Workers at Santa Barbara’s historic downtown post office were notified by Postal Service bosses that their current digs could soon be up for sale but that their service — and their jobs — would be maintained elsewhere. Currently, the post office only needs 6,000 square feet of the 50,000-square-foot property at 836 Anacapa Street.
Previously, postal authorities considered plans to lease out the excess square footage, but recently concluded it made more sense to sell the entire building outright. While the notice was sent out this week, it could take as long as eight months to finalize any decision to sell. Postal authorities stressed that this decision is not part of the nationwide effort to cut costs by closing postal branches.
What could go in place of the post office remains to be seen. The building, built as part of the Work Projects Administration during the Depression, is a nationally registered historic landmark, meaning that no alterations can be made to its facade. A year ago, City Hall administrators toured the property with an eye toward purchasing it after postal administrators notified them the property might be in play. At that time, there was significant interest in converting the post office into a new police headquarters.
Making the post office site less than ideal, however, was the lack of parking spaces — only 40 — and seismic concerns. Police structures must meet the very highest seismic safety standards, and it’s uncertain whether the downtown post office meets those. Back then, there was also loose talk that a well-heeled foundation might be interested in moving in or perhaps some successful corporation in search of new trophy headquarters could set up shop.
Where a new post office will settle in downtown also remains the subject of speculation. According to Santa Barbara’s fertile urban mythology, the current site was chosen at the behest of former News-Press publisher and owner Thomas Storke, in part to obliterate a onetime brothel his father allegedly frequented. Storke’s father, Charles, had coincidentally served as postmaster for Santa Barbara, then a politically powerful position, as well as state senator and mayor.