East County News Service
March 11, 2015 (Jamul)--Approximately 200 protesters held a “flash mob” demonstration in Jamul Saturday, wearing red as they voiced their continuing opposition to a casino under construction at the Jamul Indian Village.
Excavation is completed at the project, site of a planned Hollywood-themed casino in conjunction with Penn National Gaming.
Projected to open in mid-2016, the casino is expected to include a three-story gaming and entertainment facility of approximately 200,000 square feet with gaming, restaurants, bars, and parking. The tribe estimates the project will create an estimated 2,500 construction and permanent jobs in the area.
Opponents including Supervisor Dianne Jacob, a Jamul resident, have voiced concerns over traffic on Highway 94, the primary evacuation route during fires, as well as impacts on community character in this rural region.
Glenn Revell, president of the Jamul Action Committee, told the UT San Diego in January, “This is not about an Indian project.” He claimed that his group “would oppose a commercial development of this size, in this location by anyone,” adding, “We do not believe it fits the character of the community and are concerned that the traffic cannot be mitigated to the extent it does not exacerbate the challenges faced by emergency responders serving our community.”
Jamulians Against Casinos and the JAC action committee have filed multiple lawsuits including one against Caltrans over traffic concerns and another in federal court that sought to claim the property was not eligible for gaming. Thus far, none have been successful.
Protesters also voiced objection to the eviction several years ago of two tribal residents to make way for the casino. Those tribal members, Walter Rosales and Karen Toggery, waged unsuccessful legal efforts over the evictions and razing of their homes. The tribe reportedly offered them replacement homes in an alternate location.
The tribe has made significant efforts to accommodate community concerns, lowering the original height by 58% and height visible from the highway by 76%, also building an underground parking lot, reducing the footprint of the casino building, choosing earth tones and lighting designed to minimize visual impacts. The tribe has also funded a fire station and major roadway upgrades including straightening and widening portions of Highway 94.
In a press release issued by Penn Gaming, Jamul tribal chairman Raymond Hunter stated, ““We have worked tirelessly for well over a decade listening to the voices of the community, addressing concerns, and ultimately developing a project that blends seamlessly into the region, while creating approximately 2,500 much needed construction and permanent jobs in our region. We look forward to continuing to be a good neighbor, as well as becoming a philanthropic leader and an active business partner in San Diego County.”
The late Native American journalist Roy Cook wrote several years ago about the impact the casino would have on lifting one of San Diego’s poorest tribes out of poverty, noting that some residents at the Jamul Indian Village still lived in homes with dirt floors.
Protesters Saturday carried signs reading “No Casino, Not Now, Not Ever” and “Not anti-Indian, anti-Casino” though one lawsuit challenges tribal sovereignty over the land.
Deerhorn Valley Antler’s editor wrote that two motocross bikers attempted to disrupt protesters by repeatedly riding close to them, “spraying rocks, dirt and gravel” on those standing closest to the site. Opponents of the casino have launched a petition drive to collect signatures of casino opponents, though it is unclear what impact signatures could have on a project under construction and reportedly on track to open next year, absent any court action.
Meanwhile in a recent newsletter, the tribe began reaching out to the local business community in East County seeking to form partnerships as the tribe aspires to make what Chairman Hunter has called a “long-awaited dream” become a reality.