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Bill Macfadyen: ATV Crash That Killed Holly Brooks Still Drawing Reader Response

NoozWeek’s Top 5 resurrects Huguette Clark, discovers a decomposing body, checks out The Hideaways and gets serious about water conservation

By William M. Macfadyen, Noozhawk Publisher | @noozhawk |

There were 72,740 people who read Noozhawk this past week. What were your top stories?

1. Buellton Woman Killed in All-Terrain Vehicle Accident

A Buellton woman was killed just after midnight June 14 when she lost control of the all-terrain vehicle she was driving and it overturned on her. A second woman was able to leap to safety and was uninjured.

The California Highway Patrol is investigating the cause of the crash.

According to the CHP, Holly Brooks, 54, was driving a four-wheel Kubota RTV on her ranch, off Highway 246 near Drum Canyon Road west of Buellton, at about 12:20 a.m. The ATV flipped as she drove up an embankment and it landed on top of her, the CHP said.

Authorities say Brooks suffered fatal injuries in the crash and was pronounced dead at the scene.

A passenger, Alyssa Whitcraft, 32, of Santa Barbara, jumped out of the ATV as it began to turn over and was unhurt.

Brooks and her longtime partner, Blair Pence, together ran Pence Ranch, a small, artisanal winery at 1909 W. Highway 246. A celebration of her life is scheduled for 3 p.m. June 21 at the ranch.

It’s got rooms and a view, but what will the Huguette Clark estate be when it emerges under new caretakers? (David Petry file photo)
It’s got rooms and a view, but what will the Huguette Clark estate be when it emerges under new caretakers? (David Petry file photo)

2. Bellosguardo Foundation Finalizing Board as Huguette Clark Estate Collection Goes to Auction

Mining heiress Huguette Clark died in New York City in 2011 at age 104. For decades before her death, however, her majestic oceanfront mansion in Santa Barbara sat largely unused — although kept always at the ready in case of an imminent arrival that never came.

As the resolution of Clark’s complex and once-contested estate creeps toward a conclusion, her beloved Bellosguardo property, perched on a bluff overlooking East Beach and the Andrée Clark Bird Refuge, has become a relative beehive of activity. But the renewed interest is as much about its future as its past.

On June 18, a Christie’s auction in New York raised $8.5 million from the sale of the Clark family’s artwork, rare books, Gilded Age furniture and musical instruments. The auction proceeds will help pay for a settlement agreement that, among other things, clears the way for the formation of a Bellosguardo Foundation board of directors to manage the Santa Barbara property and its assets.

Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider is nominating local representatives to the foundation board, and other names will be put forward by the Clark family, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington and Clark’s Santa Barbara attorney, James Hurley.

The new board will help decide the fate of Bellosguardo. Among the proposals being floated? Turn it into a museum, an art gallery, an event venue or something else entirely.

Personally, I wonder whether the property would be better used as a revenue-producing hotel, especially given the size of the property, its cabanas and the vast stretch of often empty beach in front of them. Either that or a Target.

The Santa Barbara Fire Department hazmat team suits up to carry out a grisly mission. (Zack Warburg photo)
The Santa Barbara Fire Department hazmat team suits up to carry out a grisly mission. (Zack Warburg photo)

3. Santa Barbara Hazmat Team Called In for Decomposing Body

A badly decomposed body was found in an apartment at Castillo and Mission streets on June 18, prompting Santa Barbara firefighters to summon a hazmat team to remove it.

“The person was discovered by the property manager, and had been deceased for about three weeks,” police Sgt. Riley Harwood told Noozhawk.

Fire Battalion Chief Lee Waldron said the body was wedged between a bed and a wall, and he described the scene in the 2000 block of Castillo Street as “ugly and smelly.”

Harwood said the body appeared to be that of a 50-year-old man.

“We believe it’s the resident at that location,” he said. “If it’s who we think it is, then the department is familiar with him and he had chronic health issues, so it would be nothing suspicious.”

Waldron said the hazmat squad is called out for these types of requests two to three times a year.

“You would think that somebody would’ve noticed before now,” he said. “It’s kind of sad.”

Think you may qualify for an income-restricted home at the Hideaway Bungalows? Better get a move on. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)
Think you may qualify for an income-restricted home at the Hideaway Bungalows? Better get a move on. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

4. Applicants Clamor for One of 10 Income-Restricted Homes at the Hideaway in Goleta

The Hideaway Bungalows development, which was approved in 2009 at 7900 Hollister Ave. in far western Goleta, has reported brisk sales for its 101 available units. Prices for the duplex, triplex and single-family homes range from $637,000 up to $1 million-plus at the project site, near Sandpiper Golf Club and Bacara Resort & Spa.

The development also includes 10 income-restricted condominium units, and the City of Goleta has partnered with the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Barbara to conduct a lottery for the units if — as appears likely — the number of applicants exceeds the number of units.

Families with a gross household income of at least $41,049 but no more than $131,940 are eligible. The application deadline has been set for 4:30 p.m. July 16 with a public lottery drawing July 25.

Information and lottery applications are available at the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Barbara Office at 5575 Armitos Ave. in Goleta, or click here for more information.

5. Water Conservation Efforts Win in Montecito, Lose in Santa Barbara

Earlier this year, the Montecito Water District restricted water use and implemented mandatory rationing for all customers, along with severe penalties. According to general manager Tom Mosby, the district was on an unsustainable path and would be completely out of water by August.

So far, the efforts appear to be paying off, and customers appear to be paying up. I regret to say I know a little about the latter. Ouch.

Officials report sizable reductions in water use, with drops of 47 percent in March, 43 percent in April and 38 percent in May. Mosby told our Giana Magnoli that 81 percent of district customers are using less water than their assigned allocations — enough so that there actually could be a surplus going into the next year.

In Santa Barbara, meanwhile, conservation has been voluntary — with results that are well below what Montecito is seeing. In response, municipal officials on June 17 approved higher drought water rates.

                                                                        •        •

The Los Angeles Dodgers couldn’t care less about Santa Barbara County so local Dodger fans most likely missed Clayton Kershaw’s no-hitter and near-perfect game June 18 against the Colorado Rockies. Here’s a quick recap. Meanwhile, shame on the Dodgers, SportsNet LA, Time Warner Cable, DirecTVCox and Comcast for not reaching a broadcasting agreement so we rubes up here in the boonies can follow along. Pathetic.

(mlb.com video)

                                                                  •        •        •

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at [email protected], follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.




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