On Thursday afternoon, the United States Postal Service (USPS) held a meeting to discuss closure of its Victoria Court location, which has offered P.O. boxes and other mailing services for more than a quarter-century. The event was part of an ongoing survey that the USPS is conducting to gauge public reaction to such a possibility. It’s held such meetings before, the last time locally being in 2009 at the Ellwood location in Goleta, which was subsequently closed after only eight people showed up. But on Thursday, there were more than 50 people in attendance, hoping to save their neighborhood post office.
“You guys are fantastic,” said Bill Villa, the president of Santa Barbara’s American Postal Workers Union chapter. “I have been to these things before and only eight people showed up.”
The issue appears to be a financial one, as the USPS leases the Victoria Court location but owns the downtown main branch, which is only 0.6 miles away. The difference between the two is the distinct neighborhoods served by the smaller Victoria Court branch, the ease of parking, and its general efficiency.
The community came out prepared despite the fact that they had reportedly only been informed of the meeting on Tuesday, by a sign so small that one man had gone home to print a bigger one and put it up. Nearly half the crowd was elderly, for this branch serves two nearby retirement homes, and they explained that walking to the main office was not an option due to their age and health. Many others had had P.O. boxes here for 25-plus years, and they recounted stories of past employees, all of whomknew them by name. Several other business owners from Victoria Court and around the area were present, explaining that they wouldn’t have the time to walk their parcels to the main branch or even drive there, since parking is such a problem around the Anacapa and Canon Perdido location. Instead, the business owners said they would rather walk three blocks to the UPS or FedEx offices, which are the USPS’s main competitors.
The three postmasters present took note of these arguments, repeatedly stressing the fact that this was a “survey and not a determination.” Were such a determination to be made, the location would be closed in four to five months. Surveys had been reportedly given out to patrons of the post office, but not sent to the wider community, although many patrons questioned this, saying “Why? You are the post office!” The surveys themselves failed take into account the parking advantage of this location over the main branch and seemed unsatisfactory to many people present as they did not accurately represent the role the Victoria post office played for the community. Villa again nicely summed it up when he said that the post office’s mission is to serve the community, not to make a profit.
The surveys are due September 7. You can pick them up at the Victoria Court branch along with an envelope to mail them in. The citizens present felt that this alone was insufficient and spoke about writing to their congressmember and state representatives, which all are welcome to do. “It does make a difference,” said Postmaster Jennifer T. Vo, who added that the meeting was a positive development in saving this location. “I do have a voice in this and I will be taking this back.” Vo said there might be another meeting after all the surveys have been sent in, but the amount of people who turned up, and their obvious care about the outcome of their local branch, sends a powerful message.