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Bill Macfadyen: El Jardin Fancies Up the Neighborhood, and It Could Be Yours for $4.1 Million

After I repeat myself in NoozWeek’s Top 5, Mesa rape cases add up, neighbors pan a dorm-style housing project for SBCC students, and a 9-1-1 call goes awry for alleged drug lab technician

This would make a great nest for Noozhawk. I’ve added it to my Christmas wish list. Click to view larger
This would make a great nest for Noozhawk. I’ve added it to my Christmas wish list. (Eric Foote photo / Sotheby’s International Realty)

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My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the atrocity in San Bernardino, and for those who mourn them. And I thank God for the police who intercepted the killers before they could harm anyone else.

Meanwhile, there were 89,064​ people who read Noozhawk this past week. Here’s my take on your top stories:

1. New Downtown Santa Barbara Live/Work Space Is 4 Stories of Whimsy and Creativity

El Jardin is not your typical mixed-use building. In fact, it takes the concept of live/work space to a whole new level — four of them to be exact.

True to form, Santa Barbara architect Jeff Shelton’s newest art work is four stories of funky, curvy and colorful creativity at 819 Garden St. on the edge of downtown.

The Spanish-inspired, 6,000-square-foot property includes an oversized garage and wine cellar on the ground floor, a 2,010-square-foot commercial space on the second, and a luxury, 2,386-square-foot two-bedroom residence on the third and fourth floors.

Sweeping views of the Riviera and the Santa Ynez Mountains beyond come standard.

The place is going on the market this month for a cool $4.1 million, with Sotheby’s International Realty and Hayes Commercial Group handling potential buyers.

“It’s whimsical; it’s fun,” Melissa Birch, a listing agent with Sotheby’s, told our Gina Potthoff. “There’s so much detail. We wanted to create a buzz.”

Last New Year’s Eve, I — and several dozen of my closest friends — had the opportunity to traipse through the still-under construction property as part of the annual Urban Hikers Walking Tour of Santa Barbara sponsored by Noozhawk.

During the chilly walkabout, we visited more than a half-dozen of Shelton’s creations in roughly a mile-square area. You can see my pictorial account of our adventure in my Instagram feed using the hashtag #noozhawkwalks.

2. Bill Macfadyen: Pedestrian Dies of Injuries from Trolley Collision, But What Actually Happened?

Last week I wrote about the death of a Michigan man who was struck by a downtown Santa Barbara trolley, pilot Bob Trimble’s last flight, more deadly gang violence in Santa Maria, the weather and Paula Lopez.

I wonder what was driving traffic on my column ...

3. Santa Barbara Man Arrested on Second Rape Charge

A former Santa Barbara City College student charged in the Sept. 1 rape of an 18-year-old woman has been arrested as a suspect in a separate sexual assault three days before.

Could Kenechukwu Ugwueze be a double agent? (Santa Barbara County Jail photo)
Could Kenechukwu Ugwueze be a double agent? (Santa Barbara County Jail photo)

Kenechukwu Denzel Ugwueze, 18, formerly of Corona, was arrested Sept. 11 and charged with rape by force.

Authorities say the attack took place at his Mesa residence in the 1400 block of Pacific Avenue, off Shoreline Drive a couple of blocks east of Washington School.

According to Santa Barbara police Sgt. Riley Harwood, Ugwueze and the woman were acquaintances.

The incident was first reported by The Channels, SBCC’s student-run news organization. Thanks to The Channels’ comments section, Detective Chad Hunt learned that Ugwueze may have been involved in a separate rape on Aug. 28, also at his house.

Hunt tracked down and interviewed the second woman, and Harwood said the pieces all started falling into place.

Although Ugwueze was back in Riverside County, he was arrested anew Nov. 13 and booked into Santa Barbara County Jail. He’s due in Superior Court on Dec. 7 for hearings about both cases.

Tough crowd. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)
Tough crowd. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

4. Dorm-Style Housing Project Touches Nerve at Mesa Neighborhood Meeting

Speaking of SBCC, scores of Mesa and Lower Westside residents turned out for a Nov. 30 presentation by the developer of a proposed dormitory-style housing complex adjacent to the campus.

As our Lara Cooper reported, the reception was hardly a welcome one.

Ed St. George, principal of Santa Barbara-based St. George + Associates, a major Isla Vista landlord, wants to transform the seven-acre property at 800 Cliff Drive, to the west of Loma Alta Drive.

The Playa Mariposa proposal would add 1,500 beds to the current 500-bed “Beach City” complex at the site, which is just north of West Campus.

The project would include a “student hub” of activities and services designed to keep residents on the property. Among the planned amenities are a dining hall, a 24/7 café, a fitness center, game room, study areas, a lecture hall and a movie theater.

The crowd at Holy Cross Catholic Church was a skeptical one, however, especially when it came to St. George’s assumption that no new parking will be needed on-site because students won’t be allowed to have vehicles.

Although the neighborhood and SBCC are in a long-term relationship, nearly everyone acknowledges it’s “complicated.” Residents have complained for years about crowded, noisy housing, parties, trash and crime.

The demographic makeup of the campus student body seems to be more of a flashpoint these days, with growing concerns that Santa Barbara’s community college is emphasizing more of the college end at the expense of the community part. Enrollment numbers don’t really support that perception, but it’s a valid point of discussion.

Mesa resident Sue Miller asserted that the new project would depress home values in surrounding neighborhoods.

“We’ll have Isla Vista on the Mesa,” she exclaimed.

St. George countered that students already are living among them.

Without adequate housing, he said, students end up in “animal houses” with as many as a dozen people living in single-family Mesa residences, many of which are owned by absentee landlords.

“I’m here to discuss what we’re going to do with the kids,” he said.​

A formal project application has not yet been submitted to the City of Santa Barbara, but St. George held the meeting to get neighborhood feedback.

Private property, public safety. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)
Private property, public safety. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

5. Police Respond to Possible Drug Lab on Santa Barbara’s Westside

Speaking of property values, are meth labs good for a neighborhood? I’m asking for a friend.

On the afternoon of Dec. 2, a phalanx of authorities descended on the 1900 block of San Andres Street on Santa Barbara’s Westside, following a 9-1-1 call from a resident who reported he had cut his hand.

Why the rapid response to an otherwise routine medical emergency?

According to police Sgt. Todd Johnson, firefighters dispatched to the scene were dubious about the man’s explanations and the accompanying chemical burns, and suspected he might have been working with chemicals consistent with drug extraction.

Police, sheriff’s deputies, the Santa Barbara Regional Crime Apprehension Team, a state Justice Department hazardous materials crew and more fire engines arrived.

The single-story, multiunit house was evacuated, as was an adjacent residence.

Justin Smith, 25, was transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for treatment of his lacerations and burns. Afterward, Johnson said, he was arrested on felony charges of chemically processing a controlled substance.

Johnson told our Giana Magnoli that investigators discovered chemicals used for mescaline extraction. Sourced from cacti, mescaline is a hallucinogenic drug similar to peyote.

It’s also a dangerous Schedule 1 controlled substance, which means it has a high potential for abuse, including severe psychological or physical dependence.

“It turns out the injuries were as a result of some level of explosion when this guy was in there doing whatever he was doing,” Johnson said.

There were no other injuries in the incident and no other arrests were made.

                                                                 •        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our top story this time last year? Evacuations Ordered After Multivehicle Crash Near Santa Barbara Airport​.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

Listen up to my peripatetic tour of the World Wide Web this week: Organ Uses the Sea to Make Haunting Music in Croatia.

                                                                 •        •        •

Watch It

I may have no idea who Silentó is, but I know cute when I see it. Let’s dance.

(Amy Johnson 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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