El Cajon

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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

$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. 

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. 

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.

EL CAJON VOTES TO INCREASE FUNDS FOR POLICE DEPARTMENT

By Miriam Raftery

June 25, 2020 (El Cajon) – El Cajon City Council members received hundreds of comments sent via email on the city’s proposed budget, nearly all weighing in on police funding following a nationwide wave of protests over police violence and racial injustice issues.   

Many of the commenters argued for “defunding” or shifting some funds away from police into investments in the community or alternatives to handle mentally ill and homeless people, though many others voiced support for El Cajon Police and supported raising the department’s budget.

The Council unanimously voted for a $120,000 increase for the police.

“The motivation is to keep all the citizens safe,” Councilman Gary Kendrick told ECM.

LACK OF DATA COLLECTION BLOCKS EFFORTS TO ASSESS COVID-19 IMPACTS ON LOCAL MIDDLE EASTERN COMMUNITIES

Hear our  interview with Dr. Raed Al-Naser for KNSJ radio: click here.

By Briana Gomez

Photo, left: Doris Bittar

“Arab Americans are largely considered Caucasian, other, or unknown.  We are a disappeared minority, rendering us nearly invisible in the media and in medicine.” – Doris Bittar, President, Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee, San Diego chapter

June 25, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- Minority communities across the US are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19. For example, nearly 67% of cases in San Diego are among Latinos and Hispanics, who comprise only 30% of the population, according to County Health Department  figures as of June 20.  But a lack of data on Arab and Middle Eastern Americans makes it impossible to accurately assess impacts of the pandemic on this population locally and nationally.

Audio: 

NASCAR CHAMP JIMMIE JOHNSON CANCELS SPONSORSHIP OVER RACIST TWEETS, DENOUNCES NOOSE LEFT IN STALL OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN DRIVER BUBBA WALLACE

 

Update June 23, 2020:  In a show of solidarity, all drivers in the Talladega race yesterday afternoon joined together to push Bubba Wallace's car to the front before the race began, after Jimmie Johnson announced he would stand with Wallace during the national anthem.  During the race, Wallace's vehicle ran out of gas, so another drived pushed him over the finish line and he came in 14th.  Johnson finished 13th and said he is "very proud of our sport."

Later in the day, the FBI announced that video shows the rope noose used as a door pull had been in the stall newly assigned to Wallace's team since 2019.

By Miriam Raftery

Photos, left: Jimmie Johnson and Bubba Wallace, creative commons via 2.0 by Zach Catanzareti

June 22, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, an El Cajon native and hometown hero, is ending his final year in the sport by taking a strong stand against racism in the sport.

Last week, NASCAR announced a ban on the Confederate flag, a move long pushed for by Bubba Wallace, one of the most successful African-American drivers in NASCAR racing history. 

Yesterday, NASCAR announced that a noose had been found in the stall of the Wallace team 43 prior to the Talladega Super Speedway race in Alabama (which has been postponed until 1 p.m. today Pacific Standard Time due to inclement weather). 

The U.S. Justice Department and NASCAR have both announced investigations into the action, which could be charged as a hate crime.

Jimmie Johnson tweeted, “I can’t begin to fathom the pain this action has caused. I stand with you @BubbaWallace.”

EL CAJON POLICE OFFICER DIVERTS GRAFFITI ARTISTS TO CREATE PUBLIC ART

By Miriam Raftery

Photos courtesy of Officer Murphy and El Cajon Police

June 19, 2020 (El Cajon) – When El Cajon Police Officer Michael Murphy found three youths spray-painting “peace” and “BLM”, he created a teaching moment.  “I explained to them that by doing that, their message gets lost and destroys another person’s property. So I decided instead of arresting them we would work together to fix the damage and work on an area where they can post their message,” he posted on Facebook.

So he arranged to meet up with them, get plywood and find a place for them to express their views and creativity in a positive way - as well as having them lend a hand to clean up the defaced property. The result is a work of art showing talent and the power of working together for creative solutions to conflicts.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: DANCING COWBOYS AT TEXAS ROADHOUSE WELCOME BACK CUSTOMERS


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Miriam Raftery 

June 12, 2020 (El Cajon) - Texas Roadhouse restaurant in El Cajon is back open after the COVID-19 shutdown and already drawing a wait list.  Arrive before five for some great dinner specials.  I got a tender BBQ pulled pork dinner with all the fixings for just $10.99, chilling out with an Armadillo Punch.

As an added bonus, enjoy some dancing cowboys and cowgirls -- actually the wait staff, kicking up their heels with some Western-style line dancing. Yeehaw!

WATER CONSERVATION GARDEN REOPENS IN MID-JUNE: BUTTERFLY RELEASES PLANNED

East County News Service
 
June 11, 2020 (El Cajon) -- As of June 15, The Water Conservation Garden reopens for members and reopens to the public on June 16, but with a small admission fee for non-members. All visitors in June will receive free ice cream and popsicles, as well as having the opportunity to visit the Dorcas E. Utter Memorial Butterfly Pavilion to view butterflies throughout June. Butterfly release dates are planned June 15, 19 and 27.

CAJON VALLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT STUMBLES IN PR SNAFUS OVER RACIAL SLUR, SECRET MEETING AT CLOSED HOTEL, AND PLANS TO KEEP SCHOOLS CLOSED THIS FALL DESPITE MANY OBJECTIONS

Board to decide future use of distance learning technology at 1 p.m. today; Superintendent apologizes over staff comments

Story and photos by Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor

June 11, 2020 (El Cajon) -- The Cajon Valley Union School District’s carefully controlled public relations moat has been seriously breached over the past week with embarrassing social media comments, news of secret district meetings, and documents accidentally shared by a district employee, as reported by San Diego television and newspaper media outlets.  

One report was about a CVUSD school district employee and the revelation of a document of a secret meeting held over the weekend involving Dr. David Miyashiro and four district Trustees (except not Jill Barto) at the shuttered Marriott Coronado Resort and Spa.

The district also had two protests by parents yesterday outside district headquarters, one over racism concerns raised by staff comments, the other objecting to a district plan to continue distance learning instead of in-person classes this fall -- a vote delayed until an emergency session convening this afternoon after parents raised vigorous objections.

LA MESA EXTENDS CURFEW FOR NEXT FIVE NIGHTS, SANTEE AND EL CAJON HAVE CURFEWS TONIGHT

By Miriam Raftery

June 3, 2020 (La Mesa) – Following rioting, looting and fires on Saturday in La Mesa and continued civil unrest across our region, the City of La Mesa has announced an extension of curfews each night from June 3 through June 8 from 7 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.

El Cajon and Santee have also extended curfews through tomorrow morning.

Below is each city’s announcement, since hours and details vary:

SILENT PROTEST HELD AT EL CAJON HOME OF LMPD OFFICER IN CONTROVERSIAL STOP

Story and photos by Kendra Sitton

May 30, 2020 (El Cajon) -- Around 100 protesters silently walked through an El Cajon neighborhood where organizers said La Mesa Police Officer Matt Dages lives. The group conducted a “Power Walk” this evening to let the officer know he is not invisible, according to organizer Covu.

East County Magazine could not independently verify that Dages lives at the residence.

DOMESTIC ABUSE VICTIMS' ADVOCATES SEE RISE IN FIRST-TIME COMPLAINTS DURING PANDEMIC

By Kendra Sitton

 

“The quarantine has created a lot of problems…A safety plan is no longer available [for some victims].” – Dilkhwaz Ahmed, License to Freedom

 

May 26, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) — After weeks of stay-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, two local organizations supporting victims of domestic abuse are seeing a sharp rise in people seeking services for the first time. 

EL CAJON APPROVES RENT AND UTILITY ASSISTANCE: FUNDS LIMITED TO FIRST 150 APPLICANTS STARTING MAY 26

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Creative Commons via Bing

May 22, 2020 (El Cajon) – El Cajon City Council has approved allocating over $800,000 of its Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus funds for several COVID response programs.  These funds were granted to the City as part of the federal CARES Act.

Per City Council direction, a large portion of the funds will be used for rental and utility assistance to help those most vulnerable to loss of employment.

Due to limited funding, there is a limit to the first 150 eligible applicants. Online and over the phone applications will be accepted through the following service providers beginning Tuesday,May 26, 2020:

EL CAJON POLICE SEEK HELP TO FIND VANDAL AT CHURCH AND CAR DEALER: DAMAGE DELAYED DELIVERY OF PROTECTIVE GEAR TO HOSPITAL WORKERS

East County News Service 

Photos: Surveillance video

 

May 4, 2020 (El Cajon) -  El Cajon Police seek public help to find a vandal who damaged a church and car dealership, also breaking the windshield of a truck set to delivery donations of personal protective equipment to hospital workers, says Officer Sue Stoller.

EAST COUNTY RESIDENTS AND BUSINESSES HUNKER DOWN TO WAIT OUT PANDEMIC: CITY LEADERS SHARE VIEWS ON REOPENING

By Emmet Pierce

Photo: Creative Commons via Bing

April 27, 2020 (San Diego’s East Count) -- Despite a growing desire to return to life as normal, East County residents and businesses are following the state’s COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, officials say.  But some mayors and local business leaders voice concerns over impacts on the business community from extended closures.

COVID-19 CASES IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY RISE TO 3,141; HUNDREDS OF CASES IN EAST COUNTY

By Miriam Raftery

April 28, 2020 (San Diego) – Over the weekend, 98 new cases of COVID-19 were reported by the San Diego County Health and Human Services department. The jump follows the trend in several cities where rallies were held to end shutdowns. The Sheriff arrested several local protesters over the weekend for violating stay-home orders.

The disease has spread rapidly in East County, where El Cajon now has 181 cases, La Mesa 71, Santee 29, Lemon Grove 28, Lakeside 22, Ramona 14, Jamul 6, and Alpine 4.  The communities of Ranchita, Boulevard, Potrero, Julian and Pala each have 2 cases; Borrego Springs, Descanso, and Tecate each have at least 1 case. View an interactive map with the latest updates on local cases by community.

EL CAJON POLICE SEEK HELP IN HOMICIDE INVESTIGATION

East County News Service

Photo: Victim Tony Montantes

April 21, 2020 (El Cajon) -- The El Cajon Police Department is asking for the public’s help in identifying and locating the suspect(s) responsible for the murder of 41-year-old Tony Montantes. On March 16th at approximately 9:55 p.m., Tony Montantes was standing on the sidewalk in the area of E. Main St. and S. First St. in El Cajon when an unknown suspect fired several gunshots at him. As a result, Montantes was struck multiple times. Despite life saving measures by El Cajon Police officers, paramedics and hospital staff, Montantes was pronounced dead. The suspect(s) were last seen fleeing the area in a vehicle.

42 NURSING HOME PATIENTS IN EL CAJON DIAGNOSED WITH COVID-19: VIRUS HAS CAUSED 7,000 DEATHS TIED TO NURSING HOMES NATIONWIDE

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Creative Commons via Bing

April 18, 2020 (El Cajon) – COVID-19 is having a devasting impact on nursing home patients. Nationwide, over 7,000 nursing home-related deaths have occurred, the New York Times reported on Friday in a headline that referred to the facilities as “death pits.”

Today, the California Health Department for the first time released statistics on coronavirus cases in nursing facilities. Locally, the hardest hit area is El Cajon, where 42 patients have been diagnosed with the virus in three nursing homes:  Country Hills Post Acute (19), Bradley Court (12), and Avocado Post Acute (11).

EL CAJON CITY COUNCIL APPROVES MAJOR RESPONSE TO COVID-19: $1 MILLION TO AID RESIDENTS, HOMELESS, AND BUSINESSES

By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor

Video Coverage

City of El Cajon press release on COVID-19 actions

 

April 17, 2020 (El Cajon) -- The El Cajon City Council unanimously voted on Tuesday to set forth a major million-dollar effort to support local residents, businesses, and the homeless during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic crisis, extending after the state declares the emergency over.

The City Council approved a dozen programs to help the community including:

  • Providing residents assistance with utility bills and rent
  • Delaying sewer bills through June and eliminating any late sewer fees in 2020
  • Assisting seniors to access groceries
  • Promoting and financially supporting existing food distribution throughout the community
  • Setting up a business resource website and reaching out to businesses
  • Waiving late business license renewal penalties
  • No longer enforcing banner and temporary use regulations at business sites
  • Providing additional homeless shelter opportunities, providing transportation to the homeless to access regional resources
  • Providing free on-line recreation classes, discounted structured recreation classes after the emergency declaration has been terminated.

In addition, the City Council adopted a resolution strongly recommending that owners of rental properties in the City to refrain from raising rent for a 60-day period beginning Apr. 15.

ANOTHER "PHOENIX" TRANSFORMATION COMING SOON TO EL CAJON: OLD SALVATION ARMY BUILDING DEMOLISHED FOR MIXED USE DEVELOPMENT

By Robert Gehr
 
April 16, 2020 (El Cajon) -- The former Salvation Army Thrift Store at the corner of Main Street and Magnolia Avenue (101 East Main St.) in El Cajon is being demolished to make way for a future mixed-use building.
 
This once busy location has been vacant and dilapidated for many years, damaged by an earthquake that occurred on Easter Sunday in 2010.  It is now in the final phase of demolition.
 
This site in the heart of downtown El Cajon is the future home of a mixed use building. Lower floor will be for commercial use of an as yet undetermined business, with about 11,000 feet of space, with 15 residential units above.
 
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Click Read more for a herculean looking bulldozer, and more!
 

CAJON VALLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT FILES RESTRAINING ORDER AGAINST BOARD TRUSTEE JILL BARTO

 

CVUSD contends Barto interfering at school meal handouts; claim disputed by CVUSD Personnel Commission member

By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor

April 16, 2020 (El Cajon) The ongoing legal clashes between embattled longtime Cajon Valley Union School District Board member Jill Barto continued last week when the district lobbed another salvo at her by filing a temporary restraining order (TRO) against her.

The injunction enjoins Barto from being present at the district's student food distribution efforts at its schools. Like other districts around the state, Cajon Valley continues to provide meal services to its 17,000 students, although it has shut down regularly scheduled instruction at its schools until further notice. According to a video release produced by the district, it produces 4,000 lunches a day at its child nutrition center.

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