Hold your horses on your hotel hopes. (Cearnal Collective rendering)
Hold your horses on your hotel hopes. (Cearnal Collective rendering)

Rain? Thunderstorms? In Santa Barbara? And in August?!

In another improbable twist to an already weird weather year, Santa Barbara County got measurable rain on Aug. 10, as our Rebecca Caraway reported.

Of course, by midafternoon, the storm had moved on and the area had returned to its regularly expected weather conditions. I hope you enjoyed it while it lasted.

Noozhawk weathered an unusually light week of readers, with 81,461 of you tracked by our Google Analytics.

What follows is my recap of the Top Five most-read stories over the past seven days. Just remember that this is my opinion column and not a news story.

1. Proposed 250-Room Waterfront Hotel Hits Snag with Santa Barbara Planning Commission

The developer of a proposed 250-room hotel near the Santa Barbara waterfront ran into another setback during a grueling Planning Commission meeting on Aug. 3.

After a five-hour session, the commission voted 6-1 to “continue” the project at 101 Garden St. Commissioner Lesley Wiscomb was the lone dissenter.

The panel’s majority told the developers to pony up for a housing study while City of Santa Barbara staff assesses the need for a formal environmental impact report.

As our Josh Molina reported, the outcome disappointed both architect Brian Cearnal of Cearnal Collective in Santa Barbara and Shaun Gilbert, a Santa Monica hotel developer, both of whom blasted the city for the 11th-hour project switcheroo.

“I am more than disappointed,” Cearnal said. “This is the weaponization of CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act), and it is just wrong.”

In various iterations, the project has been in the pipeline for about 15 years, since the city pulled out its Monopoly board and designated the land use for either housing or a hotel.

Although the commission has now reviewed the project twice in the last three months, the possibility of an environmental review only just surfaced.

“We keep going through all the hoops and for something else to pop up,” Gilbert noted icily.

In April, for instance, the commission requested that he add six on-site apartments for employees — which he did.

The proposed project contains 250 hotel rooms, a bar, a lounge, a small market, parking for 267 vehicles, and the requisite parking spaces for all the bicycles that guests will be pedaling to the place from … somewhere else.

Commissioner Devon Wardlow wasn’t having any of it.

“The applicant has not significantly demonstrated that this use is compatible with the Funk Zone neighborhood,” she said. “I cannot make the findings to support this project.”

Marc Chytilo, an attorney representing a local group called “Keep the Funk,” also dismissed the proposal.

“We don’t need another mega hotel,” he said.

2. BizHawk: Chick-fil-A on State Street Reopens with New Drive-Through Design

Chick-fil-A in Santa Barbara.
New lane changes at Chick-fil-A appear to be reducing backups at the popular restaurant at 3707 State St. in Santa Barbara. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Swiftly and efficiently, just like its customer service, Chick-fil-A appears to have solved the congestion challenge at its Santa Barbara store.

The popular restaurant at 3707 State St. closed May 20 to reconfigure the traffic flow through the property, primarily by adding a third drive-through lane.

It reopened late last month.

“We are grateful to the city and our contractors who together made this all possible, and (are) thankful to be serving our community again,” Travis Collins, the franchisee owner, told our Josh Molina.

In addition to the three lanes for drive-through service, there is now a full lane for customers to pass through the property as well as parking around the building.

After approving Chick-fil-A’s original drive-through plans a decade ago, the City of Santa Barbara began threatening the restaurant with revoking its permit over customer vehicles backed up into the street.

This was the compromise that Chick-fil-A came up with so it could keep serving its delicious chicken and waffle fries.

With that quandary resolved so quickly, perhaps the chicken peeps can head down the road and come up with an efficient solution to the downtown part of State Street.

3. Cyclist Taken to Hospital After Collision with Vehicle in Montecito

A cyclist was taken to the hospital Tuesday after colliding with a vehicle on Sycamore Canyon Road in Montecito.
Crash aftermath on Sycamore Canyon Road in Montecito. (Montecito Fire Protection District photo)

A cyclist suffered “traumatic injuries” in an Aug. 8 collision with a car on Sycamore Canyon Road in Montecito.

As our Tom Bolton reported, emergency crews were dispatched just after 11 a.m. to the crash scene in the 2ooo block of Sycamore Canyon Road, near the intersection of Westmont Road to the west of Cold Spring School.

Montecito Fire Protection District officials said the cyclist, a 27-year-old man, was transported by an American Medical Response ambulance to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for treatment of “traumatic injuries.”

His identity and medical condition were not disclosed.

The driver of the Toyota hatchback was not injured in the wreck.

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

4. After Failed Hotel Proposal, New Bar on Tap for Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone

A former fish processing facility at 42 Helena Ave. in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone will be transformed into an intimate 758-square-foot bar with outdoor dining under a proposed project the Planning Commission has approved. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)
This may be the site of a whole new bar game in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Santa Barbara architect Kevin Moore has secured Planning Commission approval to transform an empty, former fish processing facility into a 758-square-foot bar with outdoor dining in the Funk Zone.

Having failed in a previous attempt to build a hotel on the property — at 42 Helena Ave., midblock between East Cabrillo Boulevard and East Mason Street — Moore raised the bar with his latest proposal.

As our Josh Molina was first to report, this time he and his client, Henry Courtemanche, received unanimous support from the commission, with members Lucille Boss and Devon Wardlow absent.

While hotels are allowed in the neighborhood with a conditional use permit for mixed use, this site’s limited size posed a challenge.

The property is also too small for housing and has no off-street parking.

Moore’s tiny bar deal emerged as a successful alternative instead.

5. Bill Macfadyen: Santa Barbara News-Press Leads Off, Probably for the Last Time

The vacant Santa Barbara News-Press building at 715 Anacapa St. in downtown Santa Barbara. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)
Do not disturb. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

I have nothing more to say but our Giana Magnoli has more to report on the ignominious end to Santa Barbara’s once-proud daily newspaper. You’ll recall that our Josh Molina broke the story when the paper called it quits on July 21 after 155 years of publishing.

Giana took a look at the latest bankruptcy court update from Ampersand Publishing, the paper’s parent company, and found it claims few assets but millions of dollars owed in various lawsuits, unpaid bills and unrefunded subscribers.

An interesting wrinkle Giana discovered is that most of the creditors appear to be locals. Is anyone truly surprised at this point?

•        •        •

Good Reads

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

» De la Guerra Plaza Redesign Project Sparks Intense Debate Over Pavilion, Grass, Bathrooms — Staff writer Josh Molina has the latest on the De la Guerra Plaza project outside Santa Barbara’s City Hall. While plans for the zócalo are intended to bring the community together, the debate indicates a town divided — in some cases, sharply so.

» Santa Barbara Schools Superintendent Hilda Maldonado Gets Contract Extension Through 2026 — After a rocky start, Santa Barbara Unified School District Superintendent Hilda Maldonado appears to have hit her stride, culminating in a significant vote of confidence from the school board. Josh has the details.

» Santa Ynez Valley Ranch Owner Seeks Decision Delay to Try to Resolve Decorative Gate Feud with Neighbor — North County editor Janene Scully knows you’ve been wondering about the ranch gate art that ignited a bit of a range war and has an update for you.

» Direct Relief Sends Emergency Medical Shipments to Maui for Wildfire Response — There are deep connections between Santa Barbara and Hawai‘i so it’s not surprising that locals are stepping up to help with the unimaginable devastation on Maui. Former Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper, now Direct Relief’s associate communications director, reports on relief efforts already underway.

» Jaxon Callon is a Golf World Champion Before He Enters First Grade — Sports editor Barry Punzal tees up a story on Santa Barbara’s youngest golf phenom.

» Season Preview: Four Local Schools Fielding Teams for Inaugural CIF Girls Flag Football Season — The Boys of Fall will be joined this year by the Girls of Fall playing CIF flag football for the first time. Sports writer Diego Sandoval has a sideline report on the upcoming season.

•        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Crews Battling Vegetation Fire Burning Along Highway 154 in Santa Ynez Valley.

•        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

Condor chick bait: Two Baby Condors At Pinnacles National Park Are Healthy, “Adorable Fluffballs.”

•        •        •

Here’s What I’m Up To

  • Aug. 31 — I’ll be speaking to Dan Lane’s “News, Politics & Democracy” class at UCSB. We’ll be discussing Noozhawk’s origins, evolution and future, as well as journalism’s overall role in our country and culture.

•        •        •

Best of Bill’s Instagram

Baseball, burgers and bridges have filled up my Instagram feed this past week.

•        •        •

Watch It

Kids, we’re going to the neighborhood pool! HT to Best of Bill reader Kristin Castle.

YouTube video
(Arcadia Backyard Wildlife video)

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