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Squatters cleared from El Jardin property

VIllage News Staff

Three homeless people who had been squatting inside the vacant El Jardin restaurant building were cleared out by sheriff's deputies on April 17. The historic building has been empty since the property was sold to Mr. Salim last year.

Mr. Salim, who lives approximately an hour away, was contacted and gave his permission for law enforcement to enter the building and clear it out.

The deputies found one man and two women, along with a dog and a cat, inside the building. One of the women was arrested and released on the spot for drug-related charges. The others were cited for trespassing.

The eviction process took over an hour as the homeless individuals removed their belongings from the building, including tires with rims, furniture, artwork, appliances, and a black baby grand piano that had been moved inside.

The squatters had been prying open the doors on the south side of the building to gain entry. The week before, sheriffs had been called to the property after people had been seen inside the building, but the owner, who had quickly driven from an hour away, didn't have keys to enter.

Community members and employees in nearby businesses have been complaining about the homeless people living in the building and the graffiti that was starting to be seen on the property.

"Destiny," one of the individuals who was moved out of the building, said that she was actually the one who had painted over the graffiti she found outside the building.

Destiny also said that they had kept looters from removing copper piping and wiring from inside the building.

One of the deputies asked Destiny why she wasn't at the local hotel where he thought she was staying. She told Village News that she hadn't received her voucher yet. "Everyone else has theirs, but for some reason, we haven't received ours yet."

It has been revealed that prior to this, at least two of the three individuals evicted had been evicted from a house on Brandon St. in Fallbrook, which was cleared of squatters by the sheriff's department last year. The squatters moved into the Brandon house after the owner had gone into a retirement home. The property was made ready for sale following a lengthy eviction process.

The issue of homelessness has been a concern in the area, with new people arriving from out of town periodically and the drug and mental health issues that come with the homeless situation.

Shirley Viramontes, a Fallbrook resident, has taken it upon herself to communicate with the El Jardin property owner and help however she can to keep the property from falling prey to squatters. The owner signed paperwork available to all business owners and gave Viramontes permission to put up No Trespassing signs which give the sheriff's department authority to arrest people when they are caught on the property.

North County Fire also "red tagged" the building last week, showing it is not safe for occupancy.

Going forward, deputies will have the authority to clear anyone found on the property. Local businesses and employees are hopeful that these steps taken will ensure the safety and cleanliness of the property from now on.

Mr. Salim is investing a significant amount of money to redevelop the property into a state-of-the-art carwash which he said will be like nothing that exists presently in the area. He said, "It's one that I would be comfortable taking my BMW through." He said he doesn't expect to be able to start work on the property for at least a year.


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