Post office declared historical, but not off the chopping block yet
by Dave Schwab
Jul 03, 2013 | 713 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The city’s Historic Resources Board (HRB) voted unanimously June 27 to designate La Jolla Post Office as a local historical resource protecting its architectural integrity, but also perhaps clearing the way for its ultimate sale.

It was the latest wrinkle in the year-and-a-half-long battle by Save Our La Jolla Post Office Task Force to preserve the community’s 78-year-old Depression-era mail facility at 1140 Wall St.

On March 22, the U.S. Postal Service posted a notice on the La Jolla building stating plans for the facility to be relocated “as close to the current site as possible.”

HRB designated the Works Progress Administration (WPA) La Jolla postal facility, built in 1929 in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, as a historical resource with a period of significance of 1935 to 1960. Also designated historical was an interior lobby mural, “Scenic View of the Village,” painted by Belle Baranceanu in 1935-36.

In January, the task force succeeded in getting the post office designated on the National Register of Historic Places, automatically entitling it to being listed on the state’s historic register, as well.

Task force chairwoman Leslie Davis said HRB’s decision to declare the post office historically significant at the local level clears the way for the U.S. Postal Service’s next logical move.

“Our belief is today the Postal Service will consider this (historical designation) a closure, allowing them to officially put that post office up for sale,” she said. “It doesn’t allow them to consummate a sale, but certainly allows them to get all the way into escrow. It just couldn’t close escrow.”

La Jolla Historical Society executive director Heath Fox hailed HRB’s decision as a milestone in community preservation.

“The post office is very important to the heritage of the community … When it was built, how it was built, the sense of it being part of the Depression WPA program, the contributions it makes to both the economy and the culture of the Village — all are important and why [preserving it is] a good fight,” Fox said.

Davis added the only thing preventing the USPS now from putting the property up for sale is “telling us where they’re going to relocate.”

If and when the building is listed for sale, Davis said she believes “the U.S. Postal Service will not say a price, but rather will ask, ‘What would you buy it for?’”

She said it was her understanding that the postal service would be asking for a short-term, five-year lease, and that there’s still a possibility the building could be sold and a portion of it leased back for postal use.

“That use could be there in a different way. Maybe not the postal service but a postal annex,” she said.

Fox said the opportunity for the community to purchase the post office building remains open.

“There are a lot of people in the community that would contribute toward purchasing the post office if it’s going to be used for a community benefit,” he said.

Comments from HRB board members June 27 on La Jolla Post Office’s application to be declared locally historical were all positive.

“The draft (historical) resolution spelled out here is filed with the County Recorder and any property owner that buys this building will know that,” said Priscilla Ann Berge, HRB’s historian.
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