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Friday, March 22 , 2019, 3:36 am | Fair 47º


Bill Macfadyen: Christmas Eve Earthquake Shakes Up Noozhawk’s Traffic

NoozWeek’s Top 5 features an epic tale of heroism, shops State Street vacancies, steers clear of Santa Barbara’s parks, and breaks out the umbrellas

Happy New Year from the Noozhawk family!

We’re excited about 2017, and are looking forward to introducing a number of ambitious new initiatives and projects. Stay tuned for the first announcement next week.

Before we leave 2016 behind, we want to thank our readers, advertisers, sponsors and investors for making this year such a success.

We’re also grateful to our Hawks Club members for providing us with crucial support as we continue to expand our professional news coverage of Santa Barbara County. We plan to make the Hawks Club an even more integral part of our operation in 2017, and we think our members will be enthusiastic about the direction we’re taking.

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Now, on to the Best of Bill weekly recap. According to our Google Analytics, Santa delivered 80,788 readers for Christmas.

Here’s my take on your top five stories:

1. 3.1-Magnitude Earthquake Gets Christmas Eve Started with a Jolt

As earthquakes go, it wasn’t much: A quick, 3.1-magnitude quake at 6:15 a.m. Dec. 24 with no discernible aftershocks.

But, boy, did the jolt shake up Noozhawk’s web traffic for Christmas. It’s still getting clicks almost a week later.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the epicenter was in the Santa Barbara Channel about four miles southwest of Santa Barbara, at a depth of 6½ miles below the seabed.

There were no reports of damage or injuries, and no advisories were issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

The next day, of course, a 7.6 earthquake struck off the coast of Chile, 6,000 miles away. But that wasn’t our Fault.

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Crash site in a canal zone. (Emily Elmerick photo)
Crash site in a canal zone. (Emily Elmerick photo)

2. Goleta Women Credited With Saving Lives of 3 Men in Central Valley Crash

Three men are alive today thanks to the quick actions of two UC Santa Barbara students who were in the one place they were clearly meant to be.

Sydney Antles, right, and Emily Elmerick as Santa Ynez Valley High School seniors and water polo players. (Antles family photo)
Sydney Antles, right, and Emily Elmerick as Santa Ynez Valley High School seniors and water polo players. (Antles family photo)

Sydney Antles and Emily Elmerick, both 19 and Goleta residents, were driving to Fresno on Dec. 26 when they happened to see a pickup truck crash into an irrigation canal along Highway 41 near Lemoore.

“When my friend said, ‘Oh, my gosh,’ I knew by the tone of her voice that something bad had happened,” Antles told the Fresno Bee.

“By the time I turned around, I could see the truck hit the water.”

According to the California Highway Patrol, the crew-cab pickup submerged in the canal and rolled over on its roof in three to six feet of water.

Without hesitating, Antles jumped into the cold muck while Elmerick called 9-1-1, reported the Bee, which was kind enough to share its story with us.

“The water was almost up to my neck at one point as I tried to get through that mud,” Antles said. “The whole car was upside down, but when I reached the door, I could hear people yelling, and I was so thankful.”

Other passersby pulled over to help. The brigade of good Samaritans smashed the truck’s window and quickly pulled the two passengers to safety. It took longer to free the driver, who was pinned inside underwater.

“I could see his feet, but he was not moving,” Antles said. “I told them I knew CPR, and when they were able to get him out, they handed him over to me.”

The group thought he might be dead but Antles went to work. She said she felt a faint pulse and the man began to regain consciousness before emergency crews arrived.

The crash victims were transported to a Hanford hospital with minor injuries, the CHP said.

Antles’ dad, Rich, is a friend, and he told me that the driver, 22-year-old Gerardo Gonzales of Fresno, is expected to make a full recovery.

For his daughter, however, the experience was one of repaying a debt from February 2015, when she was seriously injured in a major wreck at the notorious Los Olivos intersection of Highway 154 and Roblar Avenue.

“She was the beneficiary of the rescue work of others,” he said. “Now she is on the other end and the victim has become the rescuer.”

For lease. (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)
For lease. (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

3. Santa Barbara’s State Street Sees Uptick in Vacancies Amid Changing Retail, Consumer Landscape

State Street may be Santa Barbara’s renowned commercial and tourism corridor, but things aren’t looking so good there these days.

We sent our Sam Goldman on a walkabout to explore what appears to be an increase in vacant storefronts. It turns out there are more vacancies, but the reasons are as varied as they are valid.

Jim Turner, an agent with Radius Commercial Real Estate & Investments, puts the city’s current retail vacancy at 1.6 percent, a figure that “gives you the impression that it’s very healthy, vibrant and a very strong market.”

He acknowledges, however, that walking up and down State Street “paints a little bit of a different picture.”

In November, there were roughly 30 downtown vacancies on the street, with about half of them in the very noticeable stretch between De la Guerra and Victoria streets.

Kenny Slaught, founder and president of Santa Barbara-based Investec, a real estate company and State Street landlord, told Sam that the uptick in vacancies has been followed by steady inquiries his firm is receiving from businesses looking to move in.

Few, however, are small local stores, which “rarely have a budget to compete with national retailers for State Street space,” he added.

That’s kind of disappointing, of course; who doesn’t lament the loss of Ott’s, a beloved local hardware store that gave way to Paseo Nuevo a lifetime ago?

But downtown is a high-rent district, as downtowns usually are, and it probably will be forever.

My own view is that online competition is the bigger threat. The Internet has fundamentally changed the entire retail shopping experience, just as it’s disrupted the universe of news. It won’t be tomorrow, but there will come a Day of Reckoning — for landlords, for merchants and for consumers, the latter of whom already are voting with their keyboards.

Other factors behind the gap include the cyclical nature of retail, labor costs, regulatory and permitting challenges, too-thin profit margins and mismanagement. Sometimes even brilliant ideas fail as a business venture, as I can attest.

Jim Haslem, a business lease hawk and founder and CEO of CS Advisors, a Montecito consulting firm, says empty stores suggest a disconnect between a landlord’s rent rates and what a tenant can actually afford — although neither side may want to admit it.

“The dark stores aren’t smart for anybody,” he said. “They signal blight, they’re negative for tourism, the city misses out on sales-tax revenue and landlords face higher insurance premiums.”

Speaking of blight, just as bad as seemingly abandoned storefronts are the roving gangs of vulgar vagrants who set up filthy encampments on benches up and down State Street, using the bushes as urinals and the sidewalks as dog outhouses. (In case anyone jumps to the wrong conclusion, I am not talking about “the homeless.”)

Every single State Street tenant and landlord I talk to complains about the hostile environment City of Santa Barbara officials allow to rot right under their noses. Who but unsuspecting tourists would dare brave that?

Which brings us to ...

Needle Park, aka Plaza de Vera Cruz Park, in the 100 block of Santa Barbara’s East Haley Street. I’ve seen the reasons why you rarely see locals there. (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)
Needle Park, aka Plaza de Vera Cruz Park, in the 100 block of Santa Barbara’s East Haley Street. I’ve seen the reasons why you rarely see locals there. (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

4. Public’s Fear of Undesired Activity at Santa Barbara Parks Driving Search for New Solutions

I had an LOL moment when I first read our Sam Goldman’s report on the Dec. 21 meeting of the Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation Commission.

The commissioners apparently have just caught wind of the public’s reluctance to use — or overwhelming revulsion at — local parks because of the pretty much permanent presence of unsavory and outright criminal elements congregating in them.

“We’ve heard from the public, and it’s just time for us as a commission to start this public discussion on how we can address the activities that are going on in our parks,” commissioner Beebe Longstreet said, no doubt in all earnestness.

According to Parks and Recreation Department director Jill Zachary, the unwanted and dangerous activity in the city’s 60 parks and recreational facilities includes vandalism, “undesirable overnight use,” verbal abuse, physical aggression, excess trash, and criminal activity like prostitution and selling drugs.

The department says it spends around $415,000 annually for mitigation measures above and beyond normal maintenance.

Zachary also estimates the city loses some $100,000 in revenue annually when residents forgo recreation programming because of real or perceived safety and health concerns.

So city officials ... Wait a minute. After reading the last three paragraphs, what is there to discuss?

One of those nights before Christmas. (Sue Cook photo)
One of those nights before Christmas. (Sue Cook photo)

5. Fast-Moving Pre-Christmas Storm Soaks Santa Barbara County

’Twas the night before the night before Christmas, when all thro’ Santa Barbara County, every creature was scurrying to get in out of the rain.

A fast-moving storm unloaded on the county on Dec. 23, prompting the National Weather Service to issue a flash flood watch and a high surf advisory extending well into the night.

According to the Santa Barbara County Public Works Department, San Marcos Pass recorded 2.24 inches of rain and 2.22 inches was logged in Tecolote Canyon, west of Goleta.

Montecito got nearly 2 inches, Santa Barbara 1.77 inches, Goleta 1.32 inches, Santa Maria just over an inch and nearly an inch in Lompoc.

Merry Christmas ... but the drought’s not over.

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Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Crews Continuing to Battle Brush Fire Raging South of Carpinteria.

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Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

In case you thought the Veterans Affairs Department could not possibly be any more incompetent: Postwar Trauma at the VA.

                                                                 •        •        •

Watch It

It’s that time of year.

(communitychannel 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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