The Santa Monica Conservancy will hold a rally at 11 am this Saturday to show their support for preservation of the city’s downtown Post Office, which will close at noon this Saturday for the last time.
The U.S. Postal Service is relocating the branch at 1248 5th Street to 1653 7th Street so the property can be sold. The new branch will open Monday.
The relocation and building sale is part of a nationwide response by USPS to “reduce costs and operate more efficiently” in the face of dramatic decreases in mail volume and revenue, and other economic factors.
Rally organizers encourage community members to join them for the rally that will start at the Post Office at located at 5th and Arizona.
The Conservancy said it strongly supports an appropriate new use of the structure, but members are very concerned that the Post Office is closing without any formal protection for its character-defining features.
“We share the community’s disappointment over the loss of the convenience of the Fifth Street location, but now we must focus on putting the needed protections in place or we could lose yet another important, iconic downtown building,” organizers of Saturday’s rally said in an email to supporters.
In 2012, the National Trust for Historic Preservation was so concerned about the lack of protection for the historic Post Offices that it named them to its annual list of endangered historic places, the Santa Monica Conservancy said.
“As soon as the U.S. Postal Service announced that it would sell the historic Fifth Street building a year ago, the Conservancy and others began advocating for the preservation of the building,” said the Conservancy. “Every historic preservation consultant who has looked at the building considers it eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The Post Office qualifies as a Santa Monica Landmark as one of three WPA buildings in the City, and is distinguished by its Art Deco-inspired features including the beautifully detailed paneling and the original lighting fixtures of the lobby. The cities of Glendale, Southgate and Santa Barbara have landmarked their post offices, but that has not happened in Santa Monica.”
The Postal Service has proposed a protective covenant describing the important features of the building.
Under Federal law, it must identify the entity that will preserve and protect the property by enforcing the covenant before the Post Office can be sold.
Santa Monica Conservancy President Carol Lemlein said the current draft of the covenant leaves out important character-defining features like the 1937 plaque commemorating the building’s dedication, and could be weakened further in the sale negotiations if the City is not proactive.
“It is important to ensure local control over the building’s future,” Lemlein said. “The Landmarks Commission must better define the attributes of the building listed in the covenant and the City should agree accept enforcement responsibility. We cannot wait until after the Post Office passes into private hands and then landmark it. This process takes time, during which unacceptable alterations could be made to the building. And once the Post Office is closed, the lobby is no longer a public space and the Commission loses its ability to protect the important interior features.”
The protection of the Post Office building is expected to be on the July 8 Landmarks Commission agenda, which should be posted on the City website by Friday July 5.