El Cajon Looks to increase Penalties on motels Constantly Calling the Cops Amid Homeless Voucher Concerns

El Cajon leaders have recently worried about how homeless people renting local rooms affect the area.

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But after reviewing records at all hotels and motels, officials now have broader concerns about how often police and paramedics are visiting facilities throughout the city.

Council members advanced a measure Tuesday to develop a plan that could ultimately penalize owners that are constantly calling first responders, in an effort to discourage motels from accepting too many “high-risk people.”

“What we’re saying is: Be more mindful of who you rent a room to,” said Councilmember Steve Goble, who’s on a subcommittee that has been meeting with owners. “That’s what is driving calls for service; it doesn’t matter where they came from, it doesn’t matter who paid for the room.”

The council’s rough plan follows a months-long dispute with county and state leaders over how many homeless vouchers should be allowed in East County’s largest city. More facilities accept vouchers in El Cajon than other parts of the region and many renters are from outside the city, which officials have said puts undue strain on local resources.

There have recently been more arrests near some hotels accepting vouchers, although police data does not show an exact correlation between vouchers and crime.

The city initially threatened to fine places accepting high numbers of vouchers, but backed down the same day the state attorney general threatened to sue.

El Cajon has 16 motels and 2 hotels, which together have almost 1,000 rooms.

Officials said facilities shouldn’t have to call police or firefighters more than one time per room, per year. Said another way, a 10-room motel would ideally ask for help no more than 10 times a year, a standard detailed in a 2005 report by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Only four places are currently under that limit, officials said. Five were close to the line while nine were notably above.

The city’s analysis covered calls for service from both fire and police departments during recent 12-month periods.

After Tuesday’s 4-0 vote, staffers must now hammer out more specific rules for owners. Leaders said they would first warn, and work with, motels creating a “public nuisance” before threatening to revoke licenses.

Officials cast the plan as a way to ensure residents and visitors alike are protected. Goble gave an example of domestic violence victims from outside the city who use vouchers in El Cajon.

“Those people deserve a healthy, safe place to be while they’re escaping a dangerous situation,” he said.

Goble added that he wasn’t concerned the plan would discourage people from calling during real emergencies because four places had already found a way to meet the proposed standard without prodding from the city.

“You’ll be more motivated not to rent your room to high school kids to have parties, you’ll be more motivated to not rent your rooms for prostitution purposes,” said City Manager Graham Mitchell. “This program, if it’s set up right, will give them more responsibility to be selective of who they are renting to without being discriminatory.”

California’s attorney general had previously said fining hotels accepting vouchers was a form of income discrimination.

On Tuesday, City Attorney Morgan Foley said the new plan sidestepped that concern by focusing on renters’ behavior, not their source of income.

The changes could similarly pressure organizations issuing vouchers, like Equus, to ramp up the support they offer participants, officials said.

“If you’re a property owner and you’re allowing homeless vouchers — now, all of a sudden, you have an incentive to ensure that Equus, or whoever, is doing the wrap-around services,” Mitchell added.

Click here to read the full article in the San Diego Union Tribune


  1. “SOMETHING FOR NOTHING” How about requiring the people getting the FREE room for the night to do a days work to pay for it? Hignways are in constant need of clean up. It is called “Workfare” and the far left hates the concept.

    • I agree that the homeless and welfare recipients should be required to do something for society in exchange for their handouts. In Kommiefornia, the two main reasons why they aren’t required to work are 1) Public employee unions that believe they are “stealing” union jobs and therefore union dues and 2) the lefties running the state believe it is demeaning to them to be required to work.

  2. How can motel refuse service, that is discrimination. Government makes you rent to the homeless and then fines you for the homeless causing problems.

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