Mark Rosenthal, Cliff Solomon, Bill Macfadyen and Tim Gilles
Fine diners Mark Rosenthal, Cliff Solomon, Bill Macfadyen and Tim Gilles at Opal Restaurant & Bar for the first #noozhawkeats. (Collin Nathanson / Noozhawk photo)

Our inaugural #noozhawkeats Lunch with the Publisher was held at Opal Restaurant & Bar in downtown Santa Barbara earlier this week, and it was great. The food was terrific, too.

As many of you know, each month we’re choosing three Hawks Club members for a three-on-one lunch with yours truly.

Noozhawk marketing assistant Collin Nathanson took the names of the Hawks Club members who entered our drawing and put them in an online app, which randomly selected Tim Gilles, Mark Rosenthal and Cliff Solomon as our first victims.

The four of us — and Collin, who I dragged along to take notes and pictures — went to Opal, which is co-owned by my friend, Richard Yates, and was a bit of a nostalgic choice, given that Noozhawk happily roosted above it for five years.

The conversation was informative, wide-ranging and fun. We talked about Noozhawk expansion plans and special projects, revenue models, news deserts, our history and background, staff size, Santa Barbara County, Ventura County, sports, social media, our e-Bulletin strategy, mobile readers, reader engagement and the Noozhawk name.

As much information as I shared, Cliff, Mark and Tim provided even more advice, perspective and suggestions. Ninety minutes flew by, and I really enjoyed it. I can’t wait for the next one in August.

If you’re in our Hawks Club at the Red-Tailed Hawk or Cooper’s Hawk membership levels and want to get in on a free lunch, click here to leave your name and telephone number. Or click here to become a Hawks Club member, or to upgrade.

In addition to these three super readers, we had an audience of 132,788 this past week, according to our Google Analytics. What follows is my take on the Top 5 stories you were reading. This is an opinion column, just so you know.

1. Despite Homeowner’s Pleas, Santa Barbara Council Says Towering Tree Must Stay


Going pine nuts in Santa Barbara. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

A six-story-tall Norfolk Island pine tree will continue towering over a Santa Barbara residence after the City Council decisively rejected the Mesa home’s owners’ request to cut it down.

The mother-son duo of Karen and Grant Blanco are concerned that the massive tree dominating their house’s tiny front yard is unsafe. But because the pine is within the 20-foot front yard setback at 2131 Red Rose Way, they would need a permit to remove it.

That would be a hard no, according to city officials, including the municipal arborist who decreed the tree to be healthy and in no danger of falling down.

As our Josh Molina first reported, the Blancos pleaded their case before the City Council on July 16, citing private property rights.

“One of the things that set the country apart from the rest of the world at its inception was the recognition of private property rights,” Grant Blanco said. “Inherent in the notion of private property is the ability of the owner to protect that private property from destruction.”

Poor Mr. Blanco. This being Santa Barbara — and California — in 2019, he should know that Founding Fathers ship has sailed.

“The urban forest is our public trust,” Mayor Cathy Murillo said. “The trees belong to everybody, just like the creeks, just like the shoreline.”

If Murillo really believes that, perhaps she could venture out to Loreto Plaza where the urban forest has swallowed the public State Street sidewalk in front. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Councilwoman Kristen Sneddon, meanwhile, was completely lost in the weeds.

“I am actually not that interested in having people versus plants,” she said. “We are symbiotic and needed here; actually, we’re not as needed as the trees are.”

Except when it comes to paying property taxes, presumably.

In the end, the council was unimpressed with the Blancos’ assortment of appeal angles, voting 6-1 to uproot their effort.

Murillo and Sneddon were joined in the majority by council members Eric Friedman, Oscar Gutierrez, Meagan Harmon and Randy Rowse. In dissent was Councilman Jason Dominguez, who agreed with the family that the tree is a possible safety hazard.

2. Santa Barbara Family Meets With President Donald Trump Over Kidney Care Reform

President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump says kidney care reform is in order. (Nash family photo)

President Donald Trump signed a sweeping executive order to transform kidney care in the United States. The reforms are intended to streamline treatment and transplantation, including increasing the supply of donated kidneys and shifting 80 percent of patients now on expensive clinic-based dialysis to more cost-effective home care by 2030.

Trump said his July 10 order was aimed at “making life better and longer for millions.” He noted that it may be possible to find 17,000 more kidneys and 11,000 other organs from deceased donors for transplant every year.

As our Josh Molina first reported, the Santa Barbara family that could benefit from such a development is that of Jamie and Andrew Nash, whose 11-month-old son, Hudson, was born with damaged kidneys.

Hudson’s parents hope he’ll be big enough for a transplant in another year, but that’s a long way from today.

“To keep him going, he takes numerous medicines, receives multiple shots, blood draws and more doctors’ visits than I can count,” said Jamie Nash, the daughter of my friends, Jill Nida, and her late husand, Joe.

The family was invited to Washington, D.C., for Trump’s signing ceremony.

“Kidney care is very dear to our hearts,” Nash said. “This is a disease Hudson will have to deal with his entire life. ”

3. Sundowner Winds, 90-Degree Temperatures Expected in Santa Barbara

The National Weather Service issued a wind advisory for Santa Barbara County’s South Coast for the afternoon of July 8, predicting possible sundowner winds gusting to 45 mph along with temperatures in the upper 80s to mid-90s.

I’m not sure any of that happened, but the headline was good for Noozhawk’s traffic.

Regardless of the weather service’s track record, it is fire season so please be vigilant and smart.

4. With Cannabis in the Air, Political Heavyweights Das Williams and Laura Capps Gear Up for Showdown

Das Williams and Laura Capps

Das Williams and Laura Capps both may be in play for Santa Barbara County’s First District supervisorial race. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photos)

A competitive race is not what residents of Santa Barbara County’s First Supervisorial District are accustomed to — at least since … forever.

But that’s what they may be getting if Santa Barbara Unified School District trustee Laura Capps opts to run against Supervisor Das Williams, who will be seeking a second term next year representing the Carpinteria Valley, Montecito and the eastern side of Santa Barbara.

Williams is a scrappy, longtime local elected official who has served on the Santa Barbara City Council, in the Assembly and now the Board of Supervisors.

Capps is a deft political operative, veteran of President Bill Clinton’s White House, and the daughter of two former lawmakers, Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, and her late husband, Rep. Walter Capps, whom her mom succeeded in Congress after his 1997 death.

There’s really not a dime’s worth of difference between the two liberal Democrats, except for one: weed.

While both are fine with California voters’ decision to legalize marijuana, Williams has been an unabashed supporter of cannabis grow houses in unincorporated areas of the county — such as the ones around Carpinteria that have infused that seaside city with an unmistakable, skunk-like reek.

Capps, on the other hand, has been critical of county officials’ support of cannabis cultivation centers near schools. Her complaints sound increasingly like those of a candidate.

“There are a lot of people in the First District who I have a lot of respect for who are encouraging me to run,” she told our Josh Molina. “So I am considering it.”

Williams sees dollar signs in the cash-strapped county’s future, noting that marijuana dough can turn a $6 million shortfall into a $3 million surplus while paying for a wide variety of wish-list projects.

“You can’t just support good policies,” he said. “You have to have the resources to back it up.”

5. White-Handed Gibbon Dies in Accident at Santa Barbara Zoo

Jari the white-handed gibbon

Jari, 2013-2019. (Santa Barbara Zoo photo)

Jari, the Santa Barbara Zoo’s 5½-year-old white-handed gibbon, died July 11 in an accident in her pen.

Dr. Julie Barnes, the zoo’s vice president of animal care and health, said it appears that Jari (pronounced JAR-e) somehow got her head tangled in a cargo net that the primates use for climbing and exercise.

“She was not breathing when her keeper got to her,” Barnes said. “… I was on the scene within minutes of her being found … We rushed Jari to the animal hospital and attempted to revive her, but we were unsuccessful.”

She said the zoo would be conducting an investigation into what happened, and will forward its reports to the Agriculture Department and the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Accreditation Commission.

Jari was born in 2013 at The Jackson Zoo in Mississippi, and had been at the Santa Barbara Zoo since 2017 when she was paired with Jasmine, an elderly female whose longtime mate, Kimmy, had died the year before.

“The two got along immediately and Jari has been an absolute joy for both our staff and visitors,” Barnes said. “As you can imagine, her keepers and the entire zoo family are incredibly upset.

“She was an amazing young gibbon who was doing so well being fostered by Jasmine.”

Rest in peace.

                                                                 •        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Vegetation Fire Chars an Estimated 80 Acres Off Highway 1 North of Gaviota.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

Talk about going down the tubes. How did this not catch on? The Remarkable Pneumatic People-Mover.

                                                                 •        •        •

Best of Bill’s Instagram

@pedalthepacific filled my Instagram feed this past week as an ever-growing army of locals welcomed 10 young women as they rode through Santa Barbara County on the third annual Seattle-to-San Diego cycling trek to raise awareness about #sextrafficking. Also, I was in my element at the #santabarbaracountyfair with @pbr #bullriding and #4hlivestock at the @santamariafairpark.

                                                                 •        •        •


300 Laguna St.

Urban sprawl. (Bill Macfadyen / Noozhawk photo)

Welcome to Los Angeles … now in the 300 block of Laguna Street, near East Gutierrez Street. It’s my #santabarbaraeyesore of the week.

Email your own #santabarbaraeyesores suggestions — and photos and street addresses — to me at

                                                                 •        •        •

Watch It

If you’re on social media, you’ve suddenly been inundated with “old” photos as the selfie crowd stampedes to play with — and share — the FaceApp and its artificial intelligence filters.

Let’s face it: It’s obnoxious. But are you exposing yourself to something more sinister than richly deserved ridicule? The Washington Post’s technology columnist, Geoffrey Fowler, takes a look.

YouTube video

(Washington Post 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.

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.