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Friday, January 18 , 2019, 8:00 am | Fair 54º

 
 
 
 

Bill Macfadyen: Backyard Project Turns Up Unfortunate Body of Work on Santa Barbara’s Westside

Also in NoozWeek’s Top 5, Magic Castle Cabaret renovations go ‘poof,’ a Lompoc woman and her dog die in a head-on collision on Highway 1, a young woman falls off Isla Vista’s bluffs, and HomeGoods bets on bricks and mortar

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Welcome to the neighborhood. (Kacey Drescher / KEYT News photo)

While the National Football League continues to turn a once-proud and exhilarating sport into soccer, Noozhawk readers were tackling an unusual number of unusual stories — at least with those that made the Top 5 list, and even several that didn’t.

According to our Google Analytics, an audience of 111,987 readers blitzed our site this past week.

It’s good to have you on our team, but we have plenty of room in our Hawks Club so click here to become a member. If you sign up by Sept. 24, you’ll get an invitation to our annual Hawks Club cruise on the Condor Express, this year on Oct. 3.

As we wait for that whistle to blow, here is my take on your Top 5 stories during the last seven days. And by my take I mean my opinion.

1. Badly Decomposed Body Found Behind Residence on Santa Barbara’s Westside

Well, that weekend home improvement project turned out to be a doozy.

Residents who recently moved into a house on Santa Barbara’s Westside were tidying up the backyard the afternoon of Sept. 14 when they came upon a badly decomposed body.

According to Santa Barbara police Lt. Aaron Baker, the remains were found behind the house in the 1500 block of Clearview Road, a quiet residential street just west of West Micheltoena Street.

He said the body was so decayed that it was difficult to determine if it was a man or a woman.

“We don’t know at this point if a crime was committed or it was a medical situation,” Baker told our Tom Bolton.

The remains were turned over to the Santa Barbara County Coroner’s Bureau for an autopsy and an attempt at identification.

As far as I know, Dorothea Montalvo Puente didn’t have a connection to Santa Barbara, but she’s got an airtight alibi anyway.

2. Magic Castle Cabaret Gets Shut Down by City of Santa Barbara for Lack of Building Permits

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Don’t do anything, anywhere in Santa Barbara. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

It may come as a surprise to most property owners, tenants, architects and contractors in Santa Barbara, but when it wants to, the city Planning and Zoning Division can move with lightning speed.

Within 24 hours of our Josh Molina reporting that the Magic Castle Cabaret had “opened” across from the Andrée Clark Bird Refuge, inspectors had slapped a Stop Work notice on the doors.

The action was not unwarranted. As club owner Arlene Lawson freely acknowledged, and Josh duly corroborated and reported, quite a lot of renovation work had been done to the old Café del Sol space at 30 Los Patos Way — none of it with permits.

In fact, I believe Lawson’s exact words were, “Everything is done with screws. If they don’t like it, we’ll take it down.”

Whether all that effort will be coming unscrewed, I don’t know, but Lawson is a long way from abracadabra. Although the Architectural Board of Review previously reviewed the project, it’s nowhere near approval, which means no building permits.

That’s not the tricky part, though. As readers of my columns know, I’m increasingly convinced that the city’s inconsistent inspection process is in need of serious reform.

But don’t take my word for it. The city’s chief building official, Andrew Stuffler, told Josh the Magic Castle Cabaret stop-work order was issued because someone on his staff read the Noozhawk story and brought it to his attention.

He then sent inspectors to the site, noting that the city has “a reactive code-enforcement building department,” as if that’s a good thing.

“It takes a news article, it takes someone at the counter bringing it to our attention,” Stuffler said.

“There’s so much construction going on, on weekends alone, you’d have to have a pretty robust building department.”

I thought he already had a pretty robust building department, but if I’m hearing him correctly, the city is relying on and rewarding tattletales, project opponents, self-appointed busybodies and — I guess — Noozhawk.

While I’m flattered, that is an uneven and patently unfair administration of oversight and, frankly, justice. City staff should be neutral, and treat every project with predictable resources and response. To do otherwise exposes them as advocates and not arbiters of permit and code enforcement.

Just in the last few weeks since I’ve been writing about the Magic Castle Cabaret missteps, as well as the temporary stop-work order issued to the Mosaic project downtown, I’ve been inundated with complaints from frustrated applicants with similar stories to tell — and several with egregious and far more arbitrary examples.

To those of you who have shared your sagas with me, please know that I have been relaying them to our news side. But we are going to need some of you to go on the record. The only way to change this process to one of more transparency is to be transparent.

3. Woman Killed in Head-on Collision on Highway 1 Near Lompoc

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Gruesome. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

One driver was killed and another critically injured in a powerful head-on collision on Highway 1 south of Lompoc on Sept. 17. A dog in one of the vehicles also died in the crash.

According to California Highway Patrol Officer Joel Asmussen, the wreck occurred about 3:30 p.m. when a northbound Toyota 4Runner crossed into the highway’s southbound lane and slammed into an oncoming Ford passenger van south of Jalama Road.

The driver of the 4Runner — identified as Elaine Ventura, 66, of Lompoc — was pronounced dead at the scene, he said.

“For an unknown reason, Ms. Ventura made an unsafe turning movement, allowing her vehicle to drift into the southbound lane,” Asmussen said. “Her vehicle then collided head on with the Ford van.”

The van’s driver — identified as Juan Romero Jr., 47, of Santa Barbara — was flown by a CalStar helicopter to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for treatment of major injuries.

No one else was hurt in the wreck, although Ventura’s dog — a 6-year-old brindle chug, a cross between a Chihuahua and a pug — was fatally injured.

The cause of the crash is under investigation by the CHP. Asmussen said it was not known if alcohol or drugs were a factor.

Authorities closed Highway 1 between Lompoc and Gaviota for more than three hours so the wreckage could be cleared and the scene investigated.

In addition to CHP units, the emergency response included Santa Barbara County and Lompoc firefighters and American Medical Response ambulances.

4. Woman Injured After Isla Vista Cliff Fall from Balcony to Beach

An Isla Vista party. Just before midnight on a Friday. A young woman sitting on the railing of a clifftop balcony.

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We’re not bluffing about the dangers of Isla Vista balcony balancing. (Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department photo)

What could possibly go wrong?

Let’s have Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover answer that.

“Several reporting parties said a female college student fell from a balcony and landed in the water,” Hoover said in reporting the 9-1-1 calls that came in just before midnight Sept. 14 from a house party in the 6700 block of Del Playa Drive.

“One witness said the young woman was sitting on the balcony when she fell backward over the cliff.”

According to Hoover, bystanders raced down to the beach and pulled the 20-year-old woman out of the ocean. They apparently placed her on a bed of kelp at the base of the cliff, which is where she was found by emergency responders that included county firefighters, sheriff’s deputies and UC Santa Barbara police officers assigned to the Isla Vista Foot Patrol.

The woman was transported by American Medical Response ambulance to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital with undisclosed injuries. Her identity was not released, but she reportedly is a Santa Barbara City College student.

Hoover said alcohol is believed to be a factor in the fall.

I know. I’m as surprised as you are.

5. BizHawk: HomeGoods Opens Its Doors In the Good Land

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HomeGoods bets on bricks and mortar, or stucco, at Goleta’s Camino Real Marketplace. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

HomeGoods, known for its commitment to bricks and mortar rather than e-tail, has opened in Camino Real Marketplace in Goleta.

The discount home decór and furniture retailer is a subsidiary of Framingham, Mass.-based TJX Companies, owner of T.J. Maxx and Marshalls.

Although HomeGoods has an online presence, it uses its website to direct customers to its 300 stores around the country. Gift cards are the only thing it sells electronically.

The Goleta store moved in at 7035 Marketplace Drive in space vacated by Sports Authority, which went out of busines in 2016. Earlier this year, HomeGoods also opened at 765 Betteravia Road in Santa Maria.

                                                                •        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? 6 Detained After Stabbing at Goleta Beach Park Prompts Hunt for Suspects.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

Because ... sharks! And it gives me a chance to recommend The Devil’s Teeth, one of my favorite books: Mysterious Great White Shark Lair Discovered in Pacific Ocean.

                                                                 •        •        •

Best of Bill’s Instagram

The ramshackle Montecito house that became one of the most enthralling images from the deadly Jan. 9 flash flooding and debris flows has been cleared, and it’s in my Instagram feed.

                                                                 •        •        •

Watch It

This reminds me that I need to videotape more of Riley the Wonder Malamute’s conversations.

(Rumble Viral video)

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

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