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Post office on Fifth Street. (photo by Daniel Archuleta)

DOWNTOWN — Residents and business owners will have a chance next month to confront the U.S. Postal Service about its plans to shutter the historic Fifth Street Post Office and move operations a few blocks south to Seventh Street.

The hearing will be held Thursday, July 19 at 5 p.m. at the Ken Edwards Center — 1527 Fourth St. #106. Written comments can also be submitted until Aug. 3. They should be sent to:

Diana Alvarado

Pacific Facilities Service Office

U.S. Postal Service

1300 Evans Ave. Ste. 200

San Francisco

94188-8200

Postal officials said that if operations are moved to the Santa Monica Carrier Annex Building, located at 1653 Seventh St., there will be no impact on deliveries to residents and businesses, and no change to post office box numbers or zip codes.

If the move is approved, the Postal Service will most likely sell the Fifth Street facility, which was built as part of the New Deal and began serving customers in 1934.

An historic post office in Venice, Calif. is on the chopping block as well, with the Postal Service reportedly asking $7.5 million or more. Movie producer Joel Silver has signed a contract to enter escrow, according to www.yovenice.com.

“The Postal Service is in a very serious financial situation and is facing insolvency,” read a statement released Tuesday by Richard Maher, spokesman for the Postal Service. “Every opportunity to reduce expenses and generate revenue is being considered in order to maintain universal service to our customers.”

Maher said the Fifth Street location has yet to be appraised. If it is, he said the Postal Service would consider the appraisal “proprietary information” and not disclose the value.

In addition to closures and consolidation, there are also talks of cutting out Saturday deliveries and reducing hours at post offices.

The Postal Service is struggling with significant losses — more than $25 billion over the last five years as more people move away from “snail mail” and do most of their communication via the Internet. The recession didn’t help, nor did a mandate passed by Congress in 2006 that the Postal Service pre-pay health benefits for future retirees for the next 75 years, and do so within the next 10 years at a cost of $5.5 billion annually.

Those fighting to save post offices said if that mandate was reduced, the Postal Service could be operating with a significant surplus instead of a drowning deficit.

Postal workers are pushing for that funding mandate, part of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, to be abolished or altered so that the healthcare costs are paid for by a pension surplus instead of coming from the Postal Service’s operating budget. Doing that would dramatically improve the Postal Service’s bottom line, saving thousands of jobs and post offices from being closed. It would also free up cash to invest in capital improvements or new technologies to make the Postal Service more competitive, postal employees said.

Postal workers and supporters in Washington, D.C. began a four-day hunger strike Monday in protest of changes that will end overnight delivery of up to 20 percent of first-class mail, as mail-sorting hubs are closed.

The group, Communities and Postal Workers United, was formed this spring.

The theme of the strike is that cuts to service — slower mail, reduced window hours at 13,000 rural post offices, shuttering processing plants — will only hurt business by draining revenue.

Postal officials said that even if the healthcare mandate was abolished it would not solve the Postal Service’s financial woes. Since it is not tax-dollar subsidized, it relies solely on revenues generated from shipping. As mail volume drops, so does revenue. Over the past three years there has been a 20 percent drop in total mail volume.

Maher said if the Santa Monica consolidation takes place, the Seventh Street facility would have to be remodeled to make room for more customers. There would still be three facilities serving customers; the Seventh Street office, the Ocean Park Station at 2720 Neilson Way, and the Will Rogers Station at 1217 Wilshire Blvd.

kevinh@smdp.com