Communities

COUNTY BOARD RATIFIES VALLEY FIRE EMERGENCY PROCLAMATION

By Yvette Urrea Moe, County of San Diego Communications Office

Photo:  The Valley Fire remains 11 percent contained as of 5 p.m. Sept. 9.

September 9, 2020 (Alpine) - The County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Wednesday to ratify the County’s local emergency proclamation issued Sept. 6 for the Valley Fire due to the fire threat and damage, including the loss of at least 20 structures.


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FUNDS STARTED TO HELP INDIVIDUAL VALLEY FIRE FAMILIES REBUILD

By Miriam Raftery

Photos courtesy of GoFundMe, HPWren and ECM News partner 10 News

September 9, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Twenty homes have been lost in the Valley Fire. Friends and family have established GoFundMe accounts for eight of the survivors who lost homes. Jenny Perillo at GoFundMe says seven of these” have been “reviewed by our Trust & Safety team here at GoFundMe.” The eighth was verified by a local news station that interviewed the owner of a horse rescue ranch destroyed by the flames.


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2020 LA MESA CITY COUNCIL VIRTUAL CANDIDATE FORUM SEPT. 23 HOSTED BY METHODIST CHURCH

East County News Service

 
September 9, 2020 (La Mesa) - Six candidates. Two seats. Find out where La Mesa’s City Council candidates stand on important issues.

 

La Mesa First United Methodist Church will host a Virtual La Mesa City Council Candidate Forum on Wednesday, September 23, 2020, at 6:45 p.m. The forum will be held via Zoom and moderated by Pastor Christian DeMent.


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VALLEY FIRE FORCES SCHOOL CLOSURES, CHANGES IN LEARNING OPTIONS AND MEAL DISTRIBUTIONS

Source: San Diego County Office of Education

September 9, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – The San Diego County Office of Education has published these updates on school closures in rural districts or changes in operations due to the  #ValleyFire .


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COUNTY LAUNCHES RECOVERY HOTLINE AND EMAIL FOR VALLEY FIRE: FIREFIGHTERS HOLD BLAZE AS HIGH WINDS ROAR IN THIS MORNING

Humane Society seeks donated items to help evacuated animals; school closures continue in fire-affected areas

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Latest evacuation map as of this morning, per Cal Fire

September 9, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- The County of San Diego has established a Recovery Hotline and email to help all those affected by the Valley Fire, which  firefighters held to 17,565 acres overnight. See map left and an additional Google map updated frequently at https://www.google.com/maps/@32.7156104,-116.6375083,11z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m3!15m2!1m1!1s%2Fg%2F11l4m1gzbr?hl=en.

The fire is now 11% contained; however 20 homes and dozens of outbuildings have been lost. Santa Ana winds roared into the region in the middle of the night, with speeds of 54 degrees recorded at Sill Hill near Descanso, 53 in Alpine, 48 in Hauser Mountain and 45 in Potrero. A high wind warning and red flag warning are both in effect.

Recovery info for fire survivors

The Recovery Hotline, (858) 715-2200, will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and through the upcoming weekend.

The Recovery email, ValleyFireRecovery@sdcounty.ca.gov, will also be answered between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays and through the upcoming weekend.

After this weekend, messages and emails received after hours will be responded to on the next following business day, Mondays through Fridays. Additional wildfire recovery information and guidance will come as the fire is contained.


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FIRE DAMAGES ELECTRIC SYSTEM: SOME RESIDENTS COULD BE WITHOUT POWER FOR A WEEK OR MORE

By Miriam Raftery

September 8, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – The Valley Fire has damaged the electric system across numerous rural communities that may be without power for days. Some communities left sweltering without power since Sept. 5 may not have power restored until Sept. 15 in order to repair fire damage. An additional circuit sustained weather damage to equipment.

The prolonged outage includes some circuits in Alpine, Barrett Lake, Buckman Springs, Campo, Dehesa, Dulzura, Jamul, Lyons Valley, Morena Village,  Potrero, and Rancho Palo Verde. With the 17,000 acre wildfire still burning and Santa Ana winds forecast tonight, the outages imperil residents ability to receive emergency notifications, open electric garage doors to evacuate, or pump water to drink or fight spot fires, unless they own generators.

SDG&E has alerted customers and posted estimated dates of power restoration on its outage webpage at https://www.sdge.com/residential/customer-service/outage-center/outage-map. The communities and circuits impacted are listed below. You can find your circuit on your SDG&E bill.


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POTENTIAL FOR “DANGEROUS SITUATION” TONIGHT AS HIGH WINDS FORECAST TO FAN VALLEY FIRE WESTWARD

 

Update 8:37 p.m.: The fire is now 11% contained and has burned 17,565 acres.  20 habitable structures have been destroyed and 9 more homes damaged; 25 outbuildings have also been lost.

EVACUATION ORDERS:

Lawson Valley • Japatul Valley • Corte Madera Ranch • Lyons Valley • Carveacre • WiseCarver

EVACUATION WARNINGS:

Pine Valley • Descanso • Alpine • Viejas • Dulzura • Barrett Junction • Potrero

ROAD CLOSURES:

Japatul Rd. & Lyons Valley Rd./Japatul Rd. • Japatul Rd @ Tavern Rd/Dehesa Rd • Lyons Valley Rd & Honey Springs Rd •

Wisecarver Lane @ Wisecarver Truck Trail • Skyline Truck Trail & Lawson Valley • Japatul Rd at Via Asoleado (also at Sequan Truck Trail) • Corral Canyon at Buckman Springs (Buckman Springs is open) • High Glen Rd • Hidden Glen Rd

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photos by Henri Migala and Miriam Raftery

El Capitan High School in Lakeside opened as new shelter for evacuees

Photo, left by Henri Migala: Cal Fire/County Fire Chief Tony Mecham briefs Supervisor Dianne Jacob and supervisorial candidate Steve Vaus after press conference today at Viejas

September 8, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – At a press conference today held at the Viejas events center in Alpine, fire chiefs and county officials warned the public that Santa Ana winds with gusts up to 50 miles an hour are forecast to hit starting at 8 p.m. tonight – with the strongest winds in the middle of the night. Though firefighters have been working tirelessly battling blames and bulldozing containment lines, prioritizing the fire’s western flank, leaders warn that the winds will fan the fire westward towards Jamul and San Diego.

“The potential is out there for a very dangerous situation,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob (photo, left), who added that she hopes and prays we don’t see another major firestorm like the destructive Laguna fire in 1970, Cedar Fire in 2003 or the 2007 firestorms.


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VALLEY FIRE THREATENS CORTE MADERA, PINE VALLEY AS FIRE BURNS EASTWARD

By Miriam Raftery

Photo by Ryan Grothe: 757 air tanker drops fire retardant on Valley Fire

September 7, 2020  (San Diego’s East County) – On the third night of the Valley Fire, the wind-driven fire continues to spread rapidly, burning eastward towards communication towers at Mt. Pinos Mountain and the community of Corte Madera.  View real-time mapping


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SAN DIEGO FOUNDATION ACTIVATES REGIONAL DISASTER FUND TO SUPPORT VALLEY WILDFIRE RESPONSE AND RECOVERY; DONATIONS SOUGHT

By Miriam Raftery

 

September 7, 2020 (San Diego) -- The San Diego Foundation today activated the San Diego Regional Disaster Fund to collect and manage charitable funds for response and recovery from the Valley Wildfire currently impacting the Japatul Valley, Carveacre, Lawson Valley, Wood Valley, Lyons Valley and Deerhorn Valley in San Diego’s East County. Donations can be made online at SDFoundation.org/DisasterFund.


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MILITARY JOINS BATTLE AGAINST VALLEY FIRE: NEW EVACUATION ORDERS ISSUED

Santa Ana winds forecast tomorrow as firefighters race to contain firestorm

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left: Fire encroaching on Rock Canyon winery yesterday

Update 6:25 p.m. Cal Fire reports the fire has grown significantly, charring17,345 acres but is now 3% contained.

Update 3:45 p.m.  New mandatory evacuations have been given for Corte Madera south of Pine Valley.

September 7, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Dawn brought relief for many East County residents who evacuated or sheltered in place during the night, while firefighters limited the Valley Fire’s spread. View live-mapping of the fire perimeter at this link.

But today also brings new evacuations at Corral Canyon and Bobcat Meadows in Cleveland National Forest due to an immediate threat.  As a precaution, all camgrpounds in the federal forest will be closed for one week.

Ken, a homeless man camped at the Boulder Creek Canyon who has lived for years at campgrounds in the federal forest, emailed ECM that he was given just two hours to get out this Labor Day holiday.  "I told the person I had been drinking and WOULD NOT drive drunk nor leave my home," he said.  "I said I will go when I am sober or they can arrest me before then...Apparently there is NO evacuation area to the EAST. I have to go out in the sun or go to Steele Canyon."

“Fire growth is impacting the Lawson Valley and Carveacres areas. There is an immediate threat to Loveland Reservoir and the surrounding water shed,” Cleveland National Forest reports today.  As of this morning, the blaze has consumed 10,258 acres, 408 more than yesterday.

Though the fire remains just 1% contained, there is some good news.

“Because of the proactive efforts of Cal Fire, today we will be exercising the agreement we have with the Navy Third Fleet and the First Marine Expeditionary Force to utilize military aircraft on the fire,” Cal Fire Captain and Public Information Officer Kendal Bortisser reports.

The bad news is that the National Weather Service predicts Santa Ana winds will sweep into our region tomorrow through Thursday, with gusts up to 50 miles per hour, along with continuing hot, dry conditions though slightly cooler than the record-shattering temperatures this weekend that hit 114 degrees in some of the fire-affected areas.


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VIEW VIDEO OF LA MESA CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES FORUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To view video of candidate forum full size, click here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tH6GkbU9ayo&t=3085s

Note: You can now view separate video interviews with Councilwoman Kristine Alessio and Laura Lothian, who were unable to attend the forum, here:  https://www.eastcountymagazine.org/view-interviews-la-mesa-council-candi...

September 6, 2020 (La Mesa) -- At East County Magazine's virtual forum for La Mesa City Council Candidates on Thursday, candidates offered their ideas for addressing the compelling issues facing the city including police/racial justice/public safety issues in the wake of protests and a riot, downtown redevelopment, housing, homelessness, budget priorities, COVID-19 relief and more.

Three of the six candidates running participated in the forum: Councilman Colin Parent, as well as challengers Allan Durden and Jack Shu. Mark Papenfuss said he had a family emergency but will schedule a Zoom interview soon. Laura Lothian and Kristine Alessio had schedule conflicts but have provided individual interviews posted above .

Below is information on all candidates running, listed in alphabetical order:


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INMATE CHARGED IN MARCH MURDER OF SPRING VALLEY MAN

By Miriam Raftery
 
September 5, 2020 (Spring Valley) – Alex Anthony Martinez, 31, of Spring Valley has been charged with the murder of Manual Arrechea Chavira, 45, of Spring Valley. Chavira died on March 14 after suffering a head injury in a fight the evening before, according to Lieutenant Thomas Siever with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department. 

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SANTEE COUNCIL AND MAYORAL CANDIDATES FORUM SET FOR SEPT. 10

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left to right: Mayor John Minto and challenger Stephen Houlahan; City Council candidates Samm Hurst and Dustin Trotter

September 5, 2020 (Santee) – East County Magazine will host a forum on Thursday, Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. for candidates running for Santee Mayoral and City Council races. To date, Mayor John Minto and mayoral challenger Stephen Houlahan have both agreed to participate.  In the race for an open City Council seat, Samm Hurst has confirmed she will participate; Dustin Trotter said he had a scheduling conflict for the forum. All candidates in both races have also now done separate interviews with ECM reporter Mike Allen, which will be posted soon.

The forum will be virtual on Zoom. You can watch the livestream at https://www.Facebook.com/eastcountymagazine and send questions to editor@eastcountymagazine.org. A videotape of the forum will be posted later on www.EastCountyMagazine.org and the forum will also be broadcast at a later date on KNSJ radio.

East County Magazine thanks the #FacebookJournalismProject for a grant to help support our virtual candidate forums during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Below are details on the candidates (listed in alphabetical order for each seat) and key issues:


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CAR AND BRUSH FIRE QUICKLY STAMPED OUT BY FIREFIGHTERS NEAR CAMPO

Story and photos by Jonathan Goetz

September 5, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- A car fire was reported at 10:55 a.m. this morning, Saturday Labor Day weekend 2020, between Pine Valley and Boulder Oaks (just west of the Campo turn-off from Interstate 8). Firefighters were on the scene when East County Wildfire and Emergency Alerts arrived an hour later. 


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BORREGO RESIDENT KILLED IN ROLLOVER CRASH

By Miriam Raftery
 
September 4, 2020 (Borrego Springs) – A 52-year-old man from Borrego Springs died at the scene of a single-vehicle crash yesterday.  
 
The victim was driving a 2006 Ford F-150 pickup truck southbound on Borrego Springs Road north of State Route 78 around 4:11 p.m. when the vehicle crossed the center line and drifted across northbound lanes, then off the east edge of the road.  The pickup then struck a sign post and overturned.
 
“It is believed the driver was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the collision. Unfortunately, the driver succumbed to his injuries at the scene,” says Officer Travis Garrow with the California Highway Patrol.  

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BODY FOUND NEAR LAKE MORENA CAMPGROUND MAY BE MISSING HIKER, 79

Story and photo by Miriam Raftery
 
September 3, 2020 (Lake Morena) – On September 1st, the San Diego Sheriff’s search and rescue team was activated to help locate a missing 79-year-old Asian man whose family had not heard from in the prior four days.  He had been staying at the campgrounds and was an avid hiker.
 
Yesterday, searchers found a dead body of a man approximately six miles from the campground, says Lieutenant Damon Blankenberger.

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SHOW TIME! EAST COUNTY MOVIE THEATERS REOPEN

 

By Miriam Raftery

September 3, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – The  magic of movies on the big screen returns after months of shutdowns due to COVID-19. 

Two major theater chains, Reading Cinemas International (NASDAQ: RDI) and Regal, announced reopenings this week of cinemas including several locations in East County (La Mesa, El Cajon and Rancho San Diego) featuring long-awaited new-release films.

Both chains have also rolled out new procedures to protect guests  in compliance with CDC health guidelines and state safety regulations.


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LA MESA RENTAL ASSISTANCE GRANT PROGRAM APPLICATIONS CLOSED

Source: City of La Mesa

September 2, 2020 (La Mesa) -- Due to high demand for La Mesa's Rental Assistance Program, Home Start has closed their application form as of 6:00 p.m. on Monday, August 31.

Residents whose applications are currently under review will be contacted by a Home Start representative within the next two weeks for follow up.


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THIEVES STEAL OUTDOOR DINING SETUPS AT HACIENDA RESTAURANT

By Rebecca Jefferis Williamson

(Photo by Rebecca Jefferis Williamson)

Sept.2, 2020 (El Cajon) These were the worst of times and the worst of times, to repurpose author Charles Dicken’s classic phrase. After first suffering closure due to COVID-19,  Hacienda Casa Blanca Restaurant & Cantina in El Cajon moved outdoors into a parking lot as well as on the patio. But soon, they faced yet another setback—theft of their outdoor tents, tables and chairs.

Cindy Gomez and her husband, Tony, run the business. Cindy Gomez says the thefts occurred on two separate occasions, the first around three weeks ago, and the second about a week later.

In the first theft, security cameras revealed “two men, who appeared to be homeless men, removing the tents, one umbrella that was left outside by mistake, and a chair,” Gomez told ECM in an e-mailed response to questions.


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LA MESA VILLAGE ASSOCIATION TO IMPLEMENT DECORATIVE FLAGPOLE BANNERS IN DOWNTOWN LA MESA VILLAGE

Source: La Mesa Village Association
 
September 2, 2020 (La Mesa) – The La Mesa Village Association (LMVA) has announced that they are coordinating the installation of lamp post banners along La Mesa Blvd. between Acacia and 4th Street in the heart of downtown La Mesa to further promote the City of La Mesa, local downtown businesses and events as well as bring additional beautification to the Village.

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COUNTY HOSTS MEETING ON PROPOSED ALL-WHEEL PARK IN SPRING VALLEY SEPT. 10

By Miriam Raftery
 
September 1, 2020 (Spring Valley ) – The County will host an online public meeting on Thursday, September 10 from 6-7 p.m. on a proposed “Calavo Park” all-wheel park at 2920 Calavo Drive in Spring Valley.  
 
A county announcement of the event states, “We need your input to determine what features will help make this a best-in-class recreation destination. Join us for an online conversation with park staff, park designers and other influencers.”

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2020 RAMONA ART & WINE FESTIVAL EXPANDS TO 3-DAY PROGRESSIVE EVENT NOV. 6-8

East County News Service

 

September 1, 2020 (Ramona) -- The 8th annual Ramona Art & Wine Festival is expanding to a progressive Festival from one day at one location, to three days at six Ramona wineries, with wine tasting, gourmet bites, silent auction, and art and vendor exhibitors at each participating winery on Friday to Sunday, November 6th to 8th, 2020.


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LA MESA POLICE RELEASE DETAILS ON DETENTION OF STUDENT WITH DOWNS SYNDROME THAT PROMPTED SUIT AGAINST CITY

By Miriam Raftery
 
September 1, 2020 (La Mesa) – The La Mesa Police Department today released details on the brief detention  and handcuffing of an 11-year-old Murray Manor student with Downs Syndrome on August 29 of last year. The child’s parents have filed a lawsuit against the city and the La Mesa Spring-Valley school district, alleging that their son was traumatized.

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MOTORCYCLIST KILLED IN ALPINE CRASH

East County News Service
 
August 31, 2020 (Alpine) – A motorcyclist died traveling north on Lyons Valley Road south of Japatul Valley Road in Alpine yesterday around 1:38 p.m. went off the roadway, struck a rock and plummeted 50 feet down a hillside.

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CONSTRUCTION TO START SOON ON NEW RESIDENTIAL AND RETAIL IN DOWNTOWN EL CAJON

By Miriam Raftery
 
August 31, 2020 (El Cajon) – Construction is set to begin in September on a new housing and retail building at 101 Main Street on the corner of Main and Magnolia in downtown El Cajon.  

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HOMEFED YANKS FANITA RANCH PLAN BEFORE COUNCIL VOTE

 

By Mike Allen

 

Cancelling Magnolia extension, as proposed, would remove key evacuation route for wildfires, critic says

August 30, 2020 (Santee) -- Fanita Ranch, the 3,000 unit residential project planned for Santee’s northwest quadrant, is being delayed by developer HomeFed Corp. to make some significant changes, including removing an extension of a key arterial serving the project.

In a letter posted on the Fanita Ranch Facebook page last week, Jeff O’Connor, the company’s vice president, said HomeFed requested the delay “to remove the extension of Magnolia Avenue from the project in order to direct those funds towards the improvements to SR-52.”


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LA MESA CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES TO APPEAR IN VIRTUAL CANDIDATE FORUM THURSDAY, SEPT. 3

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: La Mesa City Council candidates Allan Durden, Colin Parent, Mark Papenfuss, Kristine Alessio, Jack Shu, and Laura Lothian.  Four of the six candidates have agreed to participate.

August 29, 2020 (La Mesa) – Six candidates are vying for two seats on the La Mesa City Council. East County Magazine invited all candidates to participate in a candidate forum this Thursday, September 3 at 7 p.m. Have a question for the candidates?  You can send it to editor@eastcountymagazine.org by 12 noon on Thursday.

Four of the six candidates have confirmed they will participate.  Shown in the photo above, they are Allan Durden, Mark Papenfuss, Councilman Colin Parent, and Jack Shu.  Councilmember Kristine Alessio and Laura Lothian are not available but agreed to do an interview with ECM via Zoom, which we will post when completed.

The forum, held virtually via Zoom due to COVID-19,  will be live-streamed on Facebook here:  https://www.facebook.com/EastCountyMagazine   Video will also be recorded and posted at www.EastCountyMagazine.org after the forum. We thank the #FacebookJournalismProject for supporting our virtual candidate forums during the pandemic.

Below is information on all candidates running, listed in alphabetical order:


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

EL CAJON COUNCIL BACKS OFF MAYOR’S PROPOSAL TO BAN POLICE FROM ENFORCING COVID-19 RULES

By Miriam Raftery

August 29, 2020 (El Cajon) – At a special meeting yesterday, El Cajon’s City Council heard a barrage of public comments, nearly all opposed to Mayor Bill Well’s proposal to direct police to stop enforcing state and county COVID-19 laws and regulations including business closures, mask wearing and social distancing 

The Mayor indicated that on his Facebook page, however, he heard from many more people, most in favor if his plan.

 In the end, the Mayor proposed a watered down motion that leaves enforcement up to the police chief and ciy manager, with some council guidance.


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CAPTAIN MATT NICHOLASS NAMED INTERIM ACTING CHIEF OF LA MESA POLICE: CITY LAUNCHES NATIONWIDE SEARCH FOR ITS NEXT CHIEF

East County News Service

Photo: Captain Matt Nicholass, tomorrow's Interim Chief of Police (left), and soon to be former Chief of Police Walt Vasquez (right). Chopper the Biker Dog, law enforcement mascott wishes Chief Vasquez "all the very best on his retirement during his 'final walk-out."  Photo courtesy of Facebook, Chopper the Biker Dog

August 27, 2020 (La Mesa) - The City of La Mesa plans to hire an executive recruiting firm to conduct a nationwide search for its next Chief of Police, according to a  new release earlier today from the City of La Mesa.

There will be a community input component to the selection process. The process is expected to take several months to complete. Once the recruiting firm is hired additional details will be released.

Captain Matt Nicholass will assume the role of Acting Chief of Police tomorrow, August 28, 2020.


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EL CAJON AWARDS NEARLY $2.5 MILLION TO HELP SMALL BUSINESSSES IMPACTED BY PANDEMIC

East County News Service
 
Photo: Hacienda Casa Blana restaurant is among the grant recipients. The restaurant moved outdoors after several weeks of closure, then had canopies stolen. 
 
August 27, 2020 (El Cajon) -- The City of El Cajon announced Tuesday that it has awarded nearly $2.5 million in grants to 134 small businesses in the city. The Business Grant Program—which was made possible through Federal CARES funds released by the County and State—was open to both non-essential and essential businesses (as defined by the State of California), as well as restaurants. 
 
Small business owners were eligible for various award amounts with maximums ranging from $10,000 for restaurants, $15,000 for essential businesses, and up to $30,000 for non-essential businesses, which were forced to fully close when the stay-at-home orders took effect in March. 
 
“The impact of this grant will provide an economic stimulus to support local small businesses which have suffered the greatest due to the pandemic,” said City Manager Graham Mitchell. 
 
A business grant committee made up of business and community leaders in the City assisted in selecting the recipients, which were all required to meet minimum qualifications set forth by the City Council. 

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