The following opinion piece was written by Lake Elsinore Mayor Robert “Bob Magee.
LAKE ELSINORE, CA – For more than 40 years, the United States Postal Service has rented a small apartment building on Graham Avenue in downtown Lake Elsinore. This site manages three postal codes, PO boxes and allows customers to go daily to the retail counter. Never designed for high volume traffic, vehicles or pedestrians, this installation reached its limits before the turn of the century.
In response to increased demand, USPS has repeatedly renewed and extended its existing lease and moved into an unauthorized mobile office trailer to handle overflow mail – completely ignoring the second city’s service needs at the fastest growing in Riverside County and the State of California. .
In 2003, when I first ran for office, the postal workers showed me around the facility and urged me to support their efforts to build a new post office to meet the needs of our community. Since then, I have constantly lobbied our representatives in Congress as I watched Temecula, Murrieta, Wildomar and Canyon Lake receive new and / or updated post office facilities as Lake Elsinore and its people in full swing. boom had happened again and again.
Finally, in 2018, the USPS contacted Lake Elsinore and informed City Council that we were on the line for the next new post office. In fact, we were told it might be the only one built in California for the foreseeable future. Our business development team took action and for several months many meetings were held, sites were visited and an offer was finally made. The properties (one city-owned and one privately owned) were sequestered in 2019 and the due diligence and design process began in earnest.
In October 2019, USPS representatives told us at a design meeting to “hurry up and choose your name because we’ll be done in 12 months!”
Then, suddenly, without warning in January 2020 (before the pandemic), the USPS canceled the escrow without explanation. The following month, our representative in Congress was informed that plans had changed and that a “new commercial building” was under consideration. It was not until May 2020 that our representative in Congress received a formal response indicating that the construction of a new building had been deemed “cost prohibitive”.
Once again this month, without warning, a paper notice was taped to the front of the Lake Elsinore post office announcing that they would be moving to a new location on Casino Drive. The “new” facility is an abandoned 35-year-old Sizzler building. The USPS will occupy half of this structure leaving the other half vacant. All of this, of course, while using federal privilege to ignore our local codes and design standards while they do whatever they want for another leased facility.
This total lack of respect for the people of our valley reminds us of what a telephone operator did to us at the time. In the early 1990s, then-mayor Gary Washburn threw the new yellow pages off the city council platform because he neglected to list Lake Elsinore on the cover. His act of outrage worked and within weeks a new phone book was distributed throughout our valley.
With phone books out of fashion, it’s time to send a message to the United States Postal Service. They cannot continue to crush us. President Biden has just received House approval for his Build Back Better program and if approved by the Senate, he will send billions of federal dollars into the universe to improve infrastructure. Shouldn’t the second fastest growing city in the 10th largest county in the largest state in the Union with a growing and ethnically diverse population justify a new post office? Surely that cannot yet be “cost prohibitive”.
Rehabilitating an old restaurant into a small retail service is no better rebuilding. We deserve more!
Robert “Bob” Magee
Mayor, Town of Lake Elsinore