Saturday, March 17 , 2018, 10:28 am | Fair 55º


Local News

Bill Macfadyen: El Encanto Hotel Checks In at No. 1, But Westmont’s the Biggest Winner

A bicycle-bus collision, a spectacular motorcycle wreck and crime dominate NoozWeek's Top 5, and Allen Parsons puts in an appearance, too

Before we get to the news, the highlight of my week was a visit by Allen Parsons, the man executive editor Tom Bolton and I both consider to be our biggest role model, mentor and inspiration in the news business. Parsons, our former boss when we worked at the old daily newspaper in Santa Barbara, stopped by while he and Ken Svanum, another former boss of ours, were in town on their Geezers Golf Tour of California.

We haven’t seen Parsons in 12 years although we talk frequently on Facebook and by email. He retired almost a year ago as publisher of the Ocala, Fla., Star-Banner, then did a stint as interim publisher at another old haunt of his, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Other than that, he’s stayed busy being a grandfather of four, disrupting the routine of his wife, Bonnie, and working on his golf game.

Always prematurely gray, his hair’s a shade whiter now and he may have aged ever so slightly. But he’s just as trim and quick-witted as always and still very much at the top of his game as a newsman. Catching up was a great reminder of all he taught us about journalism, leadership and integrity. The high standards he instilled in Tom and me are ones we strive to meet every day at Noozhawk.

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Congratulations to the Westmont women’s basketball team, which won the NAIA national championship March 19 in Frankfort, Ky.

Coach Kirsten Moore
Coach Kirsten Moore

The victory capped a tumultuous 10 months for coach Kirsten Moore, whose husband, Alex, died unexpectedly May 9 of complications from surgery for Crohn’s disease. The Westmont kinesiology professor was just 31. Two months later, Moore gave birth to the couple’s first child, daughter Alexis.

Although suddenly cast in the role of a single mom, Moore also had responsibility for another family, and a rather large one at that: the 13 young women who call her “Coach.” Drawing strength from her faith in Jesus Christ to persevere through grief and personal loss, she maintained a steady, upbeat presence on and off the court. The team, and the school, rallied around her.

But while coaches can teach and scheme and inspire, in the end it’s the players who must execute to win games. The Warriors responded in a big way and at a dizzying pace, losing just four times all season and winning five games in the last week to triumph at the grueling 32-team scrum that is the NAIA tournament.

Senior forward Tugce Canitez scored 25 points and pulled down 20 rebounds in the title game against Lee University of Cleveland, Tenn. The performance by the two-time NAIA Player of the Year earned her the tournament’s MVP award.

Junior forward Kelsie Sampson added 25 points of her own, and sophomore guard Esther Lee scored 12 as Westmont coasted to a 71-65 win and the women’s basketball program’s first-ever national championship.

To support their coach, the Warriors committed themselves to “do the work.” They did, and they’ll always have a national championship to show for their job well done. That’s just awesome.

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Now, what were you reading on Noozhawk this past week?

1. El Encanto Hotel Reopens After Six-Year Closure for Renovations

Even before the El Encanto closed for renovations six years ago, the hotel was tired, worn and pretty much bereft of life. It’s a shame, too, because from its perch high atop Mission Ridge it has one of the best views in all of Santa Barbara, with the added advantage of being in a quiet, leafy residential neighborhood.

The days of dilapidation are over, however, and the hotel’s new owner, Orient-Express, proudly opened its newest luxury property March 18, with more than a dozen guests who had booked rooms months ago. The first wedding is scheduled for this weekend.

Orient-Express spent about $134 million on the purchase and renovation of the hotel at 800 Alvarado Place. To bring it up to its standards, the company razed what was there and started over.

Just before opening day, general manager Laura McIver gave our Gina Potthoff a tour, and the details in her report piqued the curiosity of Noozhawk readers, who made it our top story this week — and the most forwarded.

The new El Encanto boasts 92 California bungalow-style rooms, a swimming pool, a boutique spa, a window-lined ballroom with private terrace, a signature restaurant featuring California coastal cuisine, and three meeting rooms with panoramic ocean views.

While there for a meeting this week, I took a quick look around, and it was both impressive and comfortable. I’d say it was well worth the wait. Check it out.

2. Bicyclist Struck by Bus After Running Red Light

A Santa Maria woman was hit by a municipal bus March 15 when police say she rode her bicycle through a red light on Betteravia Road at Broadway. Ana Bustillos, 42, was treated at the scene by paramedics then taken to Marian Regional Medical Center. The driver of the bus, which was not carrying passengers, was unhurt in the incident and released.

3. Driver Recalls Crash That Killed Local Motorcyclist

A three-day preliminary hearing was held this week in an attempt to piece together details of a March 2 collision that killed one motorcyclist and left his companions facing charges of vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving. Our Giana Magnoli provided marathon coverage of the case.

The Santa Barbara County Superior Court hearing got under way March 18 with the testimony of James Gallagher, a Montecito man who was driving his family west on Foothill Road near the Santa Barbara Tennis Club when he said a motorcyclist raced past him in the opposite direction. Within seconds, he testified, he encountered two motorcyclists coming directly at him, about 40 feet apart from each other and in his lane.

“I saw him, there was a loud bang and the car filled with smoke,” Gallagher said of the motorcyclist who crashed head-on into the SUV. Remarkably, the Gallaghers escaped with only minor injuries.

The impact propelled the motorcyclist — identified as Raul Ibarra, 24, of Santa Barbara — down a steep embankment. He was pronounced dead of his injuries at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

The trailing motorcyclist — identified as Jonathan Leon, 24, of Santa Barbara — crashed his bike when he laid it down on the road to avoid striking the SUV, skidding 120 feet in the process. He was taken to the hospital, where he was treated for serious injuries and released.

The first motorcyclist — identified as Francisco Rodriguez, 23, of Santa Barbara — sped away from the scene but was arrested later that night after a short foot chase on the Lower Eastside.

Leon and Rodriguez have been charged with felony vehicular manslaughter, participating in a vehicle speed contest causing injury to Ibarra, and reckless driving causing great bodily injury. Rodriguez has also been charged with leaving the scene of an accident.

It’s the alleged racing that was at the center of the preliminary hearing, and even Judge George Eskin appeared to struggle at times with the case brought by the District Attorney’s Office.

In the end, however, Eskin determined there was enough evidence presented at the hearing to hold Leon and Rodriguez to the charges and go to trial. Their arraignment is scheduled for April 4.

4. Mystery Surrounds Weekend Shooting in Santa Barbara

A Santa Barbara man was hospitalized March 17 after he was found lying on a Westside sidewalk with a gunshot wound.

Police Sgt. Riley Harwood said officers responded to the 600 block of Wentworth Avenue shortly after midnight after receiving reports of a gunshot. That’s when they found the 18-year-old victim, whom Harwood said was a known gang member.

The circumstances of the shooting remain unclear and under investigation, Harwood said. Although the victim is expected to survive, he has been uncooperative with police.

5. Man Charged with Attempted Murder in Stabbing at Bel Air Knolls Home

Sam Maphis V
Sam Maphis V

A 20-year-old Santa Barbara man was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after he allegedly attacked a dinner guest at his Bel Air Knolls home.

Police say Sam Wellington Maphis V used a knife to slash the throat of a 60-year-old woman March 16 in what officers called an unprovoked attack at the house in the 1200 block of Crestline Drive. He then allegedly threatened his uncle and fled on foot.

Maphis surrendered to authorities a couple of hours later at nearby Elings Park. He was booked into County Jail on charges of attempted murder and terrorist threats. Bail is set at $2.5 million.

The victim was treated at the scene and transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. She is expected to recover from her wound.

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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