Senseless tragedy on Storke Road in Goleta. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)
Senseless tragedy on Storke Road in Goleta. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

On the eve of autumn, I have to ask: What happened to our September weather?!

While I decide how much energy to expend searching for that answer, our WordPress analytics answered another question.

According to our web platform, Noozhawk had an audience of 140,825 readers this past week.

What follows is my weekly recap of the Top Five stories you were reading during that period. In other words, this is my opinion column.

1. Landscape Worker Struck, Killed by Hit-Run Driver in Goleta

An alleged hit-and-run driver struck and killed a landscape maintenance worker near Goleta’s Camino Real Marketplace on Sept. 20.

In addition to his landscaping job, Goleta hit-and-run victim Ruben Reyes-Victoria worked as a cook at Goodland BBQ in Old Town. (Goodland BBQ photo)
In addition to his landscaping job, Goleta hit-and-run victim Ruben Reyes-Victoria worked as a cook at Goodland BBQ in Old Town. (Goodland BBQ photo)

Witnesses followed the fleeing driver to the parking lot of a nearby hotel, where he was arrested by Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies not long after the 3 p.m. collision.

As our Tom Bolton and Josh Molina first reported, the worker — identified as 29-year-old Ruben Reyes-Victoria of Goleta — was tending to landscaping along the 200 block of Storke Road, by The Home Depot across from Bollay Drive.

Firefighters from Station 11, just a half-block away, were on the scene moments later, but efforts to revive Reyes-Victoria were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead.

Multiple witnesses told authorities they saw the collision and several followed the getaway car, a white Toyota Carolla, to the parking lot of the Courtyard by Marriott Santa Barbara Goleta at 401 Storke Road.

Thanks to the tips, deputies quickly arrived and arrested the suspect, 19-year-old David Z. Rousso.

Authorities say Rousso was booked into County Jail on suspicion of felony hit and run causing death or injury, and misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence.

As of Sept. 22, he remained jailed with bail set at $50,000.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, Rousso is to be arraigned Sept. 25 in Superior Court.

Goleta hit-and-run victim Ruben Reyes-Victoria is survived by his wife and their two young children in Puebla, Mexico. (GoFundMe photo)
Goleta hit-and-run victim Ruben Reyes-Victoria is survived by his wife and their two young children in Puebla, Mexico. (GoFundMe photo)

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Raquel Zick said alcohol and drugs are not believed to be factors in the collision.

Reyes-Victoria was employed by Kitson Landscape Management and also worked as a cook at Goodland BBQ in Old Town.

He is survived by his wife and their two children — a 10-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son.

A GoFundMe account has been established to support his family and assist with funeral expenses. As of Sept. 22, the campaign had raised nearly $17,642. Click here to make an online donation.

Goodland BBQ, where one of Reyes-Victoria’s brothers and a cousin also work, is hosting a benefit from 5 to 8 p.m. Sept. 27.

The restaurant at 5725 Hollister Ave. plans to donate 20% of its sales that day to the fundraiser.

2. Santa Barbara Targets 400-Plus Apartments for Paseo Nuevo in Massive Move for Downtown Redevelopment

Santa Barbara plans to do a major redevelopment project on the site of the Paseo Nuevo outdoor mall downtown. The city wants hundreds of housing units built there, in addition to retail space. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)
Things may be looking up for downtown Santa Barbara, and the catalyst could be a sweeping transformation of Paseo Nuevo. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

In the boldest, most ambitious move the City of Santa Barbara has had in Noozhawk’s lifetime, if not my own, plans have been unveiled to demolish Paseo Nuevo and replace the struggling open-air mall with at least 500 housing units and 60,000 square feet of commercial space.

In the boldest, swiftest move this City Council has ever taken, the council voted unanimously on Sept. 19 to initiate negotiations for a project agreement with the company that acquired the mall’s leases after the previous owners defaulted on a $120 million loan.

I don’t know if Mayor Randy Rowse used the transfer portal to get some new council members, but I welcome the sudden leadership. It’s about time.

As our Josh Molina reported, the proposal is a collaborative effort of two New York City-based companies: Alliance Bernstein Commercial, the investment firm that owns the mall leases, and The Georgetown Company, a housing developer.

Preliminary plans call for a mix of market-rate, middle-income, low-income and very-low-income housing units.

Officials with Strategic Economics, a Berkeley consulting firm hired by the city, listed Paseo Nuevo’s numerous deficiencies — none of which is a surprise to any of us.

“Right now, this mall is a distressed property,” Strategic Economics president Dena Belzer said. “Its two largest anchor buildings are both vacant. It’s back away from the street.

“It has a lot of challenges. The retail industry in general is restructuring. It is an under-performing asset that needs restructuring.”

To ensure the project’s financial viability, City Administrator Rebecca Bjork warned, a substantial amount of market-rate housing almost certainly will be required. Like it or not, that’s called reality.

Nevertheless, council members expressed the need for affordable housing, particularly for families, while preserving community event spaces and architectural elements.

The Alliance Bernstein Commercial consortium is working with Gensler, a San Francisco-based national architectural firm, as well as DMHA locally.

Leaving aside the opacity of the selection process, the project is seen as a potential catalyst for revitalizing the floundering downtown.

“This might be the most consequential decision I make during my time on the council,” Councilman Eric Friedman said.

“If we are able to go down this path and redevelop it in this way, we will reinvigorate the city for decades to come.”

3. Bill Macfadyen: High-Speed Highway 101 Crash Spreads the Damage Around

There’s no new news in the violent, Sept. 12 three-car collision on Highway 101 in Santa Barbara. The early morning wreck injured six people while demolishing a couple of guardrails.

The California Highway Patrol is investigating the circumstances of the incident.

4. Passengers, Driver Escape After Tour Bus Catches Fire on Highway 101 in Montecito

Southbound Highway 101 was closed for several hours Saturday night as a tour bus fire was cleaned up and the vehicle was towed away. The incident blocked traffic through the Highway 101 widening project construction zone over Ortega Hill in Montecito. (Montecito Fire Protection District photo)
There may be a fire at the back of the bus, but how about that fiery sunset? (Montecito Fire Protection District photo)

A tour bus fire disrupted traffic on southbound Highway 101 in Montecito the evening of Sept. 16, but the passengers and driver escaped unharmed.

As our Janene Scully reported, the bus driver discovered a problem around 6:40 p.m. as the Setra vehicle was going up Ortega Hill east of Sheffield Drive.

The driver pulled to the side of the right lane and safely evacuated approximately 30 passengers.

Within minutes of their arrival, Montecito Fire Protection District crews extinguished the flames in the rear engine compartment.

The southbound freeway — already narrowed through the Highway 101 widening project construction zone — was closed for several hours before a heavy-duty tow truck could arrive to haul away the burned bus.

The passengers, and their luggage, resumed their journey on a replacement bus.

The California Highway Patrol is investigating the circumstances of the incident.

5. BizHawk: Crumbl Cookies Opens in Sweet Spot at Goleta’s Calle Real Shopping Center

Adrian Morales, manager of Crumbl in Goleta.
Shop manager Adrian Morales shows the way to the cookies at Crumbl. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Our Josh Molina was on the sweet treat beat last week, visiting Crumbl, a new gourmet dessert shop in Goleta’s Calle Real Shopping Center.

Once again, he returned with a story but no samples for me. I really need to have a chat with him.

But I digress.

Crumbl, at 5660 Calle Real across the street from The Nugget Bar & Grill, specializes in designer cookies that are nothing short of indulgent.

The generously sized baked goods, priced at an eye-popping $5 each, are adorned with frosting, chocolate, candy, colorful toppings and even fruit.

“We want the best cookies, the best-looking cookies and the best quality,” manager Adrian Morales told Josh, noting that the shop has a rotating menu of more than 200 cookie types.

Crumbl also offers delivery, curbside pickup, catering and nationwide shipping.

The shop is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 8 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday. It’s closed Sunday.

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Good Reads

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

» Supervisors Approve Ambulance Service Permits for County Fire, Deny AMR Application — Staff writer Serena Guentz has the latest twist in Santa Barbara County’s turn on an ambulance service contract that is all kinds of peculiar.

» Caltrans Modifies Onramp at Patterson Avenue Near San Jose Creek Bridge Construction Amid Safety Concerns — Checking out a flurry of reader complaints, staff writer Rebecca Caraway goes for a drive on Caltrans’ new Highway 101 entrance ramp at Patterson Avenue. Caltrans is making some modifications but, having used it myself, I’m not sure they’re much of an improvement.

» Santa Barbara School District Develops New Ways to Improve Student Mental Health — Rebecca follows the growing mental health challenges faced by today’s students.

» Cantwell’s Market Housing Project Gets Positive Reception, but Neighbors Raise Height Concerns — Staff writer Josh Molina has the latest on an interesting apartment project proposed at the site of Cantwell’s Market & Deli near downtown Santa Barbara.

» Fires Elsewhere Lead to Air Quality Warnings for Parts of Central Coast — North County editor Janene Scully clears the air on poor air quality in Lompoc and Santa Maria.

» Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table Inducts Seven Into Hall of Fame — Sports editor Barry Punzal is on hand as the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table inducts a magnificent seven into its Hall of Fame.  

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Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? 8 People Injured in Highway 1 Vehicle Crash Near Vandenberg Village.

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Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

Last week I linked to a mysterious shack on the rugged Pacifica coast. This week, we venture out to a ghost town of sorts in the Mojave Desert: What It’s Like to Accidentally Own a California Ghost Town.

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Best of Bill’s Instagram

Turkey vultures, smashburgers and a bridge dedicated to Marine Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola in Rancho Cucamonga. They’re all in my Instagram feed.

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Watch It

The power in that tail, though. HT to Best of Bill reader John Redding.

YouTube video
(New York Post 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.