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Bill Macfadyen: Santa Barbara County Probation Chief Finds Himself Under Scrutiny

NoozWeek’s Top 5 hops into Bar 29 and Perch Hair Salon, runs into housing woes and party poopers in Isla Vista, and ties up a busy Goleta intersection

Noozhawk will be electronic monitoring the case of Lupe Rabago, who is on administrative leave from his $230,000-a-year job as Santa Barbara County’s chief probation officer. Click to view larger
Noozhawk will be electronic monitoring the case of Lupe Rabago, who is on administrative leave from his $230,000-a-year job as Santa Barbara County’s chief probation officer. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk file photo)

Super Bowl LI is upon us. The New England Patriots may be the favored sons, but we at Noozhawk believe raptors rule. I’m going with the Atlanta Falcons.

Meanwhile, on Noozhawk’s home field, our Google Analytics scoreboard showed we had 105,506 readers this past week.

Here’s my take on your top five stories:

1. Santa Barbara County Probation Chief Lupe Rabago Placed on Administrative Leave

The job of chief probation officer usually is as under the radar as it is thankless. In fact, if you’re in the news, it’s probably not a good thing. Just ask Lupe Rabago.

Rabago, Santa Barbara County’s chief probation officer, was placed on paid administrative leave Jan. 30 in what county Superior Court executive officer Darrel Parker called a personnel matter.

“The court is completing its review process, which we expect will conclude in the next two weeks,” he told our Tom Bolton, who was the first to break the news.

According to Parker, Rabago could be terminated, “or he could stay.” I suppose the outcome also could be something in between.

Rabago could not be reached for comment, but the story has generated quite a few news tips that we’re checking into.

Whatever is going on, the Probation Department wasted no time in ditching all evidence of Rabago from its website.

Parker said Beverly Taylor, who retired two years ago, has been named acting chief probation officer.

According to Transparent California figures from 2015, the most recent data available, Rabago was paid $151,988.48 that year to oversee a staff of 300 employees responsible for investigation and supervision services for adult and juvenile offenders in the county.

In addition to his pay, he received benefits valued at $78,447.90 for a total 2015 compensation package of $230,436.38.

Although Rabago is a county employee, the job is under the Superior Court’s jurisdiction.

Relax, at Perch Hair Salon in Santa Barbara. (Perch Hair Salon photo)
Relax, at Perch Hair Salon in Santa Barbara. (Perch Hair Salon photo)

2. BizHawk: Bar 29 Sweeps into Former Hungry Cat in Santa Barbara

Bar 29 has opened on the downtown Santa Barbara corner formerly occupied by Hungry Cat, which went paws up last year.

The restaurant, at 1134 Chapala St. and West Anapamu Street, serves 29 cocktails, wine by the glass, beer on tap and “elevated bar food,” according to co-owner Kourtney Wright.

Wright and her husband, Phil, own The Sportsman Lounge, nearby at 20 W. Figueroa St., and Whiskey Richards, at 435 State St., so they’re familiar with the bar scene.

“Because the businesses that we had were cocktail-only with no food, we noted the trend toward people wanting to eat and drink at the same time,” she told our Sam Goldman. “We were ready to do something else.”

Meanwhile, Sam’s weekly business roundup also included the new Perch Hair Salon, owned by my close friend, Lety Pantoja.

She has done a masterful job of creating a relaxing, zen-like retreat at 23 Hitchcock Way, Suite 101, overlooking bucolic San Roque Creek. I’ve threatened to hang out on the Perch porch on warm, sunny afternoons, but I don’t know how much work I’d get done.

Lety’s also looking to add a hair stylist or two. Contact her at [email protected] or 805.962.6121 for more information.

Dropping behind in Isla Vista. (Art Sylvester photo)
Dropping behind in Isla Vista. (Art Sylvester photo)

3. Isla Vista Apartment Owner Will Demolish 4 Units After Cliff Collapse

Numerous residences in Isla Vista are in a precarious position on the ocean side of Del Playa Drive. Things just got a lot worse for one property owner, who will be losing half of his rental apartments at one complex.

Heavy surf, high tides and excessive storm runoff have been taking their toll this winter on the bluffs below Isla Vista. On Jan. 22, part of the cliff gave way underneath the patio of an apartment complex at 6653 Del Playa Drive.

No one was injured in the collapse, but 35 of the 56 college students living there were evacuated.

As Noozhawk contributing writer Melinda Burns first reported, property owner James Gelb had been waiting for Santa Barbara County to issue an emergency permit so he could “cut back” part of two east-wing apartments nearest the bluff edge.

The Montecito owner of Del Playa Rentals, one of Isla Vista’s largest landlords, had been notified last summer that the cliff’s edge had eroded to within about 10 feet of the building foundation.

Now that the collapse pulled down quite a bit of cliff near apartments on the west side, he’s got a lot more work on his hands.

Gelb says he intends to demolish two oceanfront apartments from each of the wings of the nine-unit complex. The result will be four fewer apartments — all three-bedroom units with two baths — in the densely packed neighborhood to the west of the UC Santa Barbara campus.

“That property historically has been rather safe,” he told Melinda. “Nothing’s happened there in 50 years.

“I had no clue that this would happen, but when you own properties on a bluff, you’re going to take a chance.”

Authorities say the Jan. 22 collapse also undermined the balcony next door at 6663 Del Playa. The owner of that building has erected a chain-link fence to keep people inside while he figures out an engineering solution, according to county building and safety manager Massoud Abolhoda.

Sit tight, punk. (Ryan Cullom / Noozhawk photo)
Sit tight, punk. (Ryan Cullom / Noozhawk photo)

4. 3 Arrested as Authorities Break Up Sprawling House Party in Isla Vista

Authorities got more than they expected when they tried to break up a massive house party in Isla Vista the night of Jan. 27. Three idiots decided to fight back — although two apparently had good reason to avoid the law.

Kelly Hoover, spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, said Isla Vista Foot Patrol deputies and UC Santa Barbara police officers were dispatched at 11:15 p.m. to a residence in the 6500 block of Del Playa Drive. They arrived to find a packed party in progress.

As they made their way onto the property, numerous people were cited for alcohol violations.

Around back, however, Hoover said deputies and officers witnessed what appeared to be “a hand-to-hand narcotics deal.”

“One subject was observed snorting a white powder off his hand and the other subject was holding a bag of suspected drugs,” she said.

When authorities attempted to take the suspects into custody, they instead decided to resist. Although they put up a good fight — Hoover said they assaulted the deputies and officers — backup was requested, and the first suspect finally was detained.

At that point things started to get ugly, and Hoover said “an unruly crowd of several hundred intoxicated, college-aged subjects turned hostile toward law enforcement personnel.”

She said glass bottles were thrown and obscenities were shouted.

“Several subjects attempted to interfere, causing additional altercations and a subsequent arrest,” she added.

In all, it took more than two dozen law enforcement officers about a half-hour to get control of the scene.

Three people were arrested, two on suspicion of felony resisting arrest and assault on a police officer, along with separate charges alleging cocaine possession and possession of narcotics for sale. The third suspect was arrested for resisting or delaying a peace officer.

Hoover said the identities of the accused were being withheld while the investigation was continuing.

All turned around. (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)
All turned around. (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)

5. 2 Hurt in Crash at Storke Road-Hollister Avenue Intersection in Goleta

In the pantheon of Noozhawk crash reporting, it was barely a blip. A car apparently ran a red light and slammed into a pickup truck crossing in front. The two drivers were taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

But when the collision happens at midday on a weekend, at one of the busiest intersections in Santa Barbara County, it’s sure to cause a scene — and to be seen. Four days later, Brooke Holland’s story is still getting surprisingly strong reads.

According to Santa Barbara County sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover, the crash occurred around 11:30 a.m. Jan. 29 when the driver of a Plymouth Neon sedan allegedly ran the red light at the intersection of Hollister Avenue and Storke Road next to Goleta’s Camino Real Marketplace.

She said the driver, a 53-year-old Goleta woman, was traveling east on Hollister when her car slammed into a westbound Toyota Tundra driven by a 58-year-old Santa Barbara man, who was turning left onto Storke. The impact spun the sedan around and it came to a stop facing north on Storke.

Both vehicles had major damage, and the wreckage forced authorities to close part of the intersection for a while.

County Fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni said both drivers were transported by American Medical Response ambulance to Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital with minor injuries.

No one else was hurt in the incident.

Hoover said alcohol was not a factor in the crash, but added that the California Highway Patrol was investigating the cause. Neither driver’s identity was disclosed.

                                                                 •        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Iconic Refugio Beach Palms May Soon Be History.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

Paws for effect: What Are Dogs Really Thinking About?

                                                                 •        •        •

Watch It

This video tracks poultry in motion, while scrambling my thoughts about bamboo.

(Sam O’Nella Academy 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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