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Wednesday, March 20 , 2019, 3:08 am | Overcast 54º


Bill Macfadyen: What Can I Say About What I’ve Already Said Before?

NoozWeek’s Top 5 also includes a city council that refuses to see the tree for the forest, a sea of turquoise, and a couple of car wrecks

There were 87,552 people who read​ Noozhawk this past week. It’s a safe bet that none of them works for the grossly negligent federal Office of Personnel Management, which evidently has no flipping clue how this whole Internet thing works.

This is my take on your Top Five:

1. Bill Macfadyen: Dead Man Hanging Not What You Expect to Find on the Trail​

My weekly column usually is in our Top 10, and this isn’t the first time it’s finished No. 1. But I’m still chagrined when what I write apparently is the best thing you can find to read on Noozhawk!

While my detractors seethe, I can assure you that I’m imploring our reporters to do better this coming week. They’re the stars of this outfit; I’m just clever enough to reel you in with click-bait headlines while jumping the snark.

It’s a gift. But thank you for reading me so faithfully.

Santa Barbara resident Carey Ludford is learning that a Brazilian pepper tree isn’t the only thing that needs rooting out. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)
Santa Barbara resident Carey Ludford is learning that a Brazilian pepper tree isn’t the only thing that needs rooting out. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

2. Santa Barbara Homeowner Fighting City to Let Him Cut Down ‘Destructive’ Tree

Carey Ludford thought he had a reasonable request for the City of Santa Barbara to consider, and he tried earnestly to make the case for himself.

The resident of Pescadero Drive, near Las Positas and Modoc roads, has been bedeviled by a 55-year-old Brazilian pepper tree in front of his house. The 40-foot-tall tree towers menacingly over the neighborhood, drenching whatever is underneath its branches with gallons of sap and sticky droppings that smell like turpentine.

What happens underground is even worse. The tree’s extensive network of roots has grotesquely buckled the sidewalk while crushing Ludford’s water pipes underneath his yard. Every few months, he has to pay to have the roots snaked out.

As our Josh Molina first reported, Ludford approached the municipal Parks & Recreation Commission with a request that the tree be removed. The commission, which is charged with “protecting” the city’​s “urban forest,” refused.

So the 63-year-old longtime homeowner appealed to the City Council. On June 16, he was cut down on a 6-1 vote.

Mayor Helene Schneider and Council members Gregg Hart, Frank Hotchkiss, Cathy Murillo, Randy Rowse and Bendy White backed the bureaucrats. Councilman Dale Francisco was the lone dissenter.

Sure, the council members all said they were impressed with the semi-retired electrical contractor’s unpolished presentation.

“That is one of the better appeal presentations that we have had ...,” White rushed to gush. “You didn’t blow any smoke.”

How condescendingly charitable.

More reflective of the majority rule was the pronouncement of Murillo.

“The tree is a public asset and part of our urban forest,” she exclaimed.

But is it really?

There are only two Brazilian pepper trees on Ludford’s street ... because the city has replaced all the others. Although the city planted all the pepper trees on Pescadero Drive in the early 1960s, it later designated the evergreen pear as the street’​s official tree.

Because of the root damage, municipal crews have had to replace the sidewalk three times.

Most ludicrous, not only is the Brazilian pepper tree not a native species, it’​s considered an invasive one.

According to the National Invasive Species Information Center at the Agriculture Department, the tree “forms dense, monospecific stands that crowd out native species and possibly produces chemicals that inhibit the growth of native species.” The California Invasive Plant Council says much the same thing.

But what do those plant geeks know? This vital “public asset” is part of Santa Barbara’s urban forest!

At least Ludford “didn’t blow any smoke.” He can remember that when it’s coming out of his ears as he’s forking over $14,000 to replace his sewer pipes.

Oh, say, did you see? (David Valentine / UC Santa Barbara photo)
Oh, say, did you see? (David Valentine / UC Santa Barbara photo)

3. Rare Algal Bloom in Santa Barbara Channel Delights UCSB Researchers

Locals could be forgiven earlier this month if they looked out to sea and mistook the South Coast for the South Pacific. For as far as the eye could see, especially from higher elevations above Santa Barbara and Goleta, the ocean had turned a brilliant turquoise and chalky hue.

UC Santa Barbara researchers said the cause of the unusual color combination was an algal bloom, the size of which they have not seen in the Santa Barbara Channel in 30 years.

The blooms — produced by the sudden, rapid division of microscopic phytoplanktonic organisms, or coccolithophores — typically occur in higher latitudes. Researchers aren’t sure what triggered this one, but they’re delighted it happened here.

“To have this blooming at my doorstep is wonderful,” biological oceanographer Debora Iglesias-Rodriguez, a professor in UCSB’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, told our Gina Potthoff.

According to satellite images, the bloom peaked June 4, amid a period of sunny skies and calm seas — two things coccolithophores need to survive in what Iglesias-Rodriguez described as the “strikingly beautiful ... milky water.”

She said she wouldn’t be surprised if the bloom pops up again over the summer.

4. 7 People Injured in Highway 101 Wreck Near Refugio

Seven people ended up in the hospital the night of June 11 after a two-vehicle collision on Highway 101 west of Refugio State Beach.

Five of the injured were members of a family riding in a van that overturned in the wreck.

According to Santa Barbara County fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni, the collision happened around 9:30 p.m. in the southbound lanes near Tajiguas.

It took three American Medical Response ambulances to transport the injured to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. Zaniboni said four of them suffered moderate injuries while three had minor injuries.

No other details were released. The cause of the crash is under investigation by the California Highway Patrol.

That’s a real drag. (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)
That’s a real drag. (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)

5. Driver Hurt When Car Slams Into Trees Near Goleta

The driver of an Audi sedan escaped serious injuries June 12 when he apparently lost control of the car and crashed into a grove of trees on Patterson Mesa near Goleta.

His A4 was not so fortunate. The vehicle was wedged so far into the trees that it took chainsaw-wielding county firefighters about 45 minutes to get it out.

According to the CHP, the wreck happened just before 8 p.m. in the 5200 block of Shoreline Drive, which is off South Patterson Avenue west of More Mesa.

The driver’s name and age were not released, but witnesses said a UCSB cap and gown were found in the car.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.​

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week, from my peripatetic tour of the World Wide Web (LANGUAGE WARNING): No, You Can’t Get a F**king Neck Tattoo, Jane Marie.

In our entitled, politically correct and risk-averse contemporary culture, temper tantrums often carry the day. And then they go on for weeks as feelings are shared and concessions are extracted.

It’s nice to know that not everyone has a spine of string, however. HT to Dan Bythewood of New York Adorned for sticking his neck out on behalf of principles and for refusing to be bullied. This week, I raise my ink to him.

                                                                 •        •        •

My friends all know I won’t even utter the name of the publication, but a 21-year-old video recently making the rounds of the alumni association reminded me of just how much fun we had working there in its heyday ... back when it was owned by The New York Times.

What’s odd is that I have no recollection of this incident, or this obvious re-enactment, or my dramatic cameo, or when it was popular to have absolutely no sideburns at all. The latter must have had something to do with Allen Parsons’ renowned “modified Chicago style.”

But I do have one question: How is it that Steve Ainsley and Melinda Johnson have not aged one bit?! It’s been more than two decades!

HT to Alan Bridgeman, Kim Clark and Vickie Harvey. And to all of the old gang you’ll see, thanks for the memories. That was a great newspaper, and it was a privilege to work beside all of you.

Now, back to HITYL.

(Allen Parsons 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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