Council also discussed revising code governing citizens’ conduct during public comments and reaffirmed fine against landlord over illegal dispensary
By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor
January 11, 2019 (El Cajon) -- El Cajon City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved new regulations regarding the increasingly popular use of dockless vehicles (scooters, bicycles, skateboards) on city streets and an “expanded Civic Center area” including City Hall, East County Regional Center, East County Performing Arts Center, Library, Community Center, and Fire Facility Headquarters Complex.
There were no citizens present to voice opinions about the new rules. As in other cities around the country, scooters and bicycles made available for rent or lease inside El Cajon’s city limits by a commercial business will be required to enter into an agreement with the city regarding the operation, maintenance, and storage of the vehicles. To address the problem of vehicles blocking pedestrians’ right of way in public byways, the city will require companies to place a security deposit to ensure timely retrieval of vehicles and reimburse cost of staff time to remove vehicles after 72 hours.
Along with a requirement to obtain a business license, the companies will be required to provide proof of insurance. Vehicles must be labeled with the company logo, serial number, and a 24-hour customer service number.
The new rules prohibit dockless vehicles from being ridden on sidewalks, although it allows walking beside and guiding a dockless vehicle on a sidewalk. Along with other requirements, it will also be unlawful for any parent or guardian of a minor to allow a minor to use or operate a dockless vehicle in the city.
As for skateboards, the new rules prohibit riding skateboards on a privately-owned, operated or maintained parking lot, parking facility, sidewalk, or anywhere with a post prohibiting skateboarding. Skateboard riders must yield right-of-way to all pedestrians, and are prohibited from interfering with movement of vehicles on a public street, sidewalk or alley,
Illegal Marijuana Dispensary
The owner of a property at 743 El Cajon Blvd., James McCormack, appeared before the City Council on Tuesday attempting to appeal a fine of $6,616.95 imposed by the city code enforcement authorities. The city says the fine was imposed to reimburse their costs of sending inspectors on multiple times to the property. McCormack says that he was surprised in receiving multiple written notifications from the city over the course of four consecutive days.
“This is an awful lot of money to be paying the city to board up my property,” McCormack said. “I believe $6,000 for five pieces of plywood is onerous.”
Councilman Steve Goble then explained that the amount included time spent by city staff dealing with the problem. “The public will ask why you should keep two months of rent, yet the people of El Cajon incur the cost of enforcement,” he said. “We [the city council] are the watchdogs of the people’s resources. In this case, it is time. We owe the taxpayers of El Cajon the costs to enforcing illegal activity.”
As reported earlier this week by ECM, compliance staff visually inspected the facility and notified the Building Official/Fire Marshal of magnetic door locking mechanisms. City and State zoning laws require that these externally controlled lock types which “restrain” the public from exiting a building in case of an emergency.
McCormack still faces about $24,000 in fines in line with an ordinance approved last year by the City Council fining property owners who have an illegal marijuana dispensary on the premises.
McCormack says that he had entered into an unratified “rent to own” purchase agreement with the then-buyer of the property who said that he planned to put a liquor store in the space. McCormack says he received $20,000 which was to be applied to the $750,000 purchase price of the building, which had been vacant for three years. “After three years, I was receptive to the offer to the purchase the building, even though I had my misgivings which proved to be true,” he said. “I did not rent this building to a marijuana dispensary. I sold this building to someone who said that he was going try to open a liquor store.”
In late November, after SDG&E removed the electric meter on the building, the renter of the property continued to make changes to the interior, using an electric generator. The generator was venting inside of the building, which caused three people to become ill with carbon monoxide poisoning. One person was transported to the hospital for medical treatment.
Councilman Kendrick said before the vote, “I want to send a message to the other landlords in the community who want to look the other way. While we have these marijuana dispensaries open up, I think these dispensaries profit on the suffering of others. It sickens me what they do to their employees by putting them in such incredible danger.”
The council voted 3-2 to affirm the fine, with Mayor Bill Wells and Councilman Ben Kalasho voting “no.”
While the Council affirmed the $6,000 against McCormack, it left open the possibility, at a future date, a compromise on the $24,000 fine against McCormack.
Watch video of the discussion here.
City Code on Council “Open Comment” Citizen Participation
El Cajon City Attorney Morgan Foley introduced an ordinance that makes minor revisions and corrections to the city municipal code regarding public comments at Council meetings. Foley's presentation led to a lengthy discussion by the Council of proposed changes and guidelines on citizen participation during the open comment sessions. Foley emphasized that the guidelines respect the principles of First Amendment free speech fundamentals.
One change suggested by Councilman Goble was a change in the city code to allow citizens to address Council members directly. . The issue came up after several heated and controversial city council sessions last year. His suggestion reflects the change to district elections, with each Councilmember representing a specific community instead of the city at large
The council tabled final consideration and a decision on the ordinance until a future Council meeting.
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