Citizens of El Cajon, California took to the streets this weekend to protest a proposed Home Depot in their community. Residents lined the street as local TV stations recorded their demonstration for the evening news. According to a report submitted by anti Home Depot leaders, “Our battle against Home Depot in El Cajon, CA comes to a showdown vote Monday, May 1st, as the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission, which must approve all annexations, will vote. Their staff is recommending DENIAL….so we are cautiously optimistic, but we are gathering more than 100 people to be there and we are holding a rally Saturday. We had a great turnout of residents, approximately 125 or so.” Home Depot is trying to get approval to have land east of the city annexed into El Cajon. The LAFCO will vote on this project tomorrow morning. “This is by far the most controversial and contentious city annexation we’ve dealt with,” Mike Ott, the commission’s executive officer told the Union-Tribune. The commission has to decide if the city of El Cajon is able to provide adequate municipal services, such as fire protection, to the 14 acre site. The land is currently part of the county. Home Depot already owns the land, and has the El Cajon City Council in its orange vest. The Council rejected Home Depot’s plans six years ago, but this go round were more compliant. The Commission will look at whether or not the land is “substantially surrounded” by the city. The Commission’s staff have said in a 33 page report that the land is not surrounded, the City Council says it is. The city claims the land is 68% surrounded by El Cajon. “The law does not contain a specific percentage for what may be defined as substantially surrounded,” a LAFCO’s Ott told the newspaper. The LAFCO report noted, “while state law encourages the elimination of islands and substantially surrounded territory, it also would be irresponsible to ignore the concerns expressed by over 1,000 people.” Home Depot argues that annexation is not a popularity contest, admitting that their plans are unpopular with many people. “This piece of property has no access except through the city of El Cajon,” a Home Depot spokesman said. Residents counter that a big box store is out of scale for the neighborhood, and will only attract traffic, noise and air pollution. They note that the county’s land use plan lists this property for residential use. “We are all very impressed at the depth and scope and the comprehensive nature of the (LAFCO) review and that they actually looked at all the concerns we’ve been discussing,” Cliff Albert, a local radio commentator who lives in the Olive Hills neighborhood, told the Union-Tribune. The annexation is opposed by the county, local planners, and the Lakeside Fire Protection District. The county sued the city in court over the annexation, but the case was dimissed on a technical point, not on the merits of the case. The Fire Protection District is concerned that it will lose tax revenue while continuing to have to protect the big box store. Several Home Depot stores have caught fire, and when they do, they create a hazmat fire because of all nature of flammable and combustible materials warehoused in large quantities inside the store.
Whatever the decision on Monday, it is likely this case will end up in court. If Home Depot does not get its annexation, it will sue. If residents are denied, they will likely appeal to the courts. That means there will be no Home Depot in El Cajon in the near future. To see an earlier story about this case, search Newsflash by “El Cajon.”