BERKELEY -- The U.S. Postal Service has confirmed a plan to sell its 99-year old landmark building downtown and rent customer service space, following a heated public comment period that ended March 13.
The decision came despite vocal opposition from numerous corners, including the City Council, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and a group called Save the Berkeley Post Office.
The Postal Service in June of 2012 announced its plan to sell the 57,200-square-foot building at 2000 Allston Way as part of nationwide cost-cutting program. The decision to sell was issued late Monday and an appeal period ends May 7.
The Postal Service would like to sell the building and lease back about 4,000 square feet to continue serving customers, said spokesman Augustine Ruiz. If a buyer is not interested in that plan, he said the service will rent space nearby for customers.
"We anticipate we'll get a number of suitors once we're in sale mode," Ruiz said. "Our first preference is to maintain a presence in that building."
Lee said in a statement Tuesday she is "incredibly disappointed" in the decision and will fight to reverse the decision.
Dave Welsh, a retired letter carrier and Berkeley resident who is a member of Save the Berkeley Post Office, called the decision "outrageous."
"We're going to fight it," Welsh said. "This is our heritage, and the Postal Service wants to dismantle it and turn it over to profiteers. I think the Berkeley community is almost unanimously opposed to the sale."
Ruiz said he does not know how much the building would fetch on the market.
"We don't even have it up for sale yet," he said.
The building is a Berkeley landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places. It features neoclassical Renaissance revival-style architecture and a 1936 mural in the lobby that depicts figures from California's Spanish and pioneer history.
Ruiz said the Postal Service will have to reach an agreement with the California Office of Historic Preservation to ensure the building is not changed once it is sold.
"Whoever buys it, they cannot change the facade or the mural," Ruiz said. "The workspace inside, they can do whatever they want, and that's probably why it will be a lengthy sale process."
In March, the Berkeley City Council passed a resolution opposing the sale and asking the Postal Service to delay the process for a year and to work with the city to find a way to keep the building.
In a statement following Monday's decision, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said he is "extremely disappointed," although he said it did not come as a surprise.
Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley.