DOWNTOWN — Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Santa Monica) appealed the decision to close the historic Santa Monica post office to the Postal Regulatory Commission Thursday on procedural grounds, but the effort may yet fall flat.
In a letter to PRC Secretary Shoshana Grove, Waxman held that the closure should be put on ice because the U.S. Postal Service did not give adequate notice to the Santa Monica community about either its proposal to close the post office or sufficient opportunity to appeal after it made the decision.
Furthermore, the USPS did not consider the impact of closing the post office at 1248 Fifth St. given that the alternate location on Seventh Street near the Big Blue Bus headquarters is more difficult to access and will only get harder in the future because of the incoming Exposition Light Rail line.
“Pedestrians currently served by the Fifth Street post office would have to cross these light rail tracks to get to the carrier annex (on Seventh Street),” Waxman wrote.
Postal officials held their ground, saying that the congressman was looking at the wrong statute.
In his letter, Waxman said that the USPS should have given residents a full 60 days notice of the proposed closure and 30 days to appeal the final decision to close.
Postal officials held a meeting informing residents of the closure on July 19 and gave official notice on Aug. 17.
That would be the case if this was a true closure, said Richard Maher, spokesperson for the USPS.
“Actually, this is classified as a relocation,” Maher said.
In the case of a closure, the total number of postal locations in a given community decreases, meaning the public has one less place to go to mail packages, get stamps and access their post office boxes.
“A new location half a mile away will offer all the same services,” Maher said.
Relocations like Santa Monica’s mean customers will still have the same number of post offices, just rearranged to score some cost savings and allow the organization to benefit from the sale of the historic Downtown building.
Unlike closures, relocations cannot be appealed to the PRC.
Waxman disagrees with the characterization, and believes that the change of services constitutes a closure, officials said Thursday.
In his letter, Waxman also accused the agency of failing to justify its cuts by showing that it will actually succeed in saving money by moving to the new location. Residents have sworn that they will not go to the carrier annex on Seventh Street, and that the USPS will be killing the goose that lays the golden eggs by closing down the previous location.
Postal officials have admitted that the Fifth Street office is profitable, but say that the sale is necessary to plug gaping holes in their finances left by a decline in volume of first class mail and a requirement by Congress to pay for its employees’ retirement benefits in advance.
That mandate cost $20 billion, Maher said, and even if Congress acted tomorrow to change it — which they could — it wouldn’t be enough for the semi-private company to break even.
Although it’s unknown what the Downtown building will fetch on the open market, officials expect a savings of $336,179 per year for a 10-year savings of over $3 million, although there will be a $400,000 upfront cost to revamp the annex for customer use.
Residents appreciate Waxman’s efforts, said Reinhard Kargl.
Kargl has been rallying support for the post office through a Facebook page, Save the Santa Monica Main Post Office.
“Obviously it’s very positive, and I think he’s on the right side of what the residents want,” Kargl said. “I have spoken to many people, and I haven’t found anybody who says, ‘It’s OK, let’s just go ahead with the closure.’”