El Cajon, California

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El Cajon (/ɛl kəˈhn/ el kə-HOHN, American Spanish: [el kaˈxon]; Spanish: El Cajón,[7] 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 in turn named for the box-like shape of the valley which surrounds the city, which is also the origin of the city's common nickname of "The Box".[8]

El Cajon, California
El Cajón
City of El Cajon
El Cajon.jpg
Official seal of El Cajon, California
"The Valley of Opportunity"
Location of El Cajon in San Diego County, California
Location of El Cajon in San Diego County, California
El Cajon, California is located in the United States
El Cajon, California
El Cajon, California
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 32°47′54″N 116°57′36″W / 32.79833°N 116.96000°W / 32.79833; -116.96000Coordinates: 32°47′54″N 116°57′36″W / 32.79833°N 116.96000°W / 32.79833; -116.96000
Country United States
State California
CountySan Diego
IncorporatedNovember 12, 1912[1]
 • MayorBill Wells[2]
 • Total14.51 sq mi (37.58 km2)
 • Land14.51 sq mi (37.58 km2)
 • Water0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)  0%
Elevation433 ft (132 m)
 • Total99,478
 • Estimate 
 • Rank72nd in California
303rd in the United States
 • Density7,078.43/sq mi (2,733.01/km2)
Time zoneUTC−8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−7 (PDT)
ZIP Codes
92019–92022, 92090
Area code619
FIPS code06-21712
GNIS feature IDs1652701, 2410406


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 Californian 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.[9]


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 pasture land 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 pasture lands of El Cajon supported the cattle herds of the mission and its native Indian converts.

It was not until the Mexican era (1821–1846) that titles to plots of land were granted to individuals. The original intent of the 1834 secularization legislation was to have church property divided among the former mission Indians. However, 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 eleven 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.[10][11] 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.[12] For the first half of the twentieth century, El Cajon was known for its grape, citrus and tomato agriculture.[13][14]

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 (ECSCRA). 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."[15][16]


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 system, El Cajon straddles areas of Mediterranean climate (Csa) and semi-arid climate (BSh). As a result, it is often described as "arid Mediterranean" and "semi-arid 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]

El Cajon's climate is warm during summer with mean temperatures averaging 70.1 °F (21.2 °C) or higher and cool during winter with mean temperatures averaging 55.4 °F (13.0 °C) or higher.

The average high in the summer ranges from about 80 to 90 °F (27 to 32 °C), with temperatures reaching as high as over 105 °F (41 °C). The coldest month of the year is December with an average maximum temperature of 63 °F (17 °C) and an average minimum of 47 °F (8 °C), occasionally reaching below 39 °F (4 °C).

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 19 inches (480 mm), nearly twice the average of San Diego, and similar to Pasadena and the San Francisco Bay Area. Rainfall is fairly evenly distributed throughout the winter months, but rare in summer. The wettest month of the year is December with an average rainfall of 3.80 inches (97 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).[17] Three inches (7.6 cm) of snow covered the ground in January 1882.

Climate data for El Cajon, California (1981–2010 normals)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 93
Mean maximum °F (°C) 83
Average high °F (°C) 69.6
Daily mean °F (°C) 55.8
Average low °F (°C) 42.0
Mean minimum °F (°C) 32
Record low °F (°C) 26
Average precipitation inches (mm) 2.25
Source: NOAA [18]


Historical population
Census Pop.
2019 (est.)102,708[6]3.2%
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%) European American, 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. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 31,542 persons (30.4%).[20]

Approximately 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.[20] In 2017 a spokesperson for the city of El Cajon estimated that 15,000 to 20,000 Chaldean Catholics 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, there were 94,869 people, 34,199 households, and 23,152 families 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% European American, 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. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 29.2% of the population.

There were 34,199 households, out of which 37.0% had children under the age of 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 non-families. 24.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 8.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.70 and the average family size was 3.21.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 27.9% under the age of 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 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females, there were 95.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $35,566, and the median income 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 incomeEdit

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 groupsEdit

As of 2012 it had 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 representationEdit

In the California State Legislature, El Cajon is in the 38th Senate District, represented by Republican Brian Jones, and in the 71st Assembly District, represented by Republican Randy Voepel.[33]

In the United States House of Representatives, El Cajon is split between California's 50th congressional district, represented by Republican Darrell Issa, and California's 53rd congressional district, represented by Democrat Sara Jacobs.[34]


The Parkway Plaza shopping mall is located in El Cajon.

Top employersEdit

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
4 City of El Cajon 450
5 Grossmont Union High School District 431
6 Taylor Guitars 400
7 Country Hills Health Care & Rehabilitation Center 357
8 University Mechanical & 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 schoolsEdit

  • 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 schoolsEdit

  • Cajon Valley Middle School
  • Emerald Middle School
  • Greenfield Middle School
  • Hillsdale Middle School
  • Los Coches Creek Middle School
  • Montgomery Middle School

Public high schoolsEdit

Private schoolsEdit


Places of interestEdit

Annual eventsEdit

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 attractionsEdit

Visitor attractions in 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 peopleEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "California Cities by Incorporation Date". California Association of Local Agency Formation Commissions. Archived from the original (Word) on November 3, 2014. Retrieved August 25, 2014.
  2. ^ "City Council: Overview". City of El Cajon. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
  3. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  4. ^ "El Cajon". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved November 5, 2014.
  5. ^ "American FactFinder - Results". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020. Retrieved May 24, 2015.
  6. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  7. ^ Figueroa, Teri (December 7, 2020). "Fiscal: Víctima en El Cajón fue apuñalada 101 veces" [District Attorney: El Cajon victim was stabbed 101 times]. San Diego Union-Tribune en Español (in Spanish). Archived from the original on May 4, 2021. Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  8. ^ El Cajon city history Archived June 13, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Gudde, Erwin G. (2004). California place names : the origin and etymology of current geographical names (4th ed., rev. and enl. ed.). Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press. pp. 58, 119. ISBN 978-0-520-24217-3.
  10. ^ City of El Cajon, "The Downtown El Cajon Arch,", retrieved April 24, 2011; a copy is archived by WebCite® at https://www.webcitation.org/5yDCeVdCW?url=http://www.ci.el-cajon.ca.us/misc/Arch.html
  11. ^ City of El Cajon, text of plaque on the Memorial Arch at intersection of Main and Magnolia Streets, 2009.
  12. ^ Hellmann, Paul T. (2005). Historical Gazetteer of the United States. Taylor & Francis. p. 86. ISBN 978-0-203-99700-0.
  13. ^ http://ncmg.ucanr.org/files/183442.pdf
  14. ^ Federal Writers Project of the Works Progress Administration (April 16, 2013). San Diego in the 1930s: The WPA Guide to America's Finest City. University of California Press. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-520-95465-6.
  15. ^ Gehlken, Michael (July 6, 2013). "Sports site No. 8: Cajon Speedway". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved March 16, 2020.
  16. ^ "Earle Brucker Jr., 83, longtime operator of Cajon Speedway". San Diego Union-Tribune. April 2, 2009. Retrieved March 16, 2020.
  17. ^ El Cajon Monthly Climate Summary; El Cajon Yale Ranch Monthly Climate Summary. Western Regional Climate Center. Retrieved February 26, 2013.
  18. ^ "NOWData - NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved December 2, 2012.
  19. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  20. ^ a b c "2010 Census P.L. 94-171 Summary File Data". United States Census Bureau.
  21. ^ a b c Vore, Adrian (May 28, 2017). "Number of immigrants didn't seem correct for El Cajon - The San Diego Union-Tribune". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
  22. ^ "El Cajon Sees Rise In Iraqi Refugee Population". ABC10 News. September 28, 2010. Archived from the original on July 22, 2013. Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  23. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  24. ^ Burleigh, Nina (April 10, 2012). "Shaima Alawadi's Murder: A Hate Crime Against Women?". Time. Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  25. ^ Gupta, Arun (April 7, 2012). "Shaima Alawadi's murder: Hate crime or honor killing?". Salon. Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  26. ^ "Presidential Primary Election, Tuesday, June 5, 2012" (PDF). San Diego County Registrar of Voters. Retrieved October 26, 2013.
  27. ^ "Elected officials". City of El Cajon. Archived from the original on October 29, 2013. Retrieved October 26, 2013.
  28. ^ "District Elections Information | El Cajon, CA". www.cityofelcajon.us. Retrieved December 26, 2019.
  29. ^ Pearlman, Karen (November 13, 2013). "Council names Wells El Cajon's new mayor". San Diego Union Tribune. Archived from the original on May 8, 2014. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
  30. ^ Pearlman, Karen (October 24, 2013). "El Cajon Mayor Mark Lewis resigns". San Diego Union Tribune.
  31. ^ Alford, Abbie (November 12, 2013). "El Cajon appoints mayor before packed crowd". CBS-8. Retrieved November 13, 2013.
  32. ^ El Cajon City Council
  33. ^ "Statewide Database". UC Regents. Retrieved November 28, 2014.
  34. ^ "Communities of Interest - City". California Citizens Redistricting Commission. Archived from the original on September 30, 2013. Retrieved September 27, 2014.
  35. ^ City of El Cajon CAFR
  36. ^ Home. Foothills Christian Schools. Retrieved on March 8, 2018. "Foothills Christian Preschool 315 W Bradley Ave El Cajon, CA 92020" and "Foothills Christian Middle School 350 Cypress Lane Suite C El Cajon, CA 92020" and "Foothills Christian High School 2321 Dryden Road El Cajon, CA 92020"
  37. ^ Pearlman, Karen (May 1, 2017). "America on Main Street May 20 in El Cajon". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
  38. ^ Pearlman, Karen (November 11, 2016). "Mother Goose Parade marches into El Cajon Nov. 20". San Diego Union-Tribune. Archived from the original on November 13, 2016. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
  39. ^ "Things to Do in El Cajon". TripAdvisor. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
  40. ^ Robert Christgau: Lester Bangs, 1948-1982
  41. ^ Zwerin, Mike (December 8, 1993). "Zappa's Talent for Fun". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 28, 2016.

External linksEdit