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El Cajon moves forward with measure that could penalize motels

The city says small motel rooms shouldn’t have to call police or firefighters more than one time per room, per year.

EL CAJON, Calif. — Minors booking hotel rooms, causing disruption, drug use and attempted homicides: these are some of the 911 calls El Cajon says first responders are having to deal with daily at motels and hotels. 

“How come half the hotel and motels in the city seem to be running safe operations and the other half are having more difficulty?” said El Cajon Councilmember Phil Ortiz.

Some motel owners rent the rooms to anyone, including those with homeless vouchers, but have no safety measures in place or the needed wrap-around services.

The city says small motel rooms shouldn’t have to call police or firefighters more than one time per room, per year.

Recently 9 out of 16 motels in El Cajon have exceeded that, which is why the city is concerned and has advanced a measure that could penalize owners who are constantly calling first responders.

Making owners to provide additional security or be forced to close their hotel.

“Calling, working with them, letters, maybe even a fine and everything is up to even removing a business permit,” said Ortiz. 

However, homeless advocates are upset with the move and say these are simply profiling efforts and will only pressure hotel owners to turn away vulnerable residents.

“Rather than penalizing the gracious motel and hotel owners and rather than penalizing the people experiencing homelessness the county needs to set up their supportive services so we can make this work for everyone,” said homeless advocate Amie Zamudio, with Housing 4 the Homeless. 

While Ortiz, who has been meeting with owners disagrees and says the city’s intention is to encourage facilities to have protections in place.

He said, “We want it to be based on behavior, off of actions so not having people who have caused problems at your motel in the past and not letting them in.”

This comes months after the city threatened to fine places accepting a high number of vouchers.

The measure still needs to be approved by other departments and the attorney general before becoming active.

WATCH RELATED: El Cajon to hold meeting with motel owners over homeless vouchers (Sept. 2022).

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