Rep. Adam Schiff called on the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to cancel its plans to relocate the West Hollywood Post Office on Monday, adding another chapter to the local campaign against moving the San Vicente Boulevard office.
Citing budget shortages, postal officials told West Hollywood City Hall on Sept. 3 that it was proposing to close the retail counter at the current USPS location, at 820 N. San Vicente at Santa Monica, in favor of opening a new office a half a mile away, at 458 Doheny Drive near Melrose.
As part of a nationwide cost-cutting effort, the USPS plans to sell many of its facilities, including its Beverly Hills building whose “delivery operations” will move into the San Vicente office. As a result, retail counter services and post office boxes currently housed in the San Vicente building have to be relocated.
For now, the proposed move to Doheny has not been finalized, according to Richard Maher, the USPS’ public information officer for the LA area. USPS received four letters criticizing the move, including one from the city, during a 30-day period in September in which it invited public comments.
Maher said USPS has no comment regarding Schiff’s letter.
“This proposed site will not adequately compensate for closure of retail services at the existing San Vicente location and will pose a tremendous inconvenience to the city’s residents,” Schiff said in a letter sent to postal officials Thursday.
Since Nov. 2012, Schiff, who represents California’s 28th District in the House of Representatives, which includes West Hollywood, and city council members along with some residents have opposed the relocation. Relocation to a yet-to-be-determined site was approved by USPS in January.
In his letter, Schiff says he is concerned the new proposed location would “not be centrally-located and will, therefore, be less accessible for many in the community.”
Both Schiff and the city have touted the current location’s accessibility, especially in regard to seniors, the disabled and others who rely on non-vehicle transportation.
USPS has pointed out that the proposed new location is available via sidewalks and public transit.
On Sept. 30, Mayor Abbe Land and Councilmember Jeffrey Prang also sent a letter listing concerns to USPS.
“Additional traffic generated at the proposed site at 458 Doheny Drive could create major traffic, parking, noise and air quality impacts to the surrounding neighborhood which primarily consists of single family homes,” they said. “These impacts must be fully evaluated by the USPS.”
Schiff also worries converting the San Vicente office into a “delivery processing center” will bring additional “carrier vehicles,” which might create more traffic and noise pollution in a bustling commercial area of the city.
While the so-called “Boystown” area continues to see a thriving nightlife, the addition of three more nightspots to the enclave of gay-oriented bars and restaurants has concerned retailers who fear the continued shift to nightlife will hurt their businesses and reduce daytime traffic.
“I share the city’s concerns that the proposed land use change may result in a depressed ‘dead zone’ on San Vicente Boulevard,” Schiff said. “As you know, San Vicente Boulevard is among one of the busiest streets in the city and its commercial success relies heavily on regular foot-traffic. I am concerned that the San Vicente facility, as a mail processing center, will result in a decline of its maintenance and upkeep, thereby having a negative impact on neighboring commercial properties.”
The post office is in a severe budget crisis due to a 30-percent drop in first-class mail volume since 2006. The postal service, which receives no tax dollars, has lost $40 billion in the last six years, $15.9 billion during the fiscal year 2012 alone. That averages to $57 million lost every day.
“I understand that the USPS is operating under great financial distress and is taking steps to recover its financial health,” Schiff said. “However, taking a piecemeal approach of selling off a small number of postal facilities and redistributing the retail operations of facilities — such as the one on San Vicente Boulevard — to another facility will do nothing to help USPS’s financial health recuperate and will instead place an undue burden on many local residents.”
Schiff is a co-sponsor for the Postal Service Protection Act, a congressional bill that proposes to fix the postal service’s financial woes by allowing the service to recover overpayments it has made to its retirement programs. According to studies by the Hay Group and the Segal Company, the postal service has overpaid at least $50 billion into its pension plans.
Since the 2006 passage of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, USPS has been required to pay $5.5 billion annually into an account to pre-fund retiree health-care, 75 years into the future.
Schiff’s bill claims that “no other agency or company in America is required to pre-fund its benefits, especially on such an aggressive schedule.”
According to Maher, USPS has “taken a larger, more comprehensive approach to our financial crisis and has developed a ‘Five Year Plan to Profitability,’ which was shared with members of congress and outlined specifically what must be done to return us to financial solvency.”
According to Maher, a number of postal bills have been put forth, but “congress has failed to pass any legislation.”