Controversy Surrounds Future Of East County Performing Arts Center
El Cajon city leaders think they're close to finally solving the problem of the East County Performing Arts Center.
For years, the center known as ECPAC, located in the city hall complex in downtown El Cajon, has struggled.
Back in 2012, city leaders considered tearing it down in favor of a new hotel.
But now, a deal with the Rock Church, a popular evangelical worship group with locations around San Diego, may keep ECPAC busy and in the black for the next several years.
The problem is, critics of the deal claim it's unconstitutional.
The nonprofit Citizen's Oversight Projects sent a letter to the city of El Cajon on Sept. 4 outlining the reasons why they believe the deal breaks the law and say they will sue if the city approves the deal.
"Renting a theater and other public spaces to various religious groups is explicitly supported by legal precedents based on the “free exercise” provisions of our U.S. Constitution and the California state Constitution, as long as these rentals are on the same footing as every other user," the group said in the letter. "However, there are severe restrictions, and it is clear that the proposed Rock Church lease agreement, as we understand the proposal, falls outside these legal precedents."
City leaders said the deal is legal and it is great for the city.
“The Rock Church proposal is so significant as to create an unprecedented positive impact upon the Downtown El Cajon business community, as well as facilitate the sustained financial stability of ECPAC for the benefit of the entire community," El Cajon City Manager Douglas Williford said in a statement. "There is no other action or development proposal that has ever come before the City that would generate more new business for downtown El Cajon and surrounding areas than this proposal.”
"The city of El Cajon has assured us that this agreement is perfectly legal, and we at the Rock Church are excited for this new opportunity to serve the people of East County. Through this part-time lease agreement, a community treasure will finally be reopened to the public, and the Rock will provide more than $1 million to the city to enhance services like police, fire and street resurfacing," a Rock Church statement read.