The United States Postal Service (USPS) plans to close the “old” Santa Monica post office on Fifth Street at Arizona Avenue sometime this fall. Services will be relocated to the present carrier annex at 1653 Seventh St., between Colorado Avenue and Olympic Boulevard.

The USPS will close or consolidate a number of postal facilities nationally to help stem billions of dollars in red ink annually resulting from declines in mail volume and revenue. Sounds like a government organization: reduce losses resulting from declining sales by making it more difficult and inconvenient to access services.

The replacement post office is in the middle of no man’s land, across from the Big Blue Bus yard, near OPCC’s Access Center and SAMOSHEL homeless shelter.

Many locals are upset that the beautiful and iconic 1937 Public Works Administration Moderne structure will be closed and possibly demolished. Although an exact date for closure hasn’t been announced, the USPS had decided to sell the property at 1248 Fifth St. in the heart of Downtown.

It has already retained a commercial realtor to handle the sale. A much smaller property (TJ Maxx) directly behind the post office at 1251 Fourth St. is currently on the market for $17,760,000.

As long as it is federal property, it’s unlikely that attempts to save the building as a Santa Monica landmark will lead to its preservation. However, if the building is declared a local landmark when it is sold, efforts to force the new owner to preserve the facade and key interior features could be more successful.

 

Epsteins win lawsuit

 

Regular readers of this column will be familiar with Epstein vs. the city of Santa Monica. The lawsuit concerned how poorly City Hall handled appeals of parking citations.

Stanley and Harriet Epstein claimed City Hall deliberately deprived appellants of their rights by not providing clear and specific written reasons for not dismissing contested parking citations. They claimed this violated two provisions of California Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 40215, which describes rights and procedures when challenging a parking citation.

City Hall and co-defendants, including a processing sub-contractor — the Santa Monica Parking Violations Bureau (PVB) run by ACS State and Local Solutions, a Xerox Company — claimed they provided proper notice to appellants via a form response that said, in most cases, only that, “The citation is valid.”

In early 2011, the Epsteins pleaded with City Hall for three months to amend its handling of parking ticket appeals. In late May, City Hall even issued a press release announcing a raft of improvements to its citation appeals process in the interest of “good customer service,” but continued to send notices to appellants that they were guilty because, well, they were guilty.

Fed up, the Epsteins filed a class-action lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court in June 2011, challenging City Hall’s and ACS’ past handling of these appeals. Negotiations between the parties finally broke down in January after City Hall reneged on its own attorney’s agreement to run public notice in City Hall’s Seascape advising wronged appellants that they could have their cases reopened.

The Epsteins’ attorney, Eric J. Benink, notified City Hall that the “parking enforcement class action” will “continue because of the city’s decision to keep from the public knowledge of the basic facts of staff wrongdoing for 30 months.”

Inexplicably, on Feb. 28, city officials prematurely announced a full settlement in the case, even though many issues hadn’t been agreed to. So, the suit and negotiations dragged on anyway.

Last Tuesday night, the City Council finally approved terms for a settlement. “More than 20,000 motorists will gain the right to have their contested parking tickets reconsidered under the settlement,” Stanley Epstein said. “Our litigation forces Santa Monica to restore rights to drivers whose statutory rights were violated and to comply with state law hereafter.”

City Hall and ACS, now Xerox, have agreed to provide individuals who unsuccessfully contested parking citations from January 2009 through May 2012 with notice and an opportunity to seek lawful explanations of their initial review or copies of their administrative hearing results.

City Hall will waive the statute of limitations and these individuals may then request either a new hearing or an appeal to the Superior Court. Should the citation be canceled following the new procedures, City Hall will refund fines paid. The full settlement agreement can be viewed on the website of the plaintiffs’ attorney, www.kkbs-law.com.

Hooray for the Epsteins! They proved that you can beat City Hall!

 

Right on Target

 

Last Monday afternoon, I rode Big Blue into Westwood Village, caught a movie and checked out the new City Target, which is a compact version of Target’s sprawling suburban stores. Loved the merchandise, layout, accommodating staff and quick checkout.

I spent $50 on basics — bath towels, pillowcases, socks and gym shorts. Good deal, especially with the $1 round trip bus fare. I even saved a few cents on sales tax.

A similar urban Target was proposed for Fifth Street and Santa Monica Boulevard in 2001, but planning staff, labor unions and hyped-up concerns about traffic doomed the project from the start.

The City Council voted 5-2 to finally kill the project, thus making affordable shopping in Santa Monica even more scarce. The site is now a cluster of boring, five-floor-high condominium buildings with the usual small, street-level shops — and traffic.

Santa Monica’s loss is Westwood’s and my gain.

 

Bill can be reached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com

 

 

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