Judge Finds No Issue in Bid to Block Sale of Berkeley’s Historic Post Office


Courthouse News Service: In a victory for opponents of the U.S. Postal Service’s planned sale of the historic Berkeley, California, post office, a federal judge found Monday that the government could not prove a city ordinance blocking the sale is unconstitutional.

In 2011, the Postal Service announced plans to sell the 104-year old neoclassical building, designed by famed architect Oscar Wenderoth and listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1981. In September 2014, the Postal Service struck a deal to sell the building to urban developer Hudson McDonald, which planned to turn it into a Target store.

That same month, Berkeley passed a new zoning ordinance restricting the use of the post office building to civic and nonprofit purposes. The “overlay”, as it’s called, applies to only to nine parcels of land within five blocks centered around Berkeley’s Civic Center Park.

By December 2014, the deal had fallen through. In its federal lawsuit against the city, the Postal Service said Hudson McDonald backed out because the overlay had so devalued the property that the developer said it was “destroyed and worth very little.”

At a one-day bench trial in April, Justice Department attorney Julie Berman said the city’s zoning overlay discriminated against all potential buyers of the property. Read more.