Say what you will, but this is an improvement. (Hochhauser Blatter Architecture & PlanningHochhauser Blatter Architecture & Planning rendering)


Congratulations to 6-year-old Diego “Dedo” Alvarez, who will be riding for the Noozhawk brand in the Mutton Bustin’ contest at the 2015 Santa Barbara Old Spanish Days Fiesta Stock Horse Show & Rodeo.

The Notre Dame School first-grader aced out more than a dozen other contestants in Noozhawk’​s annual drawing, and he’ll proudly saddle up for Friday night’s performance at Earl Warren Showgrounds.

How far he goes will be up to him — and the unpredictable sheep he rides in on.

According to his mom, Regina Tanguma of Santa Barbara, Dedo loves swimming, baseball and soccer, but Xbox and Wii video games are his favorite pastime.

Diego 'Dedo' Alvarez: Cowboy up. (Tanguma family photo)

Diego “Dedo” Alvarez: Cowboy up. (Tanguma family photo)

“He’s the funniest little guy,” she told me, adding that she’s quite confident in his cowboying skills.

Of course, many a confident Mutton Bustin’ buckaroo has ended up dining on dirt instead of tasting victory.

So far, Dedo is keeping his actual strategy close to his fringed-leather vest.

“I am super-fast,” was all he would say. “Faster than everyone else.”

Not that we’re putting any pressure on him, but he’s got big boots to fill. Last year’s Noozhawk rider — Lucia Smith of Carpinteria — far outdistanced her competition to win the first-place commemorative belt buckle. She also was chosen as the event’s best-dressed cowgirl.

Lucia’s technique — with her ride, not her wardrobe — was to hug the sheep tight around its neck while wrapping her legs around its body. Everyone remembers the first part, but forgetting the second is a frequent rookie mistake.

Good luck, Dedo! And thanks to all the cowboys and cowgirls who entered our contest.

                                                                 •        •        •

There were 96,832 people who read Noozhawk this past week. Regardless of whether you’re assigned to debate at the kids’ table, here’s my take on your top stories:

1. Punta Gorda Rental Units Could Be Creative Solution to Santa Barbara’s Housing Shortage

What do you do with a few acres of flat land that’s an ineffective sound wall away from busy Highway 101, that lies in a flood plain, and that was home to a rundown, drugs-infested trailer park before it went bankrupt?

If you’re Santa Barbara resident Ed Clark, you hatch a plan to build 40 small, largely pre-fabbed rental houses on the Lower Eastside property. Now that a handful of the roofs are peeking over the aforementioned sound wall and visible from the freeway, his efficient and innovative use of the space is drawing attention.

We sent our Lara Cooper over to the 1100 block of Punta Gorda Street to tour the site with the project’s architect, Jan Hochhauser of Hochhauser Blatter Architecture & Planning.

The units are small and outwardly uniform, roughly 550 square feet for a two-bedroom unit. When completed later this year, there will be four single-story units and three dozen two-story structures.

The homes are factory-built and are being installed on top of permanent cement slabs that raise the foundations nearly four feet off the ground. The lift is a necessary adjustment because of the project’s location in the Sycamore Creek flood plain.

According to Hochhauser, rents for the two-bedroom units will run $1,500 to $1,800 a month.

The project’s design evokes more South San Francisco than Santa Barbara, but I’m intrigued by the concept and wonder whether it might be a useful and cost-effective roadmap for a few other local infill projects. The South Coast’s workforce housing imbalance is an unalterable fact and it would be nice if the community would at least make an effort.

Of course, it helps that the project was able to bypass “the Santa Barbara stall” because mobile home parks — even bankrupt ones, apparently — are under the purview of the federal Housing and Urban Development Department so permitting falls under state control, not local​. When they want to, the state and federal governments can move rather quickly.

More, please.

2. Rape Victim Dies 8 Days After Vicious Attack During Break-In at Santa Maria Home​

Eight long and excruciating days after being viciously beaten and raped in her bed, 64-year-old Marilyn Pharis died of the wounds inflicted on her during the Santa Maria home-invasion assault.

Jose Villagomez

Jose Villagomez
Victor Aureliano Martinez

Victor Aureliano Martinez

Pharis suffered severe injuries during the July 24 attack, and was rushed to Marian Regional Medical Center. She died Aug. 1.

Within hours of the assault, Santa Maria police arrested Victor Aureliano Martinez as a suspect. After fleeing Pharis’ residence in the 900 block of North Dejoy Street, authorities say, he broke into a second house, in the 1000 block of West Donovan Road, about five blocks to the north.

Martinez, 29, was booked into Santa Barbara County Jail on suspicion of attempted murder, sexual assault and residential burglary.

On Aug. 3, however, police announced the arrest of a second suspect in the case, 20-year-old Jose Villagomez of Santa Maria.

Villagomez had been arrested July 28 on unrelated charges. Already a guest at County Jail, he was booked on suspicion of sexual assault and attempted murder in connection with the attack on Pharis.

Now that Pharis has died, both men may be charged with her murder.

According to authorities, the two suspects have lengthy criminal records. Martinez, a Mexican citizen, is even in the United States illegally, although Villagomez is an American.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) openly acknowledges it has been aware of Martinez’s immigration status and his past brushes with the law … but he’s still here.

In her most reassuring voice, ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice says the agency “is monitoring the case closely.” I’m guessing that’s pretty easy to do now that Martinez is behind bars!

On a related note, I’d like to acknowledge the handful of commenters harping on Noozhawk for “ignoring” and “censoring” the immigration status of individuals suspected of crimes or involved in traffic collisions.

First, we’re not. Our priority is to report the news as accurately, as thoroughly, as professionally and as quickly as we can under time constraints that, frankly, are dictated by the voracious appetite of the World Wide Web.

Our readers want to know, need to know and deserve to know what we know as soon as we know it.

Most of the time in that immediacy, we don’t know the immigration status, we have no way of knowing the immigration status, we have no recourse to get the immigration status, and breaking news can’t wait for the immigration status anyway. I’m pretty sure law enforcement often is in the same predicament.

But equally important, have you actually thought through what you’re demanding? Are you asking us to just report on the immigration status of those with Hispanic surnames? Should we limit it to crime stories and traffic incidents?

If we’re going to provide status reports on criminal suspects, why not the citizenship standing of, say, Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez or California Highway Patrol Officer Jonathan Gutierrez? Their names “sound Hispanic,” and they often appear in crime or car crash stories.

Is it fair to stop there? How about Ryan Bollay, Steve Forrest or Emma Lund? All three were tragically killed in spectacular wrecks; was their citizenship a factor?

And what do we know about Bill Macfadyen, really?

I’m in no way dismissing the concerns over illegal immigration; I share many of them. But simplistic and bullying demands for Noozhawk to impose a form of sharia law on the news is no way to fix the problem.

BTW, I frequently see comments referring to Santa Maria as a “sanctuary city.” You all do know that Santa Barbara County has no such cities, right?

Lists of sanctuary communities are readily available on the Internet — sourced from all sides of the immigration debate. You can look it up.

Tender remembrances at the scene of a brutal murder. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Tender remembrances at the scene of a brutal murder. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

3. Santa Maria Police Say Teen Who Died Was Victim Of ‘Extremely Vicious’ Attack​

The Santa Maria teenager who was gunned down July 28 was not just shot. According to Police Chief Ralph Martin, he was the victim of an “extremely violent attack.”

Oscar Daniel Joaquin, 18, died of his wounds at Marian Regional Medical Center, where he had been taken after the late-night assault in a residential neighborhood a few blocks west of Santa Maria Town Center Mall.

Martin said Joaquin had been shot multiple times, had numerous lacerations and appeared to have been struck by a baseball bat.

“Without question, it was a vicious attack,” he said.

No arrests have been announced in connection with the incident, which went down near the intersection of Western Avenue and Barrett Street.

Authorities say the attack may be gang-related, but the investigation is continuing.

A rosary for Joaquin is scheduled for 6:30 to 9 p.m. Aug. 7 at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic Church, 5095 Harp Road in Orcutt, with a funeral Mass to follow at 10 a.m. Aug. 8.  

A local discrimination lawsuit seeks to expose Haggen’s inside story, but an executive of the grocery chain says it’s all right there in the labor agreement. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

A local discrimination lawsuit seeks to expose Haggen’s inside story, but an executive of the grocery chain says it’s all right there in the labor agreement. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

4. Class-Action Discrimination Lawsuit Filed Against Haggen

Executives of the Haggen grocery store chain aren’t the first outsiders to — apparently — misunderstand Santa Barbara County’s sometimes quirky market conditions, and they won’t be the last. Dunkin’ Donuts, anyone?

But the Bellingham, Wash.-based Haggen, which recently took ownership of a handful of area Albertsons and Vons stores through the Albertsons-Safeway merger, seems to be encountering a few local challenges.

The layoffs of 14 courtesy clerks with developmental disabilities aren’t going to make the transition any easier.

On July 31, a class-action lawsuit was filed by one of the laid-off employees, William Morris, a 60-year-old clerk at the Haggen store at 175 N. Fairview Ave. in Goleta. Morris had been placed at the then-Vons market three years ago by PathPoint, a local nonprofit organization that provides employment and housing support services for the disadvantaged.

As our Lara Cooper reported, the complaint states that Haggen had assured current employees there would be no changes under the new ownership.

“They made promises that everyone would keep their jobs, but that’s not what happened,” said Matthew Da Vega, Morris’ attorney at Da Vega, Fisher & Mechtenberg LLP in Santa Barbara.

The complaint alleges disability discrimination, wrongful termination and unlawful business practices, and it asks for lost wages, damages and attorneys’ fees.

According to the suit filed in Santa Barbara County Superior Court, employees with developmental disabilities were “disproportionately” terminated by the company, and their duties transferred to nondisabled employees without legitimate business justification.

Days earlier, Haggen-Pacific Southwest CEO Bill Shaner had acknowledged the company’s expansion “has been challenging.” He said the layoffs were based on job classification and seniority, in compliance with collective-bargaining agreements.

“As part of the reduction, we eliminated the clerks-helper job classification in our stores, which unfortunately included some associates with developmental disabilities,”​ he said.

See anything? (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

See anything? (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

5. 2 Foot-by-2 Foot Sinkhole Shuts Down Busy Santa Barbara Intersection

A sinkhole disrupted traffic at a busy Santa Barbara intersection for more than four hours Aug. 1. Three days later, the City of Santa Barbara Public Works Department announced it was caused by a water main leak.

The 2-by-2-foot hole and surrounding indented pavement appeared at the intersection of Mission and State streets early on that Saturday afternoon. There were no injuries or incidents related to the hole, but authorities were forced to reroute traffic to streets a block away in every direction.

The intersection was reopened around 6 p.m. after emergency repairs were made.

On Aug. 4, municipal water resources manager Joshua Haggmark placed the blame on a water main leak that caused soil to consolidate under the street. No reason was given for why it took so long to pinpoint.

The sinkhole cost about $13,000 to fix, and repairs were complete by midweek.

                                                                 •        •        •

Is this the next generation of the ubiquitous panga boat? Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week, from my peripatetic tour of the World Wide Web: Coast Guard Busts Homemade Submarine, Seizes $181 Million Worth of Cocaine.

                                                                 •        •        •

Thank you to Natalie Tran for pointing out the ridiculousness of something I do all the time. Since I’m not likely to stop, follow my diet on Instagram.

YouTube video

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at, follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

Bill Macfadyen

William M. Macfadyen, Noozhawk Publisher

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