State Street dining
Under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest order, Santa Barbara County restaurants — including those on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara — have no choice but to take it outside. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

When I told you about the merger of the Goleta and Santa Barbara chambers of commerce in a late May Best of Bill column, I noted that July 1 was the launch goal and that another announcement might be imminent.

One out of two is still a .500 batting average.

The announcement — that the Carpinteria Valley Chamber of Commerce would be the crucial third leg of this new business and economic development stool — didn’t come until a month later, on June 29, but we somehow still managed to make our deadline.

And when I say we, I mean Carpinteria Valley board chairman Curtis Lopez, Santa Barbara board chairman Geoff Green and myself as the Goleta board chairman; our 15-member transition committee; our three — unanimous — boards of directors; and our amazing and highly experienced professional staff.

The speed with which we accomplished this history-making merger is impressive enough from an organizational standpoint, but the fact that we completed it in the middle of an earth-shaking pandemic and economic meltdown is nothing short of remarkable.

Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce

It speaks to the importance of our mission to be the unified voice of business on Santa Barbara County’s South Coast. And it underscores the urgency of our becoming the most effective advocate for our members — the businesses and organizations that are the bedrock of our local economy and that must lead the recovery our community so desperately needs.

I’m proud to be part of the new Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce and am looking forward to creating a healthier environment to help our businesses thrive.

As if any of us needed a reminder of the magnitude of the challenge before us, it was brought home with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest order revoking a slew of fledgling freedoms, including indoor restaurant dining, as the coronavirus threat continues to run amok.

But more on that in a moment.

Since the COVID-19 plague arrived in Santa Barbara County, Noozhawk’s small but mighty team of professional journalists has pushed itself like never before. And we’re accustomed to working at a breakneck pace amid chaos and disaster!

To help with our coverage of this crisis and its consequences, late last month we hired a new reporter, Jade Martinez-Pogue. This month, we’ll be bringing on an additional sales and marketing consultant.

Our Hawks Club is an increasingly vital source of financial support for our operation, and your generosity is helping us grow.

We know you believe — strongly — in Noozhawk’s mission to deliver the freshest news in Santa Barbara County and that you trust us to be there for you, 24/7.

But we still need your help. If you haven’t yet donated to our current summer fundraising campaign, can we count on you now?

Yes, I’ll donate! >

Thank you for your support, at any amount.

Thank you, as well, for your readership. According to our Google Analytics, Noozhawk had an audience of 118,040 readers this past week.

What follows is my take on the Top 5 stories you were reading over the last seven days. It’s an opinion column, my opinion column, and is not a news story.

Oh, by the way: Happy Independence Day! No matter what we’re going through, America’s birth on July 4, 1776, is always a reason to celebrate.

Even if the mere thought of a traditional fireworks extravaganza is, evidently, just too terrifying to contemplate in this new age of social distancing and safe spaces.

1. Governor Orders Closures for Indoor Restaurants, Bars, Movie Theaters in Santa Barbara County

Just in time for what already was shaping up to be the most humdrum Fourth of July weekend ever, Gov. Gavin Newsom on July 1 ordered a major rollback of California’s reopening during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Citing a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations throughout the state, he ordered Santa Barbara County and 18 other counties to close indoor restaurants, bars, wineries, tasting rooms, movie theaters, museums, zoos and a number of other gathering places.

Ventura County was included on the ignominious list, but San Luis Obispo County was not.

Under Newsom’s order, which will be in force for at least three weeks, restaurants will still be allowed to offer outdoor dining, as well as takeout and delivery services.

As our Giana Magnoli first reported, Dr. Henning Ansorg, Santa Barbara County’s public health officer, quickly ordered bars to close and followed up with a health officer order shutting down the rest of the list.

“Emergency permits for food service will no longer be allowed in any of the listed sectors,” according to a county Public Health Department directive.

Ansorg was unequivocal about the threat.

“We advise local businesses to prepare for these newly announced closures,” he said. “We know that indoor settings with close crowds, as typically seen on holiday weekends, can create an unfavorable environment for the transmission of this virus.

“Please limit your exposure to people outside your home and wear your face covering when needed.”

2. Santa Barbara County Health Officer Closes Beaches for Fourth of July Weekend

Arroyo Burro Beach

Santa Barbara’s Arroyo Burro Beach County Park was packed with people July 2. The beach will go from open to shut this weekend — although that doesn’t mean it will be deserted. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Not long after authorities in Ventura, Los Angeles and Orange counties announced that their beaches would be closed for the Fourth of July holiday weekend, Santa Barbara County officials jumped on the ban wagon.

The order by Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county’s public health officer, was issued July 2 and will be in effect July 3-5.

Of all the decrees in the COVID-19 battle, I suspect this one, on this weekend, will have the least amount of public resistance. Quite a lot of locals have been vocal and downright surly at the prospect of a pending invasion of nonresidents.

“The threat of thousands coming to our community, combined with our increased case counts, led us to the decision to close our beaches,” Public Health director Van Do-Reynoso said.

As our Giana Magnoli reported, however, the beach ban doesn’t quite mean what you think it does.

Surfing, kayaking and other water sports are allowed, as is walking or running on the beach. But the county order says “sitting, lying, standing, sunbathing, sight-seeing, picnicking, and all other nonexercise, passive or sedentary activities are prohibited.”

Got it.

Earlier in the week, the Santa Barbara City Council had debated closing city beaches. Council members Alejandra Gutierrez, Oscar Gutierrez and Kristen Sneddon passionately pushed for a closure at the council’s June 30 meeting, but could not sway their colleagues.

Mayor Cathy Murillo, joined by Councilmen Eric Friedman and Mike Jordan, insisted that the beaches remain open, but with the social-distancing police on patrol to keep people apart.

“I believe in the expertise of our county public health officer,” Murillo said. “If the county beaches are open and ours are closed, that would drive people to the Miramar and Butterfly and Arroyo Burro Beach, and that would crowd the beaches.”

Uhhhhh … huh?

Because Councilwoman Meagan Harmon was absent, the council couldn’t break the 3-3 tie. Two days later, that action — or inaction, if you prefer — was superseded by the county’s beachin’ declaration anyway.

3. Santa Barbara County Now Asking Public to Save COVID-19 Testing for Symptomatic, Exposed Individuals

Santa Barbara County public health officials introduced public COVID-19 testing as a way to gain valuable insight into how the contagion has been spreading in the region.

Locals, however, viewed the tests as a way to gain valuable insight into whether they had it.

Not surprisingly, demand has outstripped supply.

In a reversal, officials announced June 26 that tests will be limited to people experiencing coronavirus symptoms or who have had a known exposure.

“We want to reinforce that these testing opportunities are not a cure for curiosity, but for those who have had a risk of being exposed,” said Nick Clay, director of the county Emergency Medical Services Agency.

“What we are finding is, unfortunately, that the ‘worried well’ individuals who are curious about if they have it or not, but aren’t symptomatic, are coming in a volume that prevents individuals who do need the test.”

As our Jade Martinez-Pogue reported, local testing has become more widespread with state-run sites in Buellton, Lompoc, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Solvang.

According to Clay, some community testing centers now have a seven- to 10-day waiting list to get an appointment, and the test result turnaround time has grown to five days from two or three.

Additional testing is available through private health-care providers.

4. Sandpiper Golf Club, Montecito Club Opt to Keep Courses Closed Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Sandpiper Golf Club

Sandpiper Golf Club in Goleta has been closed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. By comparison, The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, just down the road, has been open the entire time. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Most Santa Barbara County golf courses have been back in business since Gov. Gavin Newsom gave his blessing to reopen back in May.

The Montecito Club in Montecito and Sandpiper Golf Club in Goleta are not among them, and apparently won’t be anytime soon.

As our Josh Molina reported June 26, management at The Montecito Club, at 925 Summit Road, informed its members that a reopening likely would not happen until fall.

“Our team at the club is continuing to work on all safety guidelines and newly required protocols to have firmly in place and learning how to manage these new procedures to support that the occurrence of a positive case does not occur from our members or employees, which could have dire consequences long term,” according to the club’s word salad of a sentence that ran on like its recent, eons-long renovation.

Sandpiper, the breathtaking seaside course at 7925 Hollister Ave., also remains closed, but its management did not repond to Josh’s inquiries.

Both clubs are owned by billionaire and part-time Montecito resident Ty Warner, who also owns the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara and San Ysidro Ranch.

While the Ranch has reopened, The Biltmore and the adjacent Coral Casino Beach & Cabana Club are undergoing their second full-scale makeover in two years.

5. Ex-Boyfriend Sentenced to Life in Prison for Los Angeles Killing of Emily Fox in 2016

Emily Fox, a 22-year-old Dos Pueblos High School alumna attending CSU Northridge, and her boyfriend were shot and killed inside her Los Angeles apartment more than four years ago.

Emily Fox

Dos Pueblos High School graduate Emily Fox was just 22 when she and her boyfriend were murdered by her ex-boyfriend. (Fox family photo)

The lone suspect in the case — Fox’s former boyfriend, Brian Anthony Gonzales — was arrested after a two-day manhunt following the Jan. 17, 2016, domestic violence confrontation. He was charged with two counts of murder.

Gonzales, now 28, was convicted on both counts — and more — back in February. As our Tom Bolton first reported, he was sentenced last week in Los Angeles County Superior Court to life in prison without possibility of parole.

The array of charges included special-circumstance allegations of murder during the commission of a kidnapping, multiple murders, and the firing of a handgun in the commission of the crimes.

Fox was a 2011 graduate of Dos Pueblos High, where she was a three-time All-Channel League golfer, and helped lead the Chargers to four league championships.

She earned a scholarship to CSUN after attending Santa Barbara City College, and was one semester away from graduating with a degree in sociology.

Fox is survived by her parents, Lynn and Steve Fox of Goleta, and an older sister, Sarah.

A Jan. 30, 2016, celebration of her life was attended by more than 500 people who crammed into Dos Pueblos High’s Performing Arts Center to pay tribute to a “loving, compassionate and caring” young woman known for her beauty “inside and out,” as our Rochelle Rose reported at the time.

Fox’s boyfriend, 24-year-old Jarrad Scott of La Mesa, was the father of a 1-year-old son.

Gonzales, who also uses the name Brian Hammons, was a former Santa Barbara resident. Good riddance to him.

                                                                 •        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Santa Barbara’s Carlin Dunne Killed in Motorcycle Crash at Pikes Peak Hill Climb Race.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

On our 244th anniversary, let’s knit this nation back together: America’s Divided Mind — Understanding the Psychology That Drives Us Apart.

                                                                 •        •        •

Best of Bill’s Instagram

Trails, flags, #mailboxesofmontecito2020 and a big bug are all in my Instagram feed this past week.

                                                                 •        •        •

Watch It

You think you’ve got FOMO? Check out Rona the Emu Chick when she realizes her pint-sized companion is getting away. HT to agvocate Nikki Boxler for sharing her farm family fun with me.

YouTube video

(Nikki Boxler Noozhawk video)

                                                                 •        •        •

How You Can Help Noozhawk

Noozhawk is proud to be the go-to source of news for locals like yourself. You trust and rely on us to provide timely, relevant and thorough coverage of the issues that shape Santa Barbara County.

And we get up early — and stay up late — excited to report what’s going on in our community so we can keep you informed and engaged.

While most of Noozhawk’s revenue comes from advertising and sponsorships, we believe that reader contributions are a vital source of support — financially and fundamentally. We believe that if we ask our readers to contribute what you think we’re worth, we can build a sustainable business model for local news.

If you value dependable local reporting, will you support Noozhawk today?
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!

If you value dependable local reporting, will you support Noozhawk today?
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
If you value dependable local reporting, will you support Noozhawk today?
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!

Your loyalty membership helps us continue to provide you with unmatched local news and in-depth reporting on the issues that you care about.

Please note that personal contributions to Noozhawk are not deductible as charitable donations.

Thank you for your support.

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

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