El Cajon

WELCOME, EL CAJON RESIDENTS!

Our El Cajon Living section covers the city of El Cajon and unincorporated El Cajon areas including Fletcher Hlils and Rancho San Diego.

Click here for fascinating facts about El Cajon.  For community and city links, click here.


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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.

ECM TO HOST EL CAJON CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATE FORUMS

Video of the district 4 forum is now posted. Click here to view video.

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, top row:  District 2 candidates Humbert Cabrera, Stephanie Harper, Juan Carlos "Charlie" Mercado, Michelle Metschel and Martin Van Dinteren

Second row: District 4 candidates Estela de los Rios, Phil Ortiz, and Dunia Shaba

 

September 19, 2020 (El Cajon) - East County Magazine will host two forums for El Cajon City Council candidates:

District Four:  Monday Sept. 28 at 7 p.m.

District Two: Wednesday, Sept. 30 at 7 p.m.

The forums will be on Zoom and livestreamed on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/EastCountyMagazine.  Video will also be posted later on our website for those unable to watch live.  

 

The public can send questions to editor@eastcountymagazine.org up until noon the day of the forum.

 

Ten candidates are on the ballot in the highly competitive District 2 and 4 races.  (In District 3, Councilman Steve Goble is running unopposed.)

All candidates in District 2 and 4 have been invited. Eight have agreed to participate. In District Two, participants will include Humbert Cabrera, Stephanie Harper, Juan Carlos Mercado, Michelle Metschel and Martin Van Dinteren.  In District Four, participants confirmed are Estela De Los Rios, Councilman Phil Ortiz, and Dania Shaba. The fouth candidate, Billy Thigpen, advised ECM that he is suspending his candicacy and endorsing De Los Rios.

Below is information on all candidates running in Districts 2 and 4. Click each name to view the statement of qualifications submitted to the city of El Cajon.


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EL CAJON’S CLIFF ALBERT SHARING BROADCASTING WRITING TIPS AT SAN DIEGO PRESS CLUB WEBINAR

East County News Service

September 28, 2020 (El Cajon) – El Cajon resident Cliff Albert, news director at KOGO-AM Newsradio 600 and one of San Diego’s leading radio news personalities for the past 35 years, will share his favorite broadcast writing tips at the San Diego Press Club’s next “Write Better Right Now,” a one-hour webinar from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, September 30. 


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RACIST HATE GRAFFITI DEFACES CHALDEAN AND SYRIAC CATHOLIC CHURCHES IN EL CAJON

A Catholic church nearby was also targeted with graffiti early Saturday

By Miriam Raftery

September 27, 2020 (El Cajon) – Yesterday, St. Peter Chaldean Catholic Diocese in El Cajon posted this message, along with disturbing video:  “This morning our beloved Cathedral was defaced with pentagrams, upside down crosses, white power, swastikas, BLM, etc. It reminds us to pray for my brethren in Iraq that are facing persecution. Pray for the criminals who did this.”

The odd combination of hate symbols fueled speculation over who was responsible.  Some community members theorized that a group might have sought to discredit another group, since it seemed unlikely that a support of Black Lives Matter or Joe Biden would spray paint racist symbols such as swastikas and the words “white power,” nor would a neo-Nazi or white supremacist want to promote BLM or Biden.  The pentagram, a symbol associated with satanic cults, is not affiliated with either either the far right nor leftist groups named.


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EL CAJON HOSTS COMMUNITY MEETING TO PLAN FOR HOUSING, ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE AND SAFETY IN GENERAL PLAN AMENDMENT

By Miriam Raftery

September 25, 2020 (El Cajon) – The city of El Cajon is embarking on updates to the Housing and Safety Elements of the General Plan and developing a new Environmental Justice Element. Residents are invited to join in a virtual community meeting on September 29 at 7:00 p.m. to discuss housing needs and the future of housing and community issues.


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READER’S EDITORIAL: MUCH NEEDED PEDESTRIAN CROSSWALK FOR KID’S SAFETY CREATED AT JOHNSON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL IN EL CAJON

By Robert Gehr

September 22, 2020 (El Cajon) -- Finally, a new crosswalk has been added to Madison Ave. at the west entrance to Johnson Elementary School (Cajon Valley School district), thus creating a safer environment for children and adults to cross a very busy street. In this writer’s opinion, it’s long overdue.


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CRISIS HOUSE URGENTLY FUNDRAISING TO PURCHASE NEW BUILDING; COPLEY FOUNDATION WILL MATCH DONATIONS

By Kendra Sitton

 

September 19, 2020 (El Cajon) - The Crisis House is urgently fundraising in its biggest campaign ever so that it can purchase a new building before the City of El Cajon ends Crisis House’s lease and forces it to move out by December 31, 2020. 


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TWO INJURED IN FLETCHER HILLS HOUSE FIRE

By Miriam Raftery
 
September 19, 2020 (El Cajon) – An elderly man found with mild injuries in the backyard of a burning early this morning has been transported to a hospital, as well as a second person who suffered smoke inhalation. 

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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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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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MAYOR WELLS URGES CITY TO DEFY STATE AND COUNTY COVID-19 LAWS AND REGULATIONS

 

By Miriam Raftery

Updated with comments from Gloria Chadwick and Randy Lenac, members of the Grossmont Healthcare District board

August 27, 2020 (El Cajon) – El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells today announced on Facebook that he is convening a special meeting of the city council tomorrow at 3 p.m. to “discuss instructing our police to not enforce Covid-19 laws and or regulations… The state of California and the County of San Diego, of course, may continue to levy fines and criminal charges for violations, but I am proposing that the El Cajon police department not waste their valuable time enforcing mask, non-essential business and social distancing laws.”


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VICTIM IDENTIFIED, SUSPECT CAPTURED IN MAIN STREET KILLING

By Miriam Raftery

Photo,left by Della Elliott:  A shrine to commemorate 21-year-old shooting victim Fabian Cerda has been created by community members at the site where he was fatally shot. 

May 24, 2020 (El Cajon) – El Cajon Police today announced the arrest of George Louis Garcia, 42, following a tense standoff in La Mesa with police from multiple law enforcement agencies. Garcia is charged in the shooting death of Fabian Esteban Cerda, 21, on August 18 in El Cajon.

According to Lt. K. MacArthur with El Cajon Police, Cerda became involved in an argument with Garcia, the former boyfriend of Cerda’s mother around 1:30 a.m. on August 18 in front of 1548 East Main Street in El Cajon. “He was shot several times and later died as a result of the shooting,” Lt. MacArthur says. The victim succumbed to his injuries in an ambulance en route to a hospital.  


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SDG&E PLANNED OUTAGES IN TRIPLE-DIGIT HEAT AND STORMS MAY ENDANGER SAFETY OF RESIDENTS

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: New power poles in Pine Valley are made of steel, not wood, for fire safety, as part of the upgrades that SDG&E has been installing across inland San Diego County.

Updated August 23, 2020 9:40 a.m. with responses from SDG&E.

August 22, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Amid a record-breaking heat wave with monsoonal thunderstorms, flash floods and lightning-sparked fires forecast as potential added hazards, SDG&E has announced plans to shut off power for hours during the heat of the day on Sunday and Monday across much of San Diego County.  

The outages are to upgrade wood poles to steel, among other equipment upgrades or maintenance planned.

The NWS has warned that the intense heat  this week can be life-threatening for those without air conditioning, yet the power outage will leave any residents who lack generators without access to safe, cool spaces amid the COVID-19 pandemic when many public, air-conditioned places are shut down.

Rural residents with electric well pumps will also be left without water for people or livestock to drink, as well as for fighting fires, as many rural residents equipped with tanks and hoses have done in past brush fires, unless they have invested in generators. Downed communications including internet and in some areas, phone service also leave residents unable to receive emergency alerts despite a high potential for emergencies during the extreme weather conditions.


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EL CAJON COUNCIL UNANIMOUSLY APPROVES EMERGENCY SLEEPING CABINS FOR HOMELESS

By Miriam Raftery

Photo credit:  Amikas

August 16, 2020 (El Cajon) – El Cajon’s City Council on Tuesday approved a pilot program to allow emergency sleeping cabins as temporary housing for the homeless. Homelessness is anticipated to rise amid the COVID-19 pandemic, after federal unemployment benefits ran out July 31, putting more people at risk of eviction in the future.

The first village of six cabins, similar to structures known as “tiny homes,”  will provide short-term shelter for homeless women, especially women veterans, and their children at Meridian Baptist Church on South Third Street. 


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NEW DAWN UNDERGROUND: NEW NOVEL BY LOCAL AUTHOR AMANDA MATTI

By Miriam Raftery

 

August 2, 2020 (El Cajon) – El Cajon author Amanda Matti’s latest novel, New Dawn Underground, is now available on Amazon and Kindle at bit.ly/NewDawnUnderground.

 

“If you'd like a signed copy, you can order those from my website at AmandaMatti.com,”says Matti, the author of three books, all set in Iraq.

 

New Dawn Underground is a counter-terrorism thriller about Elora Monro, a female CIA analyst who poses as a Washington Post journalist to infiltrate a terrorist organization in Iraq. She seeks revenge after the death of her fiance, a Delta Force member killed in a failed militant raid.


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FEDERAL LOANS AVAILABLE TO HELP SMALL BUSINESSES AFFECTED BY CIVIL UNREST

By Miriam Raftery
 
July 31, 2020 (San Diego) -- Low-interest federal disaster loans are available to help small businesses across San Diego County that were affected by civil unrest which began May 26, 2020, if they do not have the financial ability to offset the adverse impact without hardship.

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SYRIAN FAMILY STRUGGLES TO COPE WITH COVID-19

By Kendra Sitton

Photo by Henri Migala:  Asim Al-Abdullah worries about his family’s future
 
July 30, 2020 (El Cajon) - Everyone faces different struggles during the pandemic, such as health, financial or isolation. For a Syrian family of seven living in El Cajon, their primary struggle is psychological. 

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MANY SEATS LACK CANDIDATES AS AUG. 7 DEADLINE TO RUN FOR LOCAL OFFICES DRAWS NEAR

By Miriam Raftery

July 27, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – The deadline to file to run for local offices is August 7 including school boards, water boards, fire boards, community planning groups, city councils and mayoral races. In some races, multiple candidates have pulled papers announcing intent to run (though none have yet turned in final paperwork to qualify for the ballot).  Other races have only incumbents running unopposed or in some cases, no candidates announced yet at all.

For example, in the controversy-embroiled Cajon Valley School District, where two seats are on the ballot, so far only incumbent Jim Miller has filed to run. No one at all has registered so far in the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District.

In the Helix Water District, so far incumbents Mark Gracyk, Joel Scalzitti and Dan McMillan are running unopposed.

All community planning groups in East County currently have fewer candidates than seats. If not enough people run, vacancies will be filled through appointment by County Supervisors to these positions that advise Supervisors on key land use projects. There are many other races still lacking a full slate of candidates.

Interest appears strongest in city council and mayoral races. Here’s who has announced intent to run so far:


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PLANS FOR EMERGENCY SLEEPING CABINS FOR HOMELESS WOMEN AND CHILDREN MOVES FORWARD IN EL CAJON

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left: Amikas demonstration village in City Heights

July 26, 2020 (El Cajon) – A proposal to allow construction of emergency sleeping cabins on property owned by Meridian Baptist Church has been approved by the El Cajon Planning Commission and will next be considered by the El Cajon City Council, potentially as early as August 11.


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CYT SHUTS DOWN ALL LOCAL PROGRAMS INDEFINITELY AMID STORM OF SEXUAL ABUSE COMPLAINTS

By Miriam Raftery

July 25, 2020 (El Cajon) – After numerous former students alleged sexual abuse by instructors, Christian Youth Theater posted yesterday on its Facebook page, “As of today, CYT San Diego social media will no longer be active since we will not be holding any programming or reopening until further notice. Please visit our website at www.cytsandiego.org to contact us directly if you have any questions or statements. We are here to listen. We are here to learn. We love and support our ENTIRE CYT family.”


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100 YEARS STRONG, ARTIST PHEBE BURNHAM’S WORKS TO BE DISPLAYED AT SOPHIE’S GALLERY



By Miriam Raftery

July 24, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – On July 26, Descanso artist Phebe Burnham will celebrate her 100th birthday.  A restrospective display of her vibrant oil paintings, pastels and mixed-media creations can be viewed at Sophie’s Gallery in El Cajon from now through September 9th.  Several can been seen online and many more can be viewed in-person at the gallery at 140 East Main Street in El Cajon.

Born at the dawn of the Roaring ‘20s in the U.S. and the Mexican Revolution in Mexico, Burnham has painted scenes and people in both Mexico and the U.S., including her rural Descanso community. 

 


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SIGNS OF THE TIMES: TWO DOWNTOWN EL CAJON BUSINESSES CLOSE

By Robert Gehr

Photography: Robert Gehr

July 23, 2020 (El Cajon) -- On my walk this morning, I noticed two businesses in downtown El Cajon closed and nearly emptied of furnishings.  Both Rock a Betties Beauty Salon and Thrill Seekers have closed these locations, with rent signs in the windows.

Thrill Seekers, a retail establishment at 164 East Main Street, still has a website. A second location at 1421 Woodside Ave. Suite C, Santee remains open for customers. The owner of Thrill Seekers told ECM's editor that relocating to Santee was not related to the pandemic and that his business is "doing just fine."

State and county mandated closures due to the COVID-19 epidemic may have played a role in the permanent loss of Rock A Betties Beauty Salon at 158 E. Main St. El Cajon, a long-time fixture in the community. The shop has has taken its website down and the phone is disconnected.


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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.

SIGNS OF THE TIMES: TWO DOWNTOWN EL CAJON BUSINESSES CLOSE PERMANENTLY

By Robert Gehr

Photos: Robert Gehr

July 23, 2020 (El Cajon) -- On my walk this morning, I noticed two businesses in downtown El Cajon closed and nearly emptied of furnishings. Both Rock a Betties Beauty Salon and Thrill Seekers have closed these locations permanently, with rent signs I the windows.

No doubt the state and county mandated closures due to the COVID-19 epidemic played a role in the permanent loss of these local businesses.

Rock A Betties Beauty Salon at 158 E. Main St. El Cajon, a long-time fixture in the community, has taken its website down and the phone is disconnected.


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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.

CHRISTIAN YOUTH THEATER IN SPOTLIGHT FOR ALLEGED SEXUAL ABUSE OF STUDENTS AND RACIAL BIAS

By Miriam Raftery

File photo, left: CYT’s 2014 performance of Les Miserables on Mt. Helix

July 23, 2020 (El Cajon) – Christian Youth Theater (CYT) a national junior theater organization based in El Cajon, is now in the spotlight over allegations by former students of sexual abuse and racism dating back decades. 


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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.

EMERGENCY SLEEPING CABINS ON AGENDA FOR EL CAJON PLANNING COMMISSION JULY 21

By Miriam Raftery

Photos: Screenshots, NBC7: an emergency sleeping cabin in City Heights built by Amikas

July 15, 2020 (El Cajon) – Last year, the nonprofit Amikas built an emergency sleeping cabin as a demonstration project at a church in El Cajon. The group hopes to win city approval to allow similar units to be used to temporarily house homeless people, particularly women, including women veterans, amid the COVID-19 pandemic when local shelter space in East County is insufficient.


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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 STARTS SMALL BUSINESS GRANT PROGRAM, ALLOWS BUSINESSES SUCH AS BARBERS, SALONS AND RETAILERS TO MOVE OUTDOORS

City also weighs possibility of allowing city parks, such as Prescott Promenade (photo) downtown, to be used for outdoor faith services and business operations

By Kendra Sitton

July 14, 2020 (El Cajon) -- El Cajon City Council today unanimously approved a plan to allocate almost $2.5 million for a Business Grant Program benefitting primarily nonessential businesses forced to close during the pandemic.

The city also took action to help many businesses and activities move outdoors, after the state shut down many indoor operations due to a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.


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PHOTO OF THE WEEK: RACCOON IN THE HEART OF EL CAJON

East County News Service

July 6, 2020 (El Cajon) - Robert Gehr sent in this photo of  a  masked intruder – a raccoon—that visited the grounds at his apartment complex in the heart of downtown El Cajon.   

 Raccoons are nocturnal, omnivorous, can grow up to 60 pounds and can run up to 15 miles per hour. This particular night visitor was attracted by cat food left out by a neighbor, Gehr said.

http://naturemappingfoundation.org/natmap/ca/facts/mammals/raccoon.html


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$500 REWARD FOR DOG LOST DUE TO FIREWORKS: CHECK THESE SITES IF YOU HAVE A LOST OR FOUND PET

By Miriam Raftery

 

July 5, 2020 (El Cajon) – Each year, more pets go missing on July 4 than any other night of the year. Fireworks the last two nights locally frightened many dogs and cats, prompting some to run off and become lost. Pawboost has now set up lost and found pet sites on Facebook for local communities to help reunite lost pets with their owners. 


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EL CAJON ADDS SEWER TAXES ONTO COUNTY PROPERTY TAX BILLS

By Miriam Raftery

July 5, 2020 (El Cajon) – The city of El Cajon has launched a public outreach strategy to educate the public about change in billing for sewer services. On May 23, the Council voted to put sewer taxes onto the County of San Diego’s property tax roll, a move that reduced the approved rate by 2%, according to a memo sent to the Mayor and City Council on July 2 from City Manager Graham Mitchell. 


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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.

AMID PANDEMIC, EL CAJON ENDS LEASE WITH CRISIS HOUSE, PUTTING SERVICES FOR HOMELESS PEOPLE AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIMS AT RISK

By Miriam Raftery

“It’s very likely that we won’t be able to provide the same level of service that we do today….The County has no walk-in services for the homeless, and pretty soon that’s going to be the way it will be in El Cajon.” – Mary Case, Executive Director at Crisis House (photo, left)

June 25, 2020 (El Cajon) – El Cajon’s City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve an early lease termination agreement to oust Crisis House from city-owned property at 1034 Magnolia Ave. For the past 26 years, the city has leased the property to Crisis House for a dollar a year, recognizing the value to the community of the services provided by Crisis House, which has a mission to “break the cycle of poverty, domestic violence and homelessness and strengthen families and individuals so that they can thrive and transform their lives.”

The city wants Crisis House gone from is current location near the new Hampton Inn hotel.  So the Council-approved measure offers Crisis House $700,000 if it vacates the property by September 30th. That amount diminishes to just $350,000 by year’s end and $150,000 by March 31, or zero if Crisis house remains until the lease expires on June 30, 2021.

But Mary Case, Executive Director of Crisis House, says that’s not enough time to find an affordable space, adding that the action will almost certainly mean major cuts in services.


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