SANTA CLARA -- Residents are pushing back against a proposal to close Santa Clara's historic downtown post office -- part of the U.S. Postal Service's effort to cut costs -- and move services to a building 2 miles away.
In advance of what could be a testy meeting between residents and postal officials Monday evening, the Franklin Square Business Association has circulated a petition to save the building. Built in 1933, it's a survivor of a once vibrant but now nearly nonexistent downtown, which the city hopes to rebuild.
"This is a landmark," said Sandra Polley, 57, who was raised in Santa Clara and lives near the post office at 1200 Franklin Mall. She and husband Brennan have had a post office box there for more than 10 years. The post office is the anchor of the mall, a disparate collection of small ethnic restaurants, beauty and barber shops, and insurance and real estate businesses.
Brian Fox, who was mailing a packet on Sunday, said closing the post office would matter to him. "When I come during the week, there are only two or three people in line ahead," he said. "The wait time is never very long."
The post office is also vital to many in Santa Clara's faint shadow of a downtown. "If you take out the post office, a lot of businesses will be affected," said Jesse Zapanta, co-owner of the Filipino restaurant Toppings Tree, across Jackson Street from the post office.
"The post office is absolutely an anchor of downtown," Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews said. The City Council has asked that it stay open for business.
The Spanish-style building is the only survivor of Santa Clara's historic downtown, which fell victim to the city's redevelopment craze of the 1960s. Like its neighbors, Santa Clara sought to modernize by bulldozing traditional business districts and focusing retail in shopping malls. The post office building was spared because it was owned by the federal government.
"It's ironic this last little piece of our history is again at risk by the same agency that was responsible for saving it," Matthews said.
The Postal Service will hold a meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at Santa Clara City Hall to discuss the proposed shuttering and moving of services to the John Sanchez Annex, at 1451 Walsh Ave.
"This is only a proposal," said Postal Service spokesman Augustine Ruiz. "We've got a long way to go before we put it up for sale."
If postal services do move, the office's and box holder's ZIP code will remain the same, Ruiz said, and the Postal Service hopes to retain all post office box numbers.
Facing competition from the Internet and a dramatically lower volume in first-class mail, the Postal Service also labors under a congressional mandate to prefund decades of future retiree health care benefits. Forced to cut costs, the Postal Service has turned to closing post offices -- raising an outcry from Berkeley to Palo Alto to Burlingame.
And to raise revenue, last week the chairman of the postal Board of Governors, Mickey Barnett, said the Postal Service is seeking a 3-cent increase in the cost of first-class stamps, to 49 cents.
Part of identity
The Postal Service knows that relocating services involves more than just closing a building, Ruiz said. "It's a part of a city's identity," he said. "You don't see people upset when a FedEx or UPS office is closed."
The problem is, Ruiz said, is "we just have a lot of property around the country that no longer meets our needs."
If the post office does move, the city would like the new owners to complement a planned art and history district, being planned with Santa Clara University along Franklin Street.
"There's a desire to create a sense of culture and destination," Matthews said.
In the meantime, business owners in the area said they haven't attracted much city attention.
"All the focus is on the (49ers) stadium," Zapanta said. He said if the city really wants to revitalize downtown, it needs to preserve some government services there. But nobody from City Hall "asks us how we are doing or what we need."
If the post office closes, "I am really going to miss it," said Brennan Polley. Even if only 2 miles away, the proposed replacement is not convenient, he said. "I won't be transferring my box."
Contact Sharon Noguchi at 408-271-3775. Follow her at Twitter.com/NoguchiOnK12.
The U.S. Postal Service will accept written comments until Oct. 15 on the proposed relation of the Santa Clara Post Office. Send comments to:
Facilities Implementation - Pacific Area
U.S. Postal Service
1300 Evans Ave. Suite 200
San Francisco, CA 94188-8200