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Thursday, March 21 , 2019, 10:33 pm | Fair 52º


Bill Macfadyen: Paula Lopez Case Is No Big Deal Yet, But Apparently One’s Coming

NoozWeek’s Top 5 wants to look in your drawers, takes a stab at a bar fight, plans big changes for Las Positas Road, and opens a Little Kitchen. But first, Michelle Nelson needs our help

Stand by.
Stand by. (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk file photo)


Before we get started, I have a favor to ask.

Many of you know Michelle Nelson, Noozhawk’s longtime managing editor who stepped away last year after eight years with our company. She had been with us almost from the start, and — in addition to her regular editing duties — she swiftly handled tens of thousands of stories, news releases, announcements, obituaries and calendar entries submitted by readers, advertisers, public relations professionals and companies.

On March 1, her youngest son, Blake, was rushed to the hospital to undergo surgery for a very abrupt, deadly serious bacterial infection.

The gifted high school athlete, saxophonist, honors student and big-hearted young man has since endured several more surgeries. It has been touch and go.

Doctors seem to be cautiously optimistic that the worst may be past, but Blake faces a long road to recovery. To add to the family’s challenge, Michelle’s husband, Pete, had a critical health scare of his own last month.

I’m asking you to please pray for Michelle and her family. A GoFundMe page has been started to help the Nelsons with their medical expenses, and I’d also like to ask that you consider making a small contribution. Click here to make an online donation.

On behalf of all of us in Michelle’s Noozhawk family, we thank you for your support. We know she will be so grateful.

Click here to send her a note through Facebook.

                                                                 •        •        •

Noozhawk had 95,009 readers this past week, and this column is my own take on your top stories.

For the half-dozen scolds who are going to complain that I’m dragging out Paula Lopez again, please note that these rankings are determined solely by our Google Analytics tracking of what you read.

1. Attorneys Handling Paula Lopez DUI Case Close to Plea Deal

On Sept. 8 of last year, the California Highway Patrol fielded multiple calls reporting a Toyota Prius driving the wrong way on northbound Highway 101 near El Capitán State Beach west of Goleta.

Officers eventually discovered the alleged car in the parking lot of Sandpiper Golf Club, at 7925 Hollister Ave. They also found then-KCOY News anchor Paula Lopez, who they say was exhibiting signs of being under the influence.

Lopez was arrested and charged with six misdemeanors, including driving under the influence; driving with a blood-alcohol content over .15; resisting, obstructing or delaying a peace officer; and two counts of battery on a peace officer. Not long after, she parted ways with KCOY.

Six months later, her case is still working its way through the criminal justice system, but as our Giana Magnoli reported Feb. 26, a plea deal may be imminent.​

Deputy District Attorney John Savrnoch and defense attorney Steven Andrade told Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Tom Anderle that they were “working day and night” to get it resolved.​

Andrade wouldn’t comment on details of the deal, but said he’s hopeful the two sides can reach a “fair resolution” by Lopez’s next court date, on March 11.

2. In Fight Against Vacation Rentals, Santa Barbara Targets Illegal Dwelling Units

The City of Santa Barbara has long had a burr under its saddle on the issue of short-term rentals, which it believes are largely used as vacation getaways that keep affordable housing away from locals and damage the character of neighborhoods. The City Council has ordered a total ban.

Officials have been trying to figure out how many such units are out there, and they’ve begun cracking down on those who rent them and the websites that advertise them.

Along the way they’ve discovered that some homeowners have even converted garages and other unlivable space into vacation rentals.

“People are offering as vacation rentals illegal dwelling units,” an apparently astonished City Attorney Ariel Calonne told the council on March 1. “I am surprised that the market targets vacation rentals in illegal dwelling units.”

Can you imagine? The nerve!

As our Josh Molina reported, the city collects about $1 million a year in taxes from registered vacation rentals. Nevertheless, licenses to rent out residences for 30 days or less can be renewed up until Dec. 31. After that, they’re all outlawed in residential zones.

Enforcement officers will be fanning out across the city to make sure that the residences are no longer being used as vacation rentals.

Calonne said inspectors will be looking for all the telltale signs — you know, like how kitchen utensils are arranged, whether there are any family photos on the walls, if the homeowner has a copy of the Constitution on the shelf bookmarked at the Fourth Amendment.

“There’s just a feel” with a vacation rental that is obvious when one is inside, City Administrator Paul Casey explained ... while sitting cross-legged in the Perfect Pose. OK, I may have made that last part up as Josh didn’t actually mention it.

Casey’s feelings aside, Mayor Helene Schneider said she was uneasy about the inspections and the subjectivity involved in determining whether a house is a rental or, well, just a well-kept house.

“Nice little toiletries in the bathroom could be just a nice little guest room for someone who comes to visit,” she said.

3. Santa Barbara Police Respond to Double Stabbing at Upper State Street Bar

A night of bar hopping turned into a night of bar arguing, which escalated into a knife fight that left two people injured in Santa Barbara in the wee hours of Feb. 29.

Santa Barbara police Sgt. Riley Harwood told our Giana Magnoli that two men had clashed at the Uptown Lounge, 3126 State St. The fight was broken up, and both men later ended up at the Tiburon Tavern, a few doors away at 3116 State St.

Bygones were not bygones, however, and Harwood said the suspect confronted his old foe.

“The two fought again, during which time the victim was cut with a knife,” he said.

The suspect was tackled by several people as he tried to run out the door. Harwood said the man flailed away with a knife, slashing a second man in the thigh, before he managed to escape.

The first victim, a man in his 20s, was treated for his stab wounds at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. The other victim was treated at the scene. Neither was identified.​

The suspect is described as a Hispanic male in his 20s. Police have leads and “lots of witnesses,” Harwood said.

Shoulder padding helps when adding pathways along streets built specifically for automobiles, like Las Positas Road. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)
Shoulder padding helps when adding pathways along streets built specifically for automobiles, like Las Positas Road. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

4. Santa Barbara Paving Way for Las Positas Road Multipurpose Pathway

Fresh off its cockamamie plan to eliminate all street parking on four blocks of the mostly multifamily residential West Micheltorena Street near downtown, the City of Santa Barbara has come up with a much better idea that actually would benefit far more people.

But not you, Micheltorenans. You’re still screwed.

What we’re talking about today is a $25 million project intended to enhance the Las Positas Valley through street, sidewalks and creekside improvements, including the creation of a multiuse pathway along parts of Las Positas and Modoc roads, both of which have ample and enviable space alongside them.

As our Josh Molina reported, the proposal calls for a roughly 2½-mile pathway for bicyclists, pedestrians and runners from Calle de los Amigos, west of Vista del Monte Retirement Community, east to the busy intersection of Modoc and Las Positas roads, then south on Las Positas to Cliff Drive.

But that’s not all. The project includes the removal of 30,000 square feet of concrete lining from Las Positas Creek, grading to establish shallower creek banks, planting the banks with native plant and tree species, and installing large sandstone boulders to protect the banks from erosion.

“We are in close coordination with the Public Works Department regarding the range of public improvement projects in the Las Positas Valley since they all serve to improve public access within and between residential and recreation/open space areas, as well as support public safety and alternative means of transportation,” said Jill Zachary, director of the Parks and Recreation Department.

The Little Kitchen at 17 W. Ortega St. will soon be serving modern comfort food with a twist. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)
The Little Kitchen at 17 W. Ortega St. will soon be serving modern comfort food with a twist. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

5. BizHawk: Little Kitchen to Open Next to Wildcat Lounge in Santa Barbara

Chef Grace Austin is opening a new Santa Barbara restaurant in a joint venture with her West Ortega Street neighbors, the Wildcat Lounge and Couch Santa Barbara.

Named the Little Kitchen, the restaurant at 17 W. Ortega St. is to open this month with dishes like Swedish meatballs, shepherd’s pie, mac n’ cheese and more.

“We’re taking a lot of comfort food classics and putting some modern twists on them,” said Austin, who went through Santa Barbara City College’s Culinary Arts program while bartending at the Wildcat. “It’s really exciting.”

Austin’s business partners include Michele Prestage of Couch Santa Barbara, Bob Stout of the Wildcat Lounge and a silent partner.

Stout recently launched the Bobcat Room on the other side of the Wildcat, and all of the businesses connect at the back patio, where food and drink are available from each.

                                                                 •        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Paraglider Plunges 3,000 Feet to Death in Rattlesnake Canyon Above Santa Barbara.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

OK, I’m moving this up on my list: Why Creating a To-Do List Is Derailing Your Success.

                                                                 •        •        •

Watch It

Some things never change. Not even the words.

(MrCallvin​ 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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