By Henri Migala
August 31, 2022 (Julian) -- Joel Anderson, County Supervisor for District 2, held a Community Coffee Town Hall meeting in Julian on August 11. Approximately 100 residents filled Julian’s historic town hall to discuss issues of concern, ranging from fire safety and road improvements to animal control and the exceptionally high cost of fire insurance, and many other matters of concern to residents.
Supervisor Anderson brought many members of his staff to personally help residents find resolutions to their concerns. Many of the issues brought up by the attendees were outside the jurisdiction or control of Supervisor Anderson, but for those issues, he had a member of his staff personally help the attendee find the right office or agency to contact. Providing direction to people with problems and concerns is a great help when people don’t know where to go and need assistance on matters.
Hot topics discussed during the Town Hall included the placement of sexually violent predators in East County (which Anderson has vocally opposed), the need for a dog park and community recreational facilities for seniors in the community (which Anderson suggested might be tied in with park upgrades), high-speed internet in rural areas, and why powerlines are not being placed underground to protect them from fire hazards.
To begin the meeting, Supervisor Anderson mentioned that he had awarded $559,764 to Julian organizations from 2021 to now, and then presented American Legion Post 468 a check for $79,000 for facilities improvement.
Supervisor Anderson encouraged everyone to stay until the end because he promised those in attendance that he would stay until he heard all the questions and concerns of everyone who had one, unlike some elected officials who come and stay for only a set about of time. Anderson said his motto is “it’s my job to make government work for you.”
Anderson, a resident of Harbison Canyon, shared that “over 200,000 people live in the unincorporated area, but I’m the only Supervisor who lives in the unincorporated area. So, it’s very important to build coalitions,” referring to his counterparts on the County Board of Supervisors.
Following Anderson’s opening remarks, which touched upon the importance of working in collaboration with his Board counterparts, and that he’s still learning his new position, the Town Hall transitioned to questions from the residents.
Reflecting the concern of many East County residents, the first comment came from Phil Graham of Whispering Pines, expressing concern about the placement of sexual predators in his community. “We’ve got children up here and there’s limited law enforcement coverage, especially at night. We’re already had incidents.”
“The way you fight this is by using the law,” responded Anderson sympathetically. “I’ve already stopped the placement of three sexually violent predators being placed in my district. Liberty Healthcare was placing them illegally and we blew the whistle on them.”
“In places like El Cajon, you can’t go a mile without coming across a “Megan Map” violator,” shared Anderson. “And now they want to place more in East County, which has more sexually violent predators than any other supervisorial district in our county.”
Reflecting another larger concern, Rebecca Morales with the Julian Chamber of Commerce shared her worries over the wide-spread labor shortage among many of the businesses in Julian. A problem caused, in part, by the lack of affordable housing.
“The entry level home in San Diego County costs $900,000,” stated Anderson. “My colleagues (referring to the Board of Supervisors) passed VMT (vehicles miles traveled. “My staff and I identified sites where 18,000 new homes could be built before VMT. Now it’s fewer than 1,000. Though 5,000 a year are needed according to projections. The county hasn’t built anywhere close to the 5,000 needed.”
A member of the Julian Community Planning Group said that all the rental housing has been converted into Air BnBs and bed and breakfasts, and asked, in frustration, “how many of them are legally registered?”
Anderson advised her to reach out to the County’s code enforcement department.
A woman in the audience then shared, “Climate change is causing more fires and that’s increasing my fire insurance costs. Mine actually quadrupled.”
Another asked, “How can we be sure San Diego Fire Authority is reporting proper information on fire ratings?” She went on to explain that many insurance companies have inaccurate information which is making people’s rates rise, or cause some people to potentially lose their insurance altogether.
Supervisor Anderson advised his staff to follow-up with Tony Mecham, CAL FIRE San Diego Unit Chief.
“As a County Supervisor, I have no control over the state’s insurance commissioner,” shared Anderson. “But your legislators do. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue.” Anderson then went on to encourage everyone to reach out to their legislators and the insurance commissioner.
“The insurance commissioner is coming up for reelection and our voices need to be heard,” stated Anderson to those in attendance.
A man voiced concern over medical emergency response times. He said the county cut back on ambulances and it’s too far for the same ambulance to be dispatched to points as distant as Rincon, near Valley Center, and Pine Hills, in Julian, as he said recently occurred.
“You need staff up here,” said the man. This is a complaint Julian residents have raised since the County dissolved Julian’s all-volunteer fire department, which had an ambulance stationed in Julian, not Ramona.
Anderson said there is some misinformation, and that the County is “moving toward another ambulance to speed up service and bring back an ambulance they’d stopped using,” but he acknowledged that delays can occur if an ambulance takes someone to a hospital, which can result in that ambulance being out of service for hours.
“The problem,” said Anderson, “is it takes three votes to get more ambulance service and that’s costly.” But he added, “Another way to save lives, though, and shorten response times is to survey roads that are unmarked in areas where GPS doesn’t work so well, to help first responders find locations faster. This is low lying fruit.”
Anderson noted that all first responders provide mutual aid where it’s needed most. “Our firefighters went north (in a recent big fire) and there was nobody protecting us. But I’m trying to bring in another ambulance. However,” he said, “Ramona will still be the hub for ambulance service. ”You’re asking for perfection, and we don’t have perfection.”
A woman voiced support for getting a dog park in Julian, more recreation for seniors and a community pool. “There’s so much here for tourists, but not much for locals,” she said.
Anderson encouraged her, and others, to apply for a vacancy on the Jess Martin Park Advisory Committee. He noted that planning such things takes time, but added, “We do have discretionary funds,” then suggested that a pool or other items she suggested might be added onto Jess Martin Park.
Anderson emphasized that it’s “really important for people to get active and serve on boards and commissions,” and wants people from unincorporated communities on as many boards and commissions as possible. “I want people fighting for each community.”
Anderson said the unincorporated areas collectively are second in size to the county’s largest city, San Diego. “When I speak, it’s always about my district. I’m always challenging them,” he says, such as using phrases like “equity” to draw attention to needs in East County. “Nobody gets left behind in my district,” he pledged.
Anderson went on to mention that “We’ve got great plans for the library in Julian.” handout provided by Anderson’s office provided info on Julian project updates, including $7.2 million to expand the Julian Library’s community room, coordinate needs for food assistance and homelessness prevention at Butterfield Ranch and adopting a formerly noncounty-maintained section of 2nd street that will be widened starting in mid-2024, among other Julian-area improvements.
Anderson’s handout also included handy resources, such as the county’s Tell Us Know app for reporting road issues, a road service hotline, and how to apply for a county small business stimulus grant program, as well as information on wildfire preparedness, present and past county grants to Julian, internships in Supervisor Anderson’s office, serving on a citizen advisory committee, and a new Julian Family Medicine Clinic expansion by San Ysidro Health coming in fall 2023.
Also present at the event were San Ysidro Health, which provides medical, dental and behavioral health services throughout East County and the mountain empire, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, the California Highway Patrol, Julian Fire Station 50, and the San Diego County Library.
Supervisor Anderson’s next community town hall meeting will be in Alpine, scheduled for September 17th from 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM at the Alpine Women's Club. For more information, or to RSVP, visit conta.cc/3yG3ldQ.
Contacting Supervisor Joel Anderson
If you have an issue or opinion you would like to share with County Supervisor Anderson, you can complete the following form:
For the fastest response, Supervisor Anderson suggests contacting him at his email, at Joel.Anderson@sdcounty.ca.gov, or call him at (619) 441-4327.
Supervisor Anderson would like to hear your feedback on the town hall and how they can best serve your interests at future meetings. If you attended the event in Julian, please fill out the quick survey below to let Supervisor Anderson know how they can improve: