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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 4:14 am | Mostly Cloudy 53º


Bill Macfadyen: Did Paula Lopez or a Tsunami Make the Biggest Wave of the Week?

After riding out a couple of reader surges, NoozWeek’s Top 5 shops a ‘gateway’ grocery proposal, rereads me, and makes some elevator rescues

What’s up at the docks? Click to view larger
What’s up at the docks? (John Palminteri / KEYT News photo)


Face it, there’s no debating it’s been a busy week for us. You’ve had a busy one, too, with 107,718 of you reading Noozhawk.

For those of you who are new to this feature, and the few of you aren’t but who still don’t get it, it’s my take on your top stories based on our Google Analytics over the last seven days, Friday through Thursday.

This is not a news story; it’s my opinion column.

1. Tsunami Advisory Issued for Santa Barbara County after Chile Earthquake

Tsunami or Paula Lopez?

Both are in the Noozhawk Hall of Fame for all-time traffic jams on our site. Until this past week, they’​ve never gone head to head.

For our servers’​ sake, it’​s a good thing we didn’​t have a great white shark sighting, too.

Lopez started strong, with our exclusive story on her arrest, our follow-up and my column all keeping her in first place for the second week in a row. She long ago had claimed collective victory for all-time reads by topic. No. 2? The 2011 Japan tsunami.

And then the magnitude-8.3 earthquake struck off the coast of Chile, just before 4 p.m. local time Sept. 16. After that shock, the first hint of tsunami news went racing around the Pacific Rim.

By the time the ripple effect reached Santa Barbara 13 hours later, Lopez was still in first for the long haul but her week’s run had been washed away. In fact, our Janene Scully’s tsunami story had overtaken her within hours of the quake.

What was all the fuss?

The National Tsunami Warning Center issued an advisory for a large stretch of coastal California, including Santa Barbara County. The NOAA said a tsunami less than a foot high was expected to roll in at 5:06 a.m. Sept. 17.

Vandenberg Air Force Base closed all of its beaches — Brown, Minuteman, Surf and Wall — until further notice, citing the risk of strong ocean currents, large waves and the anticipated 1-foot bump in tide levels.

In spite of the tidal attraction, not much of anything happened here. As of 12:30 p.m. Sept. 18, the advisory had been canceled and all beaches had been reopened

Back to you, Paula.

2. Paula Lopez DUI Case Transferred to North County DA’s Office

The criminal case of local newscaster Paula Lopez won’t be handled on the South Coast, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley told Noozhawk on Sept. 10.

Paula Lopez Ochoa is on the move. (Santa Barbara County Jail photo)
Paula Lopez Ochoa is on the move. (Santa Barbara County Jail photo)

The 50-year-old Lopez, a longtime anchor at KCOY and KEYT News, was arrested the night of Sept. 6 on suspicion of driving under the influence and assaulting police officers after they found her in the parking lot at Sandpiper Golf Course, 7925 Hollister Ave., just east of Bacara Resort & Spa.

Authorities believe Lopez was the alleged wrong-way driver who had been reported about an hour earlier traveling south in Highway 101’s northbound lanes in the area of El Capitán State Beach, eight miles west of Goleta.

Lopez and her husband, retired Superior Court Judge Frank Ochoa, are well-known about town, so Dudley said her office decided to move the case to the North County for disposition.

She said a filing deputy in the DA’s Lompoc office will determine what charges are warranted once the California Highway Patrol forwards its reports in a couple of weeks.

A North County chief deputy district attorney will supervise the prosecution, she added.

Is this a grocery store or an office building? (Brian Cearnal architectural rendering)
Is this a grocery store or an office building? (Brian Cearnal architectural rendering)

3. Upscale Grocery Store, Retail Project Proposed at Gateway Site Near Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone

The owners of a tract at the southwest corner of Garden and Yanonali streets have proposed a two-story, 45,000-square-foot commercial building that would house small retail shops on the ground floor with an upscale grocery market on the second.

Our Josh Molina was hanging out at the Santa Barbara Planning Commission when the project came through for a concept review before a formal application is made.

The commissioners were open to the idea of a vibrant development at a gateway intersection near the waterfront and the Funk Zone, rather than the industrial stuff that’s there now.

Some were less impressed with the potential impact on the adjacent Laguna Creek channel, which is said to be home to sensitive animal species that apparently don’t have a problem living around piles of rubble, trash, Highway 101 and the nearby El Estero Wastewater Treatment Plant.

This being Santa Barbara, of course, the proposed parking lot is another concern. Let’s just jump ahead a few chapters to the ending and predict that, if the project is built, the lot will be too small to turn a delivery truck around in and with parking spaces just roomy enough to accommodate your electric golf cart.

While I wish the property owners well, I do find the site a curious location for an upscale market. It’s a bit isolated from large residential neighborhoods, and a Smart & Final a couple of blocks away rarely seems uncomfortably packed.

Meanwhile, a few blocks east is Milpas Street where, aside from Trader Joe’s​, chain grocery stores seem to go to die.

The representatives of the owners were undeterred.​

“We feel that this is such a prominent location in our city that this use really makes sense here, retail sense, in this gateway to the waterfront,” said Trish Allen, a planner with Suzanne Elledge Planning & Permitting Services.

4. Bill Macfadyen: With Paula Lopez, Noozhawk Readers Pick Up Where They Left Off

Thank you to everyone who contacted me to share your appreciation for what I said about the Paula Lopez saga on my first go-round. It’s always nice to know it’s not just my mom reading this column.

Thank you, too, to the three readers who criticized me. I know who you are.

If you haven’t read it, click here for my column in all its glory.

Elevator 9-1-1. (Urban Hikers / Noozhawk photo)
Elevator 9-1-1. (Urban Hikers / Noozhawk photo)

5. 10 Rescued from Macy’s Elevators as Power Outage Darkens Santa Barbara’s Chapala Corridor

If a Southern California Edison electrical transformer blows near Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, will the results be seen in downtown Santa Barbara, 1½ miles away?

Of course not. It’s dark!

I should be better than that, but is the lame humor that much worse than the farcical nature of the South Coast’s slapstick power grid? You know it’s not.

Around 8 p.m. Sept. 11, a sweeping power outage darkened much of downtown Santa Barbara along the loosely defined “Chapala corridor.” Edison’s outage map was of no help, but Edison spokeswoman Rondi Guthrie told Noozhawk that at least 1,000 customers were affected.

One of those customers was Macy’s at Paseo Nuevo, where Santa Barbara Fire Battalion Chief Mike DePonce said firefighters rescued 10 people trapped in two stalled elevators. There were no injuries.

According to DePonce, public-safety officials believe the outage originated with a malfunction in a miniature transformer near the hospital.

The cause was not immediately confirmed, but the week’s extreme heat wave triggered blackouts throughout the Southern California grid.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week, from my peripatetic tour of the World Wide Web: Two Boys Tunnel Out of Kindergarten to Go Buy a Jaguar.

Give them credit for tunnel vision, and auto aspirations.

                                                                 •        •        •

It turns out I had way too short of a leash for last week’s Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week. You’ll be glad we’re spending a little more time this week with Bretagne the Hero Dog. It’s OK to tear up.​

HT to Jonah Goldberg.

(BarkBox 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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