Jones Mortuary could be uprooted for office building

Owner plans to sell the East Palo Alto institution located in a prime commercial area

A 14-story building at Donohoe Street and University Avenue is one of three proposed office developments under review by the city of East Palo Alto. Rendering by Calvano Development, courtesy city of East Palo Alto.

East Palo Alto's only funeral home, Jones Mortuary, could be razed and replaced by a multistory office building, according to city documents.

The 47-year-old mortuary, located in the city's Gateway District, is a prime retail-and-office location that includes Amazon offices, Ikea and Ravenswood 101 Shopping Center.

Mortuary owner and company president Charles Jones sent the city an authorization letter on May 18, 2017, allowing Calvano Development to pursue development plans for the property, according to documents filed with the city's Economic Development Department. Calvano, a San Francisco-based private development company, approached the city in January of this year regarding three potential office-development plans for the 1.2-acre site, which is located at 660 Donohoe St. Jones "made a conscious decision to sell his property to a qualified Bay Area developer to assure his property would be redeveloped to the highest and best use," the letter noted.

Calvano's three proposals include a 14-story, 280,000-square-foot office building (183 feet tall); 11-story, 180,000-square-foot building (138 feet tall); or a five-story, 90,000-square-foot building (75 feet tall). Architectural renderings show the 14-story building would have eight floors of offices stacked on top of eight levels of garage space, two of which would be below ground, that would accommodate more than 720 vehicles.

There is currently a 75-foot height limit in the Gateway District under existing zoning and land-use policies, city planning and housing manager Guido Persicone said.

The 14-story building would generate about $700,000 annually, or $35 million over the building's 50-year lifespan, in revenue for the city under Measure HH, the parcel tax on commercial developments greater than 25,000 square feet passed by voters last November. At 11 stories, the building would produce $450,000 annually or $22.5 million over 50 years. The smallest plan -- a five-story building -- would produce $225,000 annually or $11.25 million over 50 years, according to the proposal.

The two largest plans would require the City Council's approval of a negotiated development agreement with community benefits. Public benefits for the 14-story building could include a transportation demand management (TDM) plan to reduce traffic impacts; cash donations for water infrastructure development; and contributions to improve public transit, the public right-of-way and sidewalks. An 11-story proposal would add a TDM plan and donations for water infrastructure, according to the proposal.

Calvano Development President Mark Calvano declined to discuss the project due to the project being in its very preliminary stage. Jones did not return a request for comment.

East Palo Alto Assistant City Manager Sean Charpentier also stressed that the project is only at the earliest stages of consideration and planning; there will be public hearings as the proposal is better refined. City planning staff said they have returned the proposal to the developer for modifications, including a reduced height for the project.

At 14 stories, the proposed project would be the tallest in the city thus far, but not as tall as some buildings in neighboring Palo Alto. The Palo Alto Business Center at 437 Cowper St. off of University Avenue is 15 stories and 237 feet tall. The 13-story The Marc apartment complex at 501 Forest Ave. is 152 feet tall. The city's two tallest buildings are at Palo Alto Square at the corner of El Camino Real and Page Mill Road, which are each 143 feet tall, according to online building database Emporis.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to state the city's limit is 75 feet for the Gateway zone, but the City Council has the discretion to change the limit in certain instances under the city's general plan.


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1 person likes this
Posted by ABC
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 24, 2019 at 6:53 pm

Finally..... eye soaring...

12 people like this
Posted by Latrelle
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 24, 2019 at 8:01 pm

Could they incorporate the Jones Mortuary somewhere inside the new office building?

16 people like this
Posted by Confused
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 24, 2019 at 9:47 pm

As a East Palo Alto homeowner, I’m not sure what scares me more, the increased traffic to get in and out of East Palo Alto with this project or the City of East Palo Alto mismanaging the revenue money this project would generate.

Like this comment
Posted by Ad Capone
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 24, 2019 at 10:15 pm

Grew up on 80s Bay Area Hip-hop, Epa had some of the best rappers around. Many talked about sending the enemy to Jones Mortuary. Totally Insane was prob the best of em. East Pally Alto, where money grows on trees.

11 people like this
Posted by EPA resident
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 25, 2019 at 6:20 am

Traffic is already horrible during peak times. EPA is not big enough for all of that. I believe city should wait and see how things turns out with the new apartments approved.
Right after 4PM I don't even want to leave my place because it will take me forever to get just to 101 can you imagine if we have more bldgs?
There is NO more space for huge developments. Only if city was bigger and there was lots and lots of free land!!!!
Or more exists to get to 101 or 84 not just University!!!!

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 25, 2019 at 7:24 am

2020 Bay Road project: Web Link
"Towers reaching eight stories tall have been proposed as office buildings, which would add thousands of high-tech workers — and traffic — to the city."

Any word on the EPA Planning Commission meeting last night? Looks like five new 130-foot buildings out by Cooley Landing. 1.4 million square feet of Class A high tech office. Over 4300 parking spaces.

1 person likes this
Posted by car
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 25, 2019 at 9:22 am

Where is the parking? Underground?

Like this comment
Posted by Paul C.
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 25, 2019 at 12:03 pm

No parking should be allowed. Biking or Lyft which connects to all local public transit nicely.

Web Link

2 people like this
Posted by Latrelle
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 25, 2019 at 12:04 pm

> Could they incorporate the Jones Mortuary somewhere inside the new office building?

Upstairs or downstairs? The top floor would be closer to heaven but the mortuary would probably need a private elevator in order to discreetly transfer the deceased following the services.

Rolling a gurney through the front lobby would raise some eyebrows.

2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2019 at 1:23 pm

Posted by Latrelle, a resident of East Palo Alto

>> Could they incorporate the Jones Mortuary somewhere inside the new office building?

The typical office cubicle is cold enough that they should be able to park the bodies in new 26 square feet cubicles: Web Link No one will notice the difference between "stiff" and "staff": Web Link It is well known managers with MBAs prefer this type of employee-- they don't talk back, don't demand respect or "empowerment", and cost so little.

Regarding the building and its potentially quite large employment: I'm not worried about it. If everybody drives to work, it should -improve- traffic in Palo Alto since so many cars will be blocked out of taking the Dumbarton and 92 or 237 to 101. Palo Alto commuters from far afield will either have to take Caltrain, or, drive in at 5 AM and leave after 9 PM.

3 people like this
Posted by Bebe
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 25, 2019 at 5:33 pm

More office space because everyone knows there's already enough housing, right, every other home you see has rooms rented out which adds to the cars parked on the street and in the yards, because there isn't enough housing. The light tree expansion is good but from what I've read they already have a waiting list to get in. Every time there's a new project it's always some high rise office space, look around I see plenty of unoccupied office space. I get it, office space brings a big paycheck and once you add in the employees, traffic it will hardly be worth it because all of the office space business employees probably will live outside the city.

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 25, 2019 at 5:59 pm

^ "all of the office space business employees probably will live outside the city"
2020 Bay Road project says 90% of its 5000 employees may be from outside the community.

Like this comment
Posted by Tuasosopo
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 26, 2019 at 11:58 am

Charles Jones should maintain a mortuary inside the new office building.

EPA residents need a local funeral parlor without having to go out of the area.

Like this comment
Posted by I love it
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 27, 2019 at 9:35 am

Great idea - Let's get it built. Now what to do with that open lot directly across the road by the freeway exit? Why don't they move the Chevron gas station there?

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