City of Berkeley wins lawsuit with the Postal Service over zoning law involving historic post office

May 15, 2018

The City of Berkeley has won its lawsuit with the Postal Service over the rezoning of the downtown area where the historic post office is located.

The Postal Service filed this action in federal court back in August 2016.  The Postal Service complained that the zoning ordinance enacted by the City of Berkeley in September 2014 had interfered with its efforts to sell the downtown post office.

According to the Postal Service, the zoning overlay was enacted primarily to prevent the sale of the post office, rather than achieving the goal set forth in the ordinance, namely to preserve the historic character of the neighborhood.  One sale fell through as a result of the ordinance, claimed the Postal Service, and the zoning had also diminished the value of the post office for future sales.

In general, zoning often reduces the value of buildings, so the Postal Service didn’t have much of a case on those grounds.  So the Postal Service took that position that the zoning was unconstitutional.  In legal terms, the Postal Service’s case was based on two claims under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.

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