By Greta Cobar
The Post Office headquarters in Washington DC is currently considering the appeals they received to stop the sale of the historic Venice post office. Linda Lucks, President of the Venice Neighborhood Council, Janice Hahn, our newly elected congressperson, the Venice Town Council and other concerned Venetians sent in appeals asking that postal services remain in the post office as opposed to moving them to what is now the post office annex.
According to Richard Maher, spokesperson for the postal service, there is no date set for reaching a decision and he would not comment on the criteria used to reach that decision.
The majority of the community is vehemently against the sale of the historic building, the only New Deal-era Works Projects Administration structure surviving in Venice. It also houses the “Story of Venice,” a mural created by well-known California Modernist artist Edward Biberman.
The building is now for sale for 5 million under the excuse of loss of revenue from postal services. The postal service says the buyer would have to sign covenants protecting the property as a historical building, but those covenants have easily been broken in the past, as was the case with the historical hotels downtown.
Two Biberman murals were removed from the downtown post office and court house in the past. In the mid 80s, when Biberman himself wanted to see the removed murals, they were nowhere to be found. Most likely they were destroyed. According to Suzanne Zada, Art Executor of the Biberman Estate, removing and moving a mural will inevitably cause significant damage to the art piece and possible loss.
Created in 1941, the mural in our post office depicts the view from that location at that point. Abbot Kinney is pictured between his idyllic Venice architecture and the oil wells that existed in the Peninsula. Murals originated during a time when illiteracy was prevalent, and they served the function of educating the population. It was therefore imperative that they be in plain sight of the citizens, such as in a post office. Changing the building into something other than a public building would impede the public’s access to the mural.
Venetians are against moving the postal services to the annex, as that would increase the traffic, decrease the number of parking spots, and have a negative environmental impact on the area surrounding the annex, all of which is residential.
Furthermore, according to a postal worker who chose to remain anonymous, currently there is no vacant space available in the annex. Moving the operations and remodeling the annex would carry an expense probably close to the price set on the post office building itself. According to Ruth Goldway, Chairperson of the Postal Regulatory Commission and a Venice resident, if such a move were to take place, the service, appearance and parking provided at the annex would have to measure up to the standards of the community.
It wasn’t too long ago that the annex itself was for sale, first for 20 millions and then for 16. Although offers were made, the building was ultimately not sold because another building was not found to accommodate the sorting that now takes place in the annex. As Jim Smith pointed out at one of the Neighborhood Council meetings that took place concerning the fate of our beloved post office, it would make more sense to move the sorting operations for Venice to the current post office building, send all other sorting operations to their own neighborhoods, and sell the annex. It would generate a lot more money, it wouldn’t carry the strong opposition of the community, and it would be an easier sale because the annex does not have historical status, which might deter buyers, especially with the strong demands that the community has for the preservation of the mural.
As opposed to some other issues such as RVs or homelessness, this issue has really united our community, as we all want to save our post office, which, as Don Geagan said, “is more than just a post office. It is the heart of our community.” Indeed, all roads in Venice do lead to the post office. Hopefully it will stay that way.