Ruben Reyes-Victoria’s family has asked that future donations go to the Santa Barbara Response Network. (GoFundMe photo)
Ruben Reyes-Victoria’s family has asked that future donations go to the Santa Barbara Response Network. (GoFundMe photo)

This is an exciting weekend for sports fans.

The National League West Division champion Los Angeles Dodgers end the regular season with their arch rivals, the hapless San Francisco giants. This year, Dodger Nation is expecting a lot more than one measly win in the playoffs, by the way.

College football begins widespread conference play, well aware that several conferences are entering a realignment that will end many historical rivalries next year.

And rodeo addicts like me are keeping a close eye on the Cinch Playoffs in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the last PRCA qualifying rodeo for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in December.

It’s a bittersweet weekend for Noozhawk sports, however, as our longtime sports editor, Barry Punzal, is officially stepping down Oct. 1 and turning over his playbook to Diego Sandoval.

Barry Punzal
Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal is stepping down after eight years at the helm — and looking forward to more grandpa opportunities. (Noozhawk file photo)

We’re very excited about the Sandoval era, and have every confidence that Diego will build on the foundation that Barry established. Executive editor Tom Bolton will have a formal introduction for Diego over the weekend, so look for that.

But I can’t let Barry get away without thanking him for a job very well done over the last eight years.

It was never our intent to have a sports section, but fate dropped the opportunity in our lap in December 2015.

When 2016 dawned a couple of weeks later, we had sports. More specifically, we had Barry.

A consummate professional, Barry is a five-tool all star in local sports, having covered just about every team in town in a 34-year career here.

His reputation, knowledge, connections, memory and work ethic are unrivaled — or rivaled only by our Mark Patton — but his enthusiasm and appreciation for local sports are evident in every interview he conducts and every story and recap he writes.

Barry also outlasted his two previous employers, the late Santa Barbara News-Press and Presidio Sports.

That’s an important distinction because, were it not for Barry’s vision, Noozhawk’s commitment and our partnership with the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table, there would not be much of a field left for local sports. Imagine that.

Barry will still be involved with Noozhawk sports, covering games here and there, writing features from time to time, assisting with production responsibilities, and as a mentor for Diego.

But he and his wife, Sheila, want to do more traveling — to somewhere other than stadiums, gyms and pools — and they have a daughter and granddaughter in Hawai‘i they’d like to see more often.

My partners — executive editor Tom Bolton and business development vice president Kim Clark — and I are forever indebted to Barry for his leadership and representation and for what he created and accomplished.

We know you are, too, because we hear it from you all the time.

Thank you, Barry. Mahalo.

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Noozhawk had an audience of 130,347 readers this past week, according to our WordPress analytics.

What follows is my take on the Top Five stories you were reading during that period.

As a reminder, this is my opinion column and not a news story. And I write it in my civic role as Noozhawk’s publisher.

1. Bill Macfadyen: Goleta Hit-Run Collision Is a Horrifying Story

I have nothing new to share on the criminal side of the Sept. 20 alleged hit-and-run collision that killed 29-year-old Ruben Reyes-Victoria as he went about his business as a landscape maintenance worker near Goleta’s Camino Real Marketplace.

The suspect, 19-year-old David Z. Rousso of Goleta, had been booked into Santa Barbara County Jail on suspicion of felony hit and run causing death or injury, and misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence. He has since made bail.

Reyes-Victoria is survived by his wife and their two children, a 10-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son.

The Goleta resident was employed by Kitson Landscape Management and also worked as a cook at Goodland BBQ in Old Town.

As of Sept. 29, a GoFundMe account to support Reyes-Victoria’s family and assist with funeral expenses had raised more than $56,000 — $6,000 more than the initial goal.

In a Sept. 25 GoFundMe update, account organizer Jorge Arguello Vazquez wrote that the heartbroken family was “overwhelmed with gratitude.”

He said the community support “has touched our hearts and lifted a heavy burden off the shoulders of the family.”

Vazquez said the family has asked that future donations be made instead to the nonprofit Santa Barbara Response Network, which mobilizes volunteers who are trained to provide compassionate social support in the aftermath of traumatic experiences.

“Thank you from the bottom of our hearts,” the post reads. “Your kindness has given us strength and hope during this challenging journey.

“However since we have now reached our goal, we kindly ask that any future donations be made directly to the Santa Barbara Response Network to support this wonderful organization.”

Click here to make an online donation.

2. State Street Hotel Project Hearing Sparks Drama, Attacks on City Council Over Santa Barbara Housing Policies

A Santa Barbara Planning Commission hearing on a 66-room hotel project proposed for a series of parcels at the corner of State and East Ortega streets turned into a fiery condemnation of the city’s housing policies.(Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)
Intrigue lurks in the 700 block of State Street, at the intersection of East Ortega Street in downtown Santa Barbara. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

An increasingly aggressive faction of the Santa Barbara Planning Commission used a downtown hotel project hearing to air its grievances with the City Council and the city’s current housing policies.

As our Josh Molina reported, the commission was meeting Sept. 21 to review a 66-room hotel project with a restaurant and bar across six lots at the northeast corner of State and East Ortega streets.

To much acclaim, SIMA Management Corp. had first proposed housing at the site, which includes the Restoration Hardware building at 710 State St. and the Press Room bar at 15 E. Ortega St.

But after embarking on the arduous approval process and facing density limits imposed by City of Santa Barbara zoning ordinances, the developers determined that housing was not financially feasible.

So they returned with a hotel project.

“Everybody would prefer to have this be a housing project, but the reality is that some of these downtown sites just don’t make sense,” said Kevin Moore, the project’s architect.

At the contentious hearing, Planning Commission chairwoman Roxana Bonderson took direct aim at precisely that kind of mutation.

“I don’t know what it is going to take and how much more dire the housing crisis has to get before our council is motivated enough to take effective policy action,” she said.

“It’s disgraceful that our elected officials have not taken needed action in the years that they have collectively been on City Council.”

Complaining that she had no choice but to approve the hotel, Bonderson joined commissioners Don DeLuccio, Sheila Lodge and Lesley Wiscomb in voting for it.

Commissioner Lucille Boss dissented on the 4-1 decision after a bizarre line of questioning for Moore that drew a rebuke from City Attorney Tava Ostrenger. Josh has all the details.

Unabashed, Boss followed that up with a series of seemingly scripted questions for city planner Allison DeBusk about the city’s general plan and its 2015 Housing Element Update.

Boss is a newer member of the commission so maybe she’s truly unfamiliar with these basic governing documents. On the other hand, shouldn’t reading them be an elementary requirement to be a planning commissioner? It’s not like they’re the IRS tax code.

But back to Bonderson. As a supporter of more housing in downtown Santa Barbara myself, I can understand her frustration. Readers of these Best of Bill columns are familiar with my own exasperation at our City Council profiles in courage.

However, I’m not at all comfortable with the unelected Planning Commission taking it upon itself to set housing policy.

If you want to do that, get yourself elected to the City Council, not appointed to a commission. Voters need better choices.

As I see it, though, the fundamental issue is the reason why so many would-be developers are concluding that housing isn’t worth the effort.

The process is the problem and it perpetuates much of the housing crisis we’re facing.

And now we have heavy-handed interference from our Sacramento overlords. That can’t be better.

3. Service Restored, Repairs Continue for Santa Barbara Water-Main Break

A water-main break caused the Las Positas Road pavement to buckle and shut down traffic at the busy Santa Barbara intersection across from Earl Warren Showgrounds on Sunday afternoon. (Peter Hartmann / Noozhawk photo)
Follow the arrow down the drain at Las Positas Road and Calle Real, across from Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara. (Peter Hartmann / Noozhawk photo)

A water-main break buckled pavement and disrupted traffic flow near Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara the afternoon of Sept. 24.

The mess kept one of the city’s busiest intersections partially closed for more than a day.

As our Tom Bolton reported, emergency responders were dispatched around 2:15 p.m. to the intersection of Las Positas Road and Calle Real, where the volume of water had badly damaged Las Positas.

Santa Barbara fire Battalion Chief Robert Mercado said traffic was halted on both streets, including the Highway 101 overpass, and the freeway exit ramps in both directions.

Water service was restored to the neighborhood some eight hours later, but repairs took several days. The southbound Highway 101 exit ramp was back in business by the next morning and the northbound exit ramp reopened that night.

The cause of the water-main break was under investigation. An estimate of how much water was lost was not available.

4. BizHawk: Augie’s of Santa Barbara Closing Temporarily to Refresh Its Menu, Concept

Augie's of Santa Barbara.
#brb, sort of. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Less than a year after opening in downtown Santa Barbara, Augie’s is closing its tequila bar at 700 State St. for an “undetermined period of time.”

As our Josh Molina was first to report, Augie’s will be undergoing a menu and concept refresh.

“The Augie’s team would like to thank our guests in advance for their patience during this time,” the company said in a statement for Josh. “Augie’s 2.0! Coming soon.”

Berkeley “Augie” Johnson opened the restaurant in October 2022 in an old building that was transformed by Santa Barbara architect Jeff Shelton’s trademark whimsical designs.

In other BizHawk news, Hollister Brewing Co. is out of business in Goleta’s Camino Real Marketplace.

5. SpaceX Launch of Starlink Satellites Marks 25th Mission of 2023 from Vandenberg Space Force Base

A Falcon 9 rocket's liftoff lights up the sky while leaving Vandenberg Space Force Base early Monday morning, carrying another 21 Starlink satellites into space. (SpaceX photo)
And we’re off. (SpaceX photo)

SpaceX rocket blasted off into space just before 2 a.m. Sept. 25, marking the company’s 25th launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base so far this year. 

As our Janene Scully reported, the Falcon 9 rocket rumbled into the night from Space Launch Complex-4 on South Base.

More than an hour later, SpaceX officials said, the mission’s payload of 21 Starlink satellites was deployed as planned.

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Good Reads

Don’t miss these six other stories before you go:

» American Medical Response Sues Santa Barbara County Over Ambulance Service Permits — Gee, who could have foreseen this? Oh, yeah. Me. Managing editor Giana Magnoli has the latest episode in the Santa Barbara County ambulance contract soap opera.

» Couple Sue City of Santa Barbara Over Manhole Cover That Caused Flooding Damage During Storm — Speaking of lawsuits, staff writer Serena Guentz wades into new legal action over Jan. 9 storm flooding.

» Santa Barbara School District Looks to Partner with Housing Authority to Build Apartments for Employees — Staff writer Josh Molina explores an innovative housing possibility for Santa Barbara Unified School District employees.

» Kevin Michael Naretto of Goleta, 1962-2023 — I didn’t know Kevin Naretto, but I’ve heard from quite a few of his friends who were shaken by his death. Rest in peace, and prayers to his family.

» Local Lifeguards Earn Medals at International Surf Rescue Challenge — Sports editor Barry Punzal follows three young Santa Barbara lifeguards — Charlie Franzen, Luc Doering and Roman Higgins — at a major surf rescue competition.

» Mark Patton: Throwing Cold Water on the Jinxes of Journalism — Sports columnist Mark Patton recounts a chilling encounter with a couple of intrepid, ill-fated sailors.  

•        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? 10-Year-old Girl Killed, 2 Lompoc Residents Critically Injured in Highway 1 Crash.

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Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

Hey, peeps, you don’t have to leave the state to get your leaf looks: California Actually Is More Than a Golden State in Fall.

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Best of Bill’s Instagram

My Instagram feed makes a mess of hibiscus trees while also spotting Psych’s famed pineapple.

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Watch It

We saw quite a few frolicking dolphins on our Hawks Club cruise on the Condor Express the other evening. While we didn’t come across a stampede, I’ve encountered the phenomenon before while out fishing with our outdoors columnist, Capt. David Bacon, in the Santa Barbara Channel.

YouTube video
(Dana Point Whale Watching video)

Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at, and follow him on Instagram: @bill.macfadyen. The opinions expressed are his own.