El Cajon, California

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El Cajon, California
El Cajón
El Cajon.jpg
Flag of El Cajon, California.gif
Seal of El Cajon, California.png
"The Valley of Opportunity"
San Diego County California Incorporated and Unincorporated areas El Cajon Highlighted 0621712.svg
Location of El Cajon in San Diego County, California
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El Cajon, California
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 32°47′54″N116°57′36″W / 32.79833°N 116.96000°W / 32.79833; -116.96000
Country Flag of the United States (23px).png  United States
State Flag of California.svg  California
County Flag of San Diego County, California.png San Diego
Incorporated November 12, 1912 [1]
   Mayor Bill Wells [2]
  Total14.51 sq mi (37.58 km2)
  Land14.51 sq mi (37.58 km2)
  Water0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)  0%
433 ft (132 m)
 (2020) [5]
  Rank 67th in California
298th in the United States
  Density7,300/sq mi (2,800/km2)
Time zone UTC−8 (Pacific)
  Summer (DST) UTC−7 (PDT)
ZIP Codes
9201992022, 92090
Area code 619
FIPS code 06-21712
GNIS feature IDs 1652701, 2410406
Website www.ci.el-cajon.ca.us

El Cajon ( /ɛlkəˈhn/ el kə-HOHN, Latin American Spanish: [elkaˈxon] ; Spanish: El Cajón, [6] meaning "the box") is a city in San Diego County, California, United States, 17 mi (27 km) east of downtown San Diego. The city takes its name from Rancho El Cajón, which was named for the box-like shape of the valley that surrounds the city, and the origin of the city's common nickname "the Box". [7]



El Cajon takes its name from Rancho El Cajon, which was owned by the family of Don Miguel de Pedrorena, a Californio ranchero and signer of the California Constitution. Miguel Pedrorena.jpg
El Cajon takes its name from Rancho El Cajón, which was owned by the family of Don Miguel de Pedrorena, a Californio ranchero and signer of the California Constitution.

El Cajón, Spanish for "the box", was first recorded on September 10, 1821, as an alternative name for sitio rancho Santa Mónica to describe the "boxed-in" nature of the valley in which it sat. The name appeared on maps in 1873 and 1875, shortened to "Cajon", until the modern town developed, in which the post office was named "El Cajon".

In 1905, the name was once again expanded to "El Cajon" under the insistence of California banker and historian Zoeth Skinner Eldredge. [8]


During Spanish rule (1769–1821), the government encouraged settlement of territory now known as California by the establishment of large land grants called ranchos, from which the English word "ranch" is derived. Land grants were made to the Roman Catholic Church, which set up numerous missions throughout the region. In the early 19th century, mission padres' search for pastureland led them to the El Cajon Valley. Surrounding foothills served as a barrier to straying cattle and a watershed to gather the sparse rainfall. For years, the pasturelands of El Cajon supported the cattle herds of the mission and its native Indian converts.

Titles to plots of land were not granted to individuals until the Mexican era (1821–1846). The original intent of the 1834 secularization legislation was to have church property divided among the former mission Indians, but most of the grants were actually made to rich "Californios" of Spanish background who had long been casting envious eyes on the vast holdings of the Roman Catholic missions. In 1845, California Governor Pio Pico confiscated the lands of Mission San Diego de Alcala. He granted 11 square leagues (about 48,800 acres or 19,700 ha) of the El Cajon Valley to Dona Maria Antonio Estudillo, daughter of José Antonio Estudillo, alcalde of San Diego, to repay a $500 government obligation. The grant was originally called Rancho Santa Monica and encompassed present-day El Cajon, Bostonia, Santee, Lakeside, Flinn Springs, and the eastern part of La Mesa. It also contained the 28-acre (11 ha) Rancho Cañada de los Coches grant. Maria Estudillo was the wife of Don Miguel Pedrorena (1808–1850), a native of Madrid, Spain, who had come to California from Peru in 1838 to operate a trading business.

With the cession of California to the United States following the Mexican–American War, the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo provided that the land grants would be honored. As required by the Land Act of 1851, a claim for Rancho El Cajon was filed by Thomas W. Sutherland, guardian of Pedrorena's heirs (his son, Miguel, and his three daughters, Victoria, Ysabel, and Elenain) with the Public Land Commission in 1852, confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court, and the grant was patented in 1876. In 1868, Los Angeles land developer Isaac Lankershim bought the bulk of the Pedrorena's Rancho El Cajon holdings and employed Major Levi Chase, a former Union Army officer, as his agent. Chase received from Lankershim 7,624 acres (3,090 ha) known as the Chase Ranch. Lankershim hired Amaziah Lord Knox (1833–1918), a New Englander whom he had met in San Francisco, to manage Rancho El Cajon. In 1876, Knox established a hotel there to serve the growing number of people traveling between San Diego and Julian, where gold had been discovered in 1869. Room and board for a guest and horse cost $1 a night. The area became known as Knox's Corners and was later renamed. [9] [10] By 1878 there were 25 families living in the valley and a portion of the hotel lobby became the valley post office with Knox as the first postmaster.

El Cajon was incorporated as a city in 1912. [11] For the first half of the 20th century, El Cajon was known for its grape, avocado, and citrus agriculture. [12] [13]

In the 1960s and 1970s, Frontier Town, Big Oak Ranch, was a tourist attraction, featuring a typical frontier-town theme park and a periodic simulated shootout. The park closed around 1980 and is being used for residential housing.

Cajon Speedway was a 70-acre race track (28 ha) that operated from 1961 to 2005, which was founded by Earle Brucker Jr. of the El Cajon Stock Car Racing Association. One of his sons, Steve Brucker, later took over ownership of the track. Though closing after the death of Steve Brucker, it is a historic museum featuring the original entrance sign with the slogan "The fastest 3/8-mile paved oval in the West." [14] [15]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 14.4 square miles (37 km2), all land. It is bordered by San Diego and La Mesa on the west, Spring Valley on the south, Santee on the north, and unincorporated San Diego County on the east. It includes the neighborhoods of Fletcher Hills, Bostonia, and Rancho San Diego.


Under the Köppen climate classification, El Cajon straddles areas of Mediterranean climate (Csa) and semiarid climate (BSh). As a result, it is often described as "arid Mediterranean" and "semiarid steppe". Like most inland areas in Southern California, the climate varies dramatically within a short distance, known as microclimate. El Cajon's climate has greater extremes compared to coastal San Diego. The farther east from the coast, the more arid the climate gets, until one reaches the mountains, where precipitation increases due to orographic uplift.[ citation needed ]

Temperature variations between night and day tend to be moderate with an average difference of 24 °F (13 °C) during the summer, and an average difference of 26 °F (14 °C) during the winter.

The annual average precipitation at El Cajon is 11.63 inches (295.4 mm). Rainfall is fairly evenly distributed throughout the winter, but rare in summer. The wettest month of the year is February with an average rainfall of 2.61 inches (66 mm).

The record high temperature was 114 °F (46 °C) on September 5, 2020. The record low temperature was 19 °F (−7 °C) on January 8, 1913. The wettest year was 1941 with 28.14 inches (715 mm) and the driest year was 1989 with 1.51 inches (38 mm). The most rainfall in one month was 11.43 inches (290 mm) in January 1993. The most rainfall in 24 hours was 5.60 inches (142 mm) on January 27, 1916. A rare snowfall in November 1992 totaled 0.3 inches (7.6 mm). [16] Three inches (7.6 cm) of snow covered the ground in January 1882.

Climate data for El Cajon, California (1991–2020 normals, extremes 1979–present)
Record high °F (°C)93
Mean maximum °F (°C)83.8
Mean daily maximum °F (°C)69.3
Daily mean °F (°C)55.9
Mean daily minimum °F (°C)42.5
Mean minimum °F (°C)33.1
Record low °F (°C)26
Average precipitation inches (mm)2.32
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)
Source: NOAA [17] [18]


Historical population
1920 469
1930 1,050123.9%
1940 1,47140.1%
1950 5,600280.7%
1960 37,618571.8%
1970 52,27339.0%
1980 73,89241.4%
1990 88,69320.0%
2000 94,8697.0%
2010 99,4784.9%
2020 106,2156.8%
U.S. Decennial Census [19]


The 2010 United States Census reported that El Cajon had a population of 99,478. The racial makeup of El Cajon was 43,746 (41.6%) White, 6,306 (6.3%) African American, 835 (0.8%) Native American, 3,561 (3.6%) Asian (1.7% Filipino, 0.5% Chinese, 0.4% Vietnamese, 0.2% Japanese, 0.1% Indian, 0.1% Korean, 0.6% other), 495 (0.5%) Pacific Islander, 26,498 (26.6%) from other races, and 6,832 (6.9%) from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 31,542 persons (30.4%). [20]

About one-third of El Cajon residents are foreign-born. [21] In particular, the city has a large Iraqi immigrant population, consisting of both Arabs and Chaldean Catholics; both groups are among the largest such communities in the country. [22] According to the U.S. Census Bureau 2008-2010 Estimate, 7,537 residents self identify as Arabs (7.6%; mainly Iraqi), and 6,409 (6.4%) are Chaldean Catholic Assyrians. [20] In 2017, a spokesperson for the city of El Cajon estimated that 15,000 to 20,000 Chaldo-Assyrians live in the city. [21]

In 2010, El Cajon had the highest poverty rate in San Diego County among adults, at 29.7%, and children, at 36.5%. [20]


As of the census [23] of 2000, 94,869 people, 34,199 households, and 23,152 families were residing in the city. The population density was 6,510.6 inhabitants per square mile (2,513.8/km2). There were 35,190 housing units at an average density of 2,415.0 per square mile (932.4/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 42.9% White, 5.4% African American, 1.0% Native American, 2.8% Asian, 0.4% Pacific Islander, 24.1% from other races], and 6.0% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 29.2% of the population.

Of the 34,199 households, 37.0% had children under 18 living with them, 46.0% were married couples living together, 16.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.3% were not families. About 24.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 8.5% had someone living alone who was 65 or older. The average household size was 2.70, and the average family size was 3.21.

In the city, the age distribution was 27.9% under 18, 11.2% from 18 to 24, 31.3% from 25 to 44, 18.3% from 45 to 64, and 11.3% who were 65 or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females, there were 95.2 males. For every 100 females 18 and over, there were 91.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $35,566, and for a family was $40,045. Males had a median income of $32,498 versus $25,320 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,698. About 13.5% of families and 16.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.1% of those under age 18 and 9.0% of those age 65 or over.

Household income

According to estimates by the San Diego Association of Governments, the median household income of El Cajon in 2005 was $47,885 (not adjusted for inflation). When adjusted for inflation (1999 dollars; comparable to Census data above), the median household income was $38,884.

Ethnic groups

As of 2012, it had an estimated 40,000 Iraqi Americans. [24] Included are members of different religious and ethnic groups originating from Iraq. The Iran-Iraq War prompted the first immigration, and it continued due to the Persian Gulf War and then the U.S. Invasion of Iraq and the resulting conflict. [25]


Until 2012, El Cajon was a general law city operating under a council-manager system. In June 2012, the voters adopted a city charter, changing its status to chartered city. [26] El Cajon is governed by a five-member city council, on which the mayor also sits. [27] Starting in 2018, four councilmembers are elected from single-member districts and the mayor is elected at-large. [28]

On October 24, 2013, Mayor Mark Lewis resigned his position after coming under criticism for remarks he made about El Cajon's Chaldean community. Many notable figures including Congressman Juan Vargas and Neighborhood Market Association President Mark Arabo called for his resignation. [29] Lewis resigned shortly after due to health issues. [30] On November 12, the city council appointed Councilman Bill Wells, who had been serving as interim mayor, as the mayor. The vote of the council was 4–0; Wells recused himself. [31] He was elected to a full four-year term as mayor in November 2014 and re-elected in November 2018. [32]

The current mayor and city councilmembers include Mayor Bill Wells and City Councilmembers Gary Kendrick, Steve Goble, Phil Ortiz, and Michelle Metchel. El Cajon's city manager is Graham Mitchell.

State and federal representation

In the California State Legislature, El Cajon is in the 39th Senate District , represented by Democrat Toni Atkins. The northern half of the city is in the 78th Assembly District , represented by Democrat Chris Ward, and the southern half of the city is in the 79th Assembly District , represented by Democrat Akilah Weber. [33]

In the United States House of Representatives, El Cajon is in California's 51st congressional district , represented by Democrat Sara Jacobs. [34]


The Parkway Plaza shopping mall is located in El Cajon.

Top employers

According to the city's 2014 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, [35] the top employers in the city are:

#Employer# of Employees
1 Cajon Valley Union School District 1,412
2 GKN Aerospace Chem-tronics 859
3 Grossmont–Cuyamaca Community College District 712
4City of El Cajon450
5 Grossmont Union High School District 431
6 Taylor Guitars 400
7Country Hills Health Care & Rehabilitation Center357
8 University Mechanical and Engineering Contractors 352
9 The Home Depot 339
10 Walmart 260


Cajon Valley Union School District operates public elementary and middle schools. Grossmont Union High School District operates public high schools.

Public elementary schools

  • Anza Elementary
  • Avocado Elementary
  • Blossom Valley Elementary
  • Bostonia Elementary
  • Chase Avenue Elementary
  • Crest Elementary
  • Dehesa School
  • Fletcher Hills Elementary
  • Flying Hills Elementary
  • Fuerte Elementary
  • Jamacha Elementary
  • Johnson Elementary
  • Lexington Elementary
  • Madison Elementary
  • Magnolia Elementary
  • Meridian Elementary
  • Naranca Elementary
  • Rancho San Diego Elementary
  • Rios Elementary
  • Vista Grande Elementary
  • W.D. Hall Elementary

Public middle schools

Public high schools

Steele Canyon high school

Private schools


Places of interest

Annual events

On a Saturday in May, the city celebrates its diversity with a free family-friendly event called "America on Main Street". The festival replaces a previous city-sponsored event called the International Friendship Festival, which ran from 1991 to 2003. Both festivals highlight the city's identity as a "mini-United Nations", with 30% of its population being immigrants from Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Turkey, and other countries. [37] [21]

El Cajon's annual Mother Goose Parade has been held on the Sunday before Thanksgiving every year since 1946. Organizers claim it is the largest parade in San Diego County. It features more than 100 entries, including "motorized floats, marching bands and drill units, equestrians, clowns, performing artists, giant helium balloons, specialty vehicles, and Santa Claus." [38]

Visitor attractions

Visitor attractions in and around El Cajon include the Water Conservation Garden and Butterfly Garden at Cuyamaca College, Sycuan Casino, Summers Past Farms, and the Parkway Plaza Mall. [39]


Notable people

See also

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