Citizens voice need for downtown post office

01/12/17 By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen, Vallejo Times-Herald

If the United States Postal Service is as responsive to public opinion as representatives say they are, the temporary post office at 629 Marin Street in downtown Vallejo will become a permanent location, likely within six months.

Anyone with an opinion on the matter is urged to put it in writing and mail it to Dean Cameron, the postal service real estate specialist who ran a meeting Wednesday on the issue at the new Valle Vista and Couch streets Vallejo Main Post Office.

At least a couple dozen Vallejo residents joined several Postal Service employees at the meeting, convened to discuss a permanent replacement for the USPS’ Station A – known locally as the Amador Street post office – which was closed after suffering damage in the 2014 South Napa Earthquake.

A temporary post office opened soon afterward at the corner of Marin and Virginia streets downtown – a placement that seems to be popular among residents, at least the ones at Wednesday’s meeting. In fact, when asked if anyone in the group wished not to see that site become permanent, no hands rose.

Vallejo resident Mike Pendergast, who said he was at the meeting representing the downtown law firm he works for, questioned the wisdom of having the downtown post office closed on Saturdays, the busiest day of the week for downtown, at least in part because of the weekly Farmers Market. He also expressed concern that a final decision may already have been made and the meeting and that a call for letters was just a procedural formality, a suggestion Cameron denied.

“We can’t by law name a permanent facility before we’ve had a chance to get public input,” he said. “That’s what this meeting is for. We encourage public communication, especially from those with specific sites in mind, to mail them to me. I can’t emphasize enough how important that is.”

Cameron related a story about how a petition helped Santa Clarita get a post office where residents wanted one.

Several people said a significant older population and many artists living downtown have transportation issues making getting to a post office outside of downtown, problematic. At least one person noted that same issue may have helped explain a smaller-than-expected turn-out among those demographics at Wednesday’s meeting – something Cameron acknowledged, though he said that comparatively speaking, Wednesday’s meeting was well attended. Several others mentioned the post office as a main feature of a revitalizing downtown.

Wherever the USPS decides to put the permanent new Station A, it will be bounded to the north by Illinois Street, by Pennsylvania Street to the south, Tuolumne Street to the east and Mare Island Way to the west. Cameron noted the Marin Street site is within those boundaries, and is definitely in the running.

Wherever the new site lands, it will have more services than the Marin Street site does now, he said, in response to a question by meeting participant Rick Duran. The permanent site will have access to 24-hour services, better post office boxes and other services, for which funds have already been allocated, Cameron said.

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“It’s extremely important that we have a post office in the downtown,” Duran said, adding that an outdoor mailbox would also be nice – a suggestion that received a loud positive response. Cameron explained, though, that the Postal Service has been systematically removing those nationwide because of crime. A possible mailbox outside City Hall is under discussion, however, he said.

Postal Service officials are “well aware” of Vallejoan’s “loud and clear” desire for a downtown post office, Cameron said. In fact, Vice Mayor Robert McConnell, who was at the meeting, said the City Council plans to officially weigh in on the matter at its next meeting.

“We want to keep it in the downtown area,” he said.

During Wednesday’s meeting, people expressed concern over long lines at the post office, and a lack of post office locations at the far ends of town, to which Cameron noted the so-called “village post office” sites, that offer limited postal services from inside various businesses. There’s at least one of those in Vallejo already, on Tennessee Street.

Wednesday’s meeting kicks off a 30-day period after which Postal Service officials will weigh all the input, narrow down the options for a new Station A, and make a final decision, Cameron said.

“Within six months, if a new Station A is not already open for business, at least, we’ll know where it’s going to be,” he said.