News

Downtown post office considers move to Alma

Public meeting to be held on May 28 to discuss locations, services

Citing critical loss of revenue, the U.S. Postal Service is considering moving its downtown branch to Alma Street at the corner of Addison Avenue, according to a May 11 letter to Mayor Karen Holman.

The letter comes in advance of next week's public meeting, sponsored by the USPS, regarding a move of services from the historic Hamilton Avenue Post Office, which the postal service is considering selling.

The public meeting will be held May 28 at 11 a.m. at 380 Hamilton Ave.

In his letter to Holman, Dean Cameron, USPS real estate specialist, said that postal officials are looking at two potential locations: the basement of the current downtown building and 999 Alma St., the location of the Anthropologie clothing store.

"If the Postal Service decides to move forward with its relocation, it anticipates offering the post office property for sale after completing a separate process to take into account the effects, if any, of the sale on historic properties," Cameron wrote.

The 1932 building was designed by local architect Birge Clark and features many characteristics of the Colonial Revival style, including arcade frontage, a tiled roof and a stucco exterior. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which means that any attempt to alter it would have to undergo a strenuous historic-review process.

Cameron in his letter offered to discuss the project with the city.

Postal officials will discuss the size, potential location and services that would be offered at the new facility at next Thursday's meeting. The public and city officials will have 30 days to send in written appeals and comments regarding the tentative decision to relocate.

If the Postal Service finds another location not discussed at the public meeting, it will make an additional community presentation, Cameron said.

The Palo Alto City Council authorized City Manager James Keene to make a bid for the downtown building, which has about 20,000-square feet of usable floor space, in May 2013. Ideas about which city departments and services could be located there have been floated in the past year. USPS officials have said they need only about 3,500 square feet of space for the post office's operation, and city officials have proposed leasing some of the building space back to the federal agency.

A May 18 letter from Keene to Cameron reiterated the city's interest.

"This letter is to let you know that given the importance of the historic post office building and its role in the fabric of Palo Alto's downtown, the city continues to be very interested in acquiring the 380 Hamilton Avenue property. The City Council wants to be sure that when USPS is ready to receive an updated offer, the city will be notified at the earliest possible date," he wrote.

Holman and Keene plan to attend a briefing meeting offered by Cameron, according to the city.

Comments

1 person likes this
Posted by Concerned Citizen
a resident of Downtown North
on May 21, 2015 at 12:05 pm

This eyesore should be demolished and
replaced with a more modern building.

A building like the green glass skinned one
housing Mellon Wealth Management Building
down the street at 537 Hamilton.


18 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 21, 2015 at 12:27 pm

Why Alma? Why not share space in the downtown library which is rarely open anyway? Or a coffee shop with free Wi-Fi and snacks? Or maybe in the $4.3 Million lobby in City Hall:-)


19 people like this
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Downtown North
on May 21, 2015 at 1:23 pm

I'd rather see it move into the basement of the building it is in now and stay centered in the downtown area rather than on Alma and Addison Ave. Alma is not as walkable and most people will end up driving to get there.


35 people like this
Posted by Leslie
a resident of Professorville
on May 21, 2015 at 1:39 pm

I don't think the government should sell public assets for profit (or to offset debt), especially when said assets have such beauty. WE paid for them, with taxes, and they are supposed to be held in trust for the people. Look at what happened when Crescent Park School was sold off. Now our existing schools are overcrowded. And now public wilderness areas are in danger? This is a seriously bad trend and a short-sighted move. If we can stop it on a civic level, we should. There must be another way of managing this land and maintaining the building for public use on a daily basis.


15 people like this
Posted by citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 21, 2015 at 2:01 pm

i agree with Leslie. Actually, all this talk made me think the Hamilton station had already closed, so we stopped going there. We thought the hours and service was so much better, we used to go there instead of the closer station (which I won't mention).

People may be sending less letter mail, but the post office is often a better deal and more convenient for small packages than the competitors and that kind of mail will only increase. The Postal service only ended up in trouble because Congress made some really untenable rules about pre-funding retirements. Obama should have reversed that when he had the chance.


2 people like this
Posted by concerned
a resident of another community
on May 21, 2015 at 6:28 pm

Why aren't they also looking at 1019 Alma/100 Addison (the antique store) which I understand becomes available soon.


17 people like this
Posted by Dumbfounded
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 21, 2015 at 10:11 pm

I too thought the downtown post office had been closed, and thus no longer went there! How come we did not get proper info on this?

Also, this is a beautiful building. Please, let us preserve it rather than build another cheap, ugly glass cube in this town.


20 people like this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on May 21, 2015 at 10:18 pm

Why do they think they'll make more money there? Why do they think it's less expensive to pay Palo Alto rents than to use a building they've owned for many, many years? There's more to this story than we can see.


5 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of Barron Park
on May 22, 2015 at 10:42 am

Is there any parking anywhere around there? It certainly does not look like it as I ride by on Alma. At least at the P.O. near California Ave. there is someplace to park while you waiting in line for service.


16 people like this
Posted by bill1940
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 22, 2015 at 12:04 pm

This is such a beautiful building. It is easily accessible, and I always feel so comfortable standing in line there. There is something more human about Birge Clark's design and use of space.

As long as it's preserved, I'm almost indifferent to the USPS's relocation as long as there is adequate parking and easy access for all of us.

I say almost because the current location is ideal for side trips to caf├ęs, and the various shops and restaurants in the downtown area.


15 people like this
Posted by Barbara
a resident of Downtown North
on May 22, 2015 at 12:18 pm

The downtown post office is indeed a beautiful building. It needs to stay intact! We do NOT need another cheap-appearing glass monstrosity in our city.


Posted by Charles
a resident of Crescent Park

on May 22, 2015 at 12:40 pm


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4 people like this
Posted by Grumpy Old Guy
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on May 22, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Grumpy Old Guy is a registered user.

I love the look of the old building and its functionality as a post office. The problem shows up when the government turns around and says that if they don't sell it, they'll want the city to pony up money for all of the modern regulatory such as - ...seismic retrofitting; b) asbestos and lead removals and better access for the disabled. If you want to see the effort needed to save the post office, go look up the effort Berkeley went through to save their post office from sale.

Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Downtown North
on May 22, 2015 at 2:15 pm

Is there any USPS top manager willing to have a public discussion about the quality of employee service provided in the Post Office, regardless of location? That may be a much more important set of issues for our community.


6 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 22, 2015 at 4:42 pm

I've been going to the post office on Cambridge for over forty years and find that the current staff there very efficient responsive, patient, and have a good attitude toward customers. Yes, the line is sometimes a bit long, but that's not the fault of the staff. Just a reflection of the budget constraints the USPS has been facing for quite a number of years.


7 people like this
Posted by Gertrude
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 22, 2015 at 10:45 pm

I have a PO box at this post office and check it about once a week. The doors to the post office used to be locked outside of business hours but a couple of years ago someone made the very bad decision to keep the doors unlocked 24/7 to allow access to the PO boxes. The homeless people love it. Yesterday when I checked my box at about 7:30 P.M. a homeless person was peeing all over the floor. I wish they'd lock the place up again so it won't be used as a toilet or place to sleep.

I do love this post office and am hoping for a miracle that it won't be sold.


4 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 23, 2015 at 10:38 pm

Yes tear down this Birge Clark masterpiece and while you're at it tear down the Mona Lisa and put up a color by number!


8 people like this
Posted by Another glass box?
a resident of Downtown North
on May 23, 2015 at 11:25 pm

I just hope the City Manager doesn't take it over for his ever-expanding staff and new hires. Maybe he will want to give his developer supporters a fancy new place to do their business. He can ask Ken Hayes to turn it into a glass box!

The new Council seems to have decent values, I hope they can keep him in check.


Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

on May 25, 2015 at 11:38 am


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4 people like this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on May 25, 2015 at 12:43 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

We need MORE local Post Offices (Stations) where people can WALK to a nearby locations to do their mailings.
There used to be Postal Stations in many local Businesses (McWorters, The Alma Shoe Repair...)

Now we only have these 'For Profit' (mail plus a service fee) Postal Stores.

As to Sell: No. Share with other Government Agencies: Yes
This is Taxpayers Property. Maintain it. Use it for the Taxpayers.


1 person likes this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 27, 2015 at 1:14 pm

Why is the City of Palo Alto interested in buying the building? Does our fair city intend to run its own postal service, or is it just looking for a way to burn excess cash? If the latter, perhaps that excess cash should be returned to the hard working people who earned it in the first place.

The Postal Service also proposed closing the Hamilton Post Office in 2011 (ref. Web Link). @Outside Observer made this comment at that time:

"Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Dec 17, 2011 at 10:17 am
My guess is that it will go the route of the "Historic" Roth building.

The City will buy it at an inflated price, then it will sit unused and decaying for years.

It's new tennants will be the University Ave bums."

The Roth Building is still sitting unused and decaying. Perhaps the city government should first demonstrate that they can use and maintain the Roth Building before trying to buy any other "historic" properties. If Palo Alto has a pile of excess cash on hand, they should give it back to the hard working people who earned it in the first place. Our city government has so far demonstrated that it is ill suited to managing historic properties.


1 person likes this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 27, 2015 at 1:39 pm

BTW - You folks might find this article interesting:

Web Link

My take is that the Post Office should remain as it is, but just cleaned up a bit.


Like this comment
Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 28, 2015 at 8:58 am

Bru is a registered user.

This whole sell off and fake mismanagement of the post office is to get everything in the country under the control of the same type of greedy rapacious CEOS as everything else that is failing and getting too expensive. If this is not a new brand of fascism I don't know what is. Leslie had it right above, these are people in selective place that have enough power to play games with resources that belong to all of us and that no one voted for them to dismantle our country and place it in the hands of fascists, undermining democracy or representative form of government. It is clear, the average people are not being represented in any kind of measurable way.


Like this comment
Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 28, 2015 at 9:06 am

Bru is a registered user.

They still need facilities to sort and stage the mail before delivery. I don't get getting rid of all these building because they make it seem like money can be made. Over the long term a never-ending rent is more expensive than keeping the building, so they are setting the post office up for more deficits on which they blame the post office again, instead of the insiders who manipulate it towards it demise so we can all pay more to private carries that are not as competent or as answerable to the public as the post office. Answerability to the public seems to be something business interest want to destroy completely. What is that called?


Like this comment
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 28, 2015 at 11:12 am

@Bru, "rapacious" CEOs? Let's see you do a better job for much lower pay. And it is not like the government can do any better. Maybe if the Hamilton Post Office was run by private enterprise, it would not be the dirty, urine-soaked, understaffed, poorly run pig sty with long lines that it is now. Not to mention there is a great deal of unused space in the back. Contrast it with the Fed Ex on California Avenue. They are worlds apart in terms of service, cleanliness and efficiency. True, many post offices are works of art, architectural gems that would be too costly to build today. This applies to many of the post offices in the Bay Area, not only the one in downtown Palo Alto. Why not let Fed Ex or UPS run the Hamilton Post Office (and others) under contract to the government?


2 people like this
Posted by Another glass box?
a resident of Downtown North
on May 28, 2015 at 1:41 pm

I strongly object to Kazu's ugly description of the building. I visit the PO several times a week and have never never! encountered a urine smell. Of course it my have happened but it is very rare. Maybe once or twice?

Keeping it open after hours makes it convenient for many people. Let it be!


2 people like this
Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 28, 2015 at 2:31 pm

Why do we need a dedicated post office downtown at all? Most of the mail sorting is done at the Main Post office. How about a branch in Whole Foods (Nob Hill in Mountain View has a great post office inside) or at City Hall? You can buy stamps at the UPS store and the bank. There is a tiny branch office in Mountain View inside a "storage for rent" place. Unlike either the Downtown or Main branches, it ALWAYS has supplies available (forms, boxes, etc.) The employee is helpful and prompt and the place is clean. We don't need to dedicate some of the most expensive real estate in the country to a dying, but necessary, business.


Like this comment
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 28, 2015 at 9:39 pm

@Another glass box? wrote:

"I strongly object to Kazu's ugly description of the building."

Why do you object? My comments are based on experience, not any inherent like or dislike of the Post Office. Besides, my description was not of the building itself, but of the way it is operated. My opinion of the building is that it is a wonderful example of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, and is in a very convenient location. You won't see works of art like that constructed by the government any more, unfortunately. If you look at online reviews, you will see that my take on the way the Hamilton Post Office is run is not unique. In fact, many of the post offices get pretty low marks. Clearly, the USPS needs to start bringing its A game to town. In all fairness, there are also many times when all is well at the PO.

My comments about outsourcing Postal Service functions were meant in all sincerity, not sarcasm.

"I visit the PO several times a week and have never never! encountered a urine smell. Of course it my have happened but it is very rare. Maybe once or twice?"

A LOT more than once or twice, and is far from rare. Try going early in the morning which is generally just after they mop up. Or just before, if you are unlucky. A few times the place looked like a tornado hit it. This nonsense didn't start until about a year ago. Maybe it is being allowed to happen so they have an excuse to shut the place down and sell it? I hope not. Before a year ago, the only problem at the Hamilton Post Office was the long lines, which often circled the Earth several times. I guess that was not too big a price to pay to have the post office in a convenient location downtown.

"Keeping it open after hours makes it convenient for many people. Let it be!"

Yeah, I wish it could be that way, too. Seriously, losing the Hamilton Post Office would be a major bummer. It would be viable, too, if the USPS would take charge of things. After all, it is THEIR post office and their responsibility. I think they should lock it up outside of business hours and put more people at the counter when lines get long. At least it is better than shutting it down.

Hey, a Fed Ex at the location would be open 24/7 and allow the preservation of a fine old building. Why not? Truth be told, @palo alto resident's suggestions are likely the best, most practical and easiest to implement. Facilities such as the ones he noted, Village Post Offices, operate under contract with the USPS. Although typically used in remote rural areas, it is better than having nothing at all - or a poorly run USPS facility.


Like this comment
Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 28, 2015 at 11:29 pm

To Palo Alto Resident in Crescent Park - The First Class & Priority Mail is no longer sorted at the Main Post Office in Palo Alto. It is picked up at the end of the day and sent to various sort centers outside of Palo Alto. The sort center which is typically used is on Evans Ave in San Francisco (near Hunter's Point).


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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