Opponents of historic post office's closure in Glendale speak out

Glendale residents opposed to the possible closure and sale of the city’s historic downtown post office building called on the U.S. Postal Service to rethink its cost-cutting plan during a public forum on Thursday at Glendale City Hall.

Postal officials have proposed selling the facility at 313 E. Broadway, an ornate two-story Renaissance Revival-style structure built in 1934 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, in order to relocate operations to a smaller site if one can be located nearby.

The Broadway post office sprawls 56,000 square feet, with most of that space underutilized or completely unused for about a decade, said Diana Alvarado, a USPS property manager.

By relocating to a roughly 10,000-square-foot building, the Postal Service could maintain identical mail delivery as well as post office box and retail operations while saving $260,000 in utility and maintenance costs each year, Alvarado said.

In response to a 27% decrease in nationwide mail volume since 2006, the USPS has over the past four years shed 14 million square feet of real estate throughout the country, spokesman Richard Maher said.

Postal officials will recommend whether to close the Broadway post office following a 30-day public comment period and reach a final decision after a 30-day appeals process, he said.

Opponents of the building’s sale said two months isn’t nearly enough time to weigh alternatives, including leasing out unused space or consolidating one or more of Glendale’s four other post offices into its Broadway operations.

“This shouldn’t be a fire sale,” said Vartan Gharpetian, a real estate agent recently appointed to the city’s Historic Preservation Committee.

One of about 50 people who attended the forum, Gharpetian said the USPS would struggle to find a nearby alternative with adequate parking and called for extended study of leasing out extra space or bringing in workers from other sites.

But Ramela Younekian, a USPS marketing manager, said recent efforts to lease space have been unsuccessful, largely due to limited access routes to the building’s empty second floor.

Margaret Hammond, a frequent speaker at Glendale City Council meetings, said closing the Broadway location may increase traffic congestion if future occupants of hundreds of new rental units planned for the area are forced to drive elsewhere to mail a letter or package.

“We try to encourage people not to use their cars. Having that building in the middle of Glendale is very important,” she said.

Others worried that a private owner could damage or limit public access to the Broadway building’s intricate public lobby, which features marble walls and flooring as well as ornamental bronze and plaster work.
Swapping real estate is a “piecemeal approach” to solving the USPS’s multi-billion revenue shortfalls, while “the community will lose one if its historic gems, never to be returned to public service,” said Teresa Lamb Simpson, an aide to Rep. Adam Schiff (D — Burbank), who has lobbied against the closure.

“It would be just a travesty, the thought that this building would no longer be a post office,” said Ute Baum, a member of Glendale Historical Society. “It’s a legacy in Glendale — an historic resource.”

Alvarado said if the Broadway post office is sold, new owners would be forced to abide by covenants requiring preservation of historic features.

Gharpetian said the USPS should try selling the building to the city before putting it on the market.
Younekian, who lives in Glendale, acknowledged mixed feelings about the proposal.

“As a resident, I’d like to see it as a post office, but [the Postal Service] has to survive,” she said. “It’s a ghost town in there.”

-- Joe Piasecki, joe.piasecki@latimes.com

Follow on Twitter: @JoePiasecki.

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