, blessed, and lucky end of the economic spectrum, and I hear about slashing school budgets, laying off teachers, reducing Pell grants, raising state university tuition, etc. etc. etc. . . .

    . . . and then I remember that every person who uses this particular post office will continue to get mail and will continue to be able to use the services of the post offices while simply going a little further to partake of those services. . . .

    and then I read that activists have been working (in what I consider selfish, myopic energy) for 1.5 years to save this one post office . . . do these folks think all post offices should always remain open forever? Because that is the ultimate rational behind their efforts to save this one? Do these activists offer suggestions on how to fund ‘their’ post office?

    Surrender. Acceptance. Chillax.

    We have so many underfunded needs in society. It is selfish and narrow minded to fight over one post office.

    Although I think I get the concern of these people. I walk by the little postal station in the Gourmet Ghetto about once a week cause I like the burritos at Picoso. I walk to Picoso and back, to justify some of the calories and I walk past that post office twice and I always wonder “I bet they keep this one open for all the chic hipsters in this neighborhood” and I think “I bet the post office on Adeline or over on the West Side will go first” and I think “life is not fair”.

    But the fact is, we have too many post offices and some should be closed.

    When the post office in question was opened, everyone used the U.S. Mail in ways they no longer do. And FedEx was not yet a glimmer in it’s founder’s eye and UPS and DHL were not competing and this thing called the internet had not become the way most people communicate.

    The days of the post office, the neighborhood mail carrier, and Leave It To Beaver are over. Culture changes. Our culture has changed. Be open to what unfolds in life. Trust that all of your needs will be met.

    And if you have some energy to work for the common good, look around and ask yourself: will I still get mail and still be able to buy stamps and ship packages when this location closes?

    And maybe ask yourself: am I being selfish?

    Let it go. WE ave to close some post offices. It is a waste of fine life force to resist this change. Do I trust the post office staff to make data-based, non-partisan, objective choices rooted on what is best for the common good? Not really. I think wealthy elites and not-so-wealthy-but-well-connected folks have more clout and that’s not right.

    But we an’t afford to keep all the post offices open. We have to close some. I have always been amazed by how many post offices Berkeley has. Do a little research. I am pretty sure we have a whole lot more than many communities around the county with comparable populations and comparable mail needs.

    Give it up. Work for another causes. Society is full of them. How about forming a community group that works to nurture richer community connections for everyone in the neighborhood of this post office, like get a permit to close off a street by the post office and have a potluck to celebrate the years of good service this post office has given? and then, a few months later, organize another neighborhood potluck party to celebrate life with your neighbors. Or organize a cookie swap at Xmas or a bi-weekly garden swop. There are endless ways to nurture your neighborhood. trying to save a dead post office is like tryingk to hang onto the horse and buggy.

    The culture that seeded neighborhood posts offices is gone. Something new is emerging. Be part of that new thing.

  8. There are always many sides. The existing service is good and accessible. Its not a community center but serves the community well especially those who are seniors and disabled and many others. The comment that its friendly is simply a fact . its been a blessing to those who have used it. Since the building is NOT owned by the PO the owner may decide to put in a private mail box service which could help to offset the loss. Does anyone think a mini bus would help going from BART to existing building to PO on San Pablo to Amtrak and Berkeley Bowl and back to BART? Curious if there might be a few new businesses that might arise from this bad situation. Certainly we could do without Sat Delivery to save this PO. I agree with Jon. thats why we took time to write, call and sign petitions etc. Used to be that what the community wanted was heard. Things have changed and not for the better. Tim, this is NOT an under performing office. Quite the contrary. efficient, friendly and no long lines. Just try to send something from the main PO– take a number and wait an hour and there is not enough space on the bench. For goodness sakes this is not a choice between mailing letters and health care. People need all aspects of life to work each and every day. Be real. The money they are going to save will be wasted. What about all the military waste??One bomber could solve a lot of health and education concerns.
    to be continued. still hopeful

  9. It would be nice if they could at least put in a couple automated machines and keep any PO boxes. As long as they do that I think it’s fine.

    I actually prefer to use the automated postage machines than to deal with the windows. The wait is always terrible no matter how well-staffed the branch is.

  10. Allowing the government to operate efficiently by closing under-performing offices will better serve the community as a whole. The small sacrifice of using a different office could allow those funds to be directed to more important government services, such as health care.