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Post Office Might Close In Elmwood District

By Richard Brenneman
Friday July 14, 2006

While Berkeley’s Elmwood district gained one landmark last week, it may be about to lose another community mainstay—it’s post office at 2705 Webster St. at College Avenue. 

While facts may be few, the rumors are rampant as a September lease renewal draws nearer without an agreement to renew the lease. 

“As far as I know, we are still in negotiations,” said Mercer Jones, a consumer representative for the main post office in Berkeley. 

“We don’t want to move, and that’s the only alternative,” he said. “I’m sure the owners don’t want the building vacant either.” 

Negotiations are being handled out the post office’s South San Francisco service center, Jones said, and the officer who is handling the matter is unavailable this week.  

For Tad Laird, owner of the just-landmarked Bolfing’s Elmwood Hardware building at 2947-93 College Ave., that’s not necessarily a bad thing. 

“If they go, I will be a tiny, tiny bit sad,” said Laird. “It’s a nice service to have in the neighborhood.” 

But for Laird, who lives just a few doors up from the post office on Webster, the facility is a mixed blessing. 

As a neighbor he’s bothered by the 40 or so postal service vehicles he says regularly double-park or occupy neighborhood red zones, as well as the cars of carriers and other employees that take up parking spaces on the street that could be used by customers for Elmwood businesses. 

“When people hear ‘post office,’ they think, ‘What’s the problem?’” Laird said. “But think ‘freight forwarding facility’ instead.” 

“I’d hate to see it go,” said John Moriarty, president of the Elmwood Merchants Association and the proprietor of 14 Karats Jewelry at 2910 College Ave. 

One problem might be the high cost of leasing in the Elmwood, where retail rents top $3 a square foot. “I’m sure that’s part of the problem,” Moriarty said. 

Moriarty agreed with Jones that the current location is the only available site that would meet the agency’s needs. “It’s either that building, or they have to leave the area.”  

But Moriarty also acknowledged the vehicle problem, and shared Laird’s concern that postal employees who work in the main post office downtown leave their cars in the Elmwood. 

City Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, who represents the Elmwood district, said that the last update he had on the issue was that the property owners—the White Family Trust—were still negotiating with the post office with the lease due to expire in September. 

An email sent to Earl J. March, the Stockton man who represents the trust, was not returned by deadline Thursday. 

While Wozniak said the original intent was to have a new lease in place in April or May, “the last we heard they were still in negotiations.” 

He said one concern of residents and the postal service is the need for repairs and renovation, with the need to new paint and the repair of graffiti on the front of the building and facade restoration needed in the rear. 

“We’ve heard that they’re not amenable to making the repairs until the lease is renewed,” Wozniak said.