La Jolla post office earns key historic designation
by Mariko Lamb
Jan 16, 2013 | 10958 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Members of the Save the La Jolla Post Office Task Force, with District 1 City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, at an event in June. Mariko Lamb
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Hardworking Save the La Jolla Post Office Task Force members continue to drive forward in their efforts to save the Village’s Wall Street post office from sale, or, at the very least, preserving the 1935 WPA-era building and its beloved Belle Barnceanu mural from destruction.

Task force member Diane Kane, who has worked diligently over the past year to save the building, was rewarded for her efforts when she learned the post office was designated on the National Register of Historic Places on Jan. 11.

“The action would trigger CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) review if any changes were proposed to the building or grounds,” she said. “Certainly demolishing the building would be considered an adverse effect under CEQA, so less-drastic alternatives would need to be considered, as well as appropriate mitigation for any adverse changes to the building, before they could occur.”

Furthermore, its listing on the National Register automatically entitles it to be listed on the state’s historic register as well.

“We believe it is unlikely that the building can be demolished with the designation. It is also made of one-foot solid, poured-in-place, reinforced concrete, with double the required amount of reinforcing steel, so it would be very costly and difficult to demolish it,” said Kane.

The mural, too, is protected under the designation as property of the U.S. government, Kane explained.

“The mural is owned in perpetuity by the federal government and cannot be sold unless Congress changes existing legislation that prohibits its sale,” she said. “USPS would need to prepare a restrictive covenant to protect the building’s significant architectural features and the mural before it could be sold as private property.”

The task force is currently drafting a covenant that might serve as adequate in protecting the building’s prominent features; however, a third-party entity must agree to enforce the covenant. None have yet agreed to do so.

“Should this hurdle be overcome, the covenant could be processed and the building sold,” she said.

Another undertaking the task force hopes to achieve is attaining historic designation of the building from the city’s Register of Historic Resources, for which Kane says the task force will submit an application in the near future.

While the task force’s primary goal continues to be to maintain both the existing building and its postal services within the building, Kane and other members have ensured the building itself will be one step closer to being preserved long into the future.
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