Mesa Burger
Mesa Burger has packed up its buns at its Montecito location at 1209 Coast Village Road. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

No one covers Santa Barbara County like we do. No one.

Noozhawk’s journalists work tirelessly to report on local breaking news, emergencies and disasters, government, housing and development, crime, education, politics, sports, business, health care and the nonprofit community, so you can be informed about — and get the most out of — your community.

Our quality, professional reporting is free for you to read and share, but it’s expensive to produce. Noozhawk is partly funded by our digital advertisers and sponsors, but that doesn’t cover the entire cost of operating our newsroom.

Every one of us at Noozhawk is dedicated to continuing our coverage of the news that matters to you. This work is only possible with your help. Can we count on your financial support?

Yes, I support your work! >

Your contribution, at any amount, will help us keep providing you with trusted, timely reporting on the local news you need to know. Thank you for your commitment.

According to our Google Analytics, Noozhawk had an audience of 94,791 readers this past week.

What follows is my recap of the Top 5 stories you were reading during that period. As a reminder, this is my opinion column and not a news story. And I write it in my civic capacity as Noozhawk’s publisher. I’m not a reporter.

1. BizHawk: Mesa Burger and Beans BBQ Announce Closures

Mesa Burger has closed its Montecito location after a little more than two years on Coast Village Road, while Beans BBQ, which just opened in March in downtown Santa Barbara, is calling it quits this weekend.

Our Josh Molina has the latest on the South Coast’s topsy-turvy restaurant industry, which has been even more tumultuous thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and a recession that apparently only consumers can see.

Mesa Burger opened in July 2020 at 1209 Coast Village Road, but announced its permanent closure on Sept. 15. The company’s original Mesa location, at 315 Meigs Road in Santa Barbara, and the Goleta store, at 7010 Marketplace Drive in Camino Real Marketplace, remain open.

The Montecito space may not be vacant for long. According to Josh, Lilac Pâtisserie Montecito LLC has applied for a “transfer of ownership of an on-sale beer and wine eating place” for the Lilac Café, which currently is located at 1017 State St.

Two blocks up the street, at 1230 State St., Beans BBQ has announced that Oct. 1 will be its last day. The restaurant opened seven months ago but was never able to secure a beer and liquor license, which is kind of important for a barbecue joint.

“We are looking into a smaller, less expensive space and hope to revamp and bring our delicious BBQ back to our wonderful community very soon,” the company said in an Instagram post.

Beans BBQ’s catering service will continue in the meantime.

2. 10-Year-old Girl Killed, 2 Lompoc Residents Critically Injured in Highway 1 Crash

Highway 1 crash

Another day, another terrible crash on Highway 1 near Santa Lucia Canyon Road northwest of Vandenberg Village. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

For the second week in a row, a horrendous crash involved the ejection of a child. In the latest wreck, a Sept. 28 rollover on Highway 1 near Vandenberg Village, two young girls were thrown from the vehicle in which they were riding.

One of the girls died.

As our Tom Bolton first reported, Santa Barbara County firefighters were dispatched just before 8 a.m. to the crash scene about a half-mile north of Santa Lucia Canyon Road.

According to the California Highway Patrol, 18-year-old Eunice Perez De La Cruz of Lompoc was driving a GMC Envoy south on the highway when, for unknown reasons, she lost control and the SUV ended up rolling over off the roadway into heavy chaparral.

Two girls from Lompoc — ages 10 and 8 — were ejected during the crash.

Mike Eliason, a Fire Department spokesman, said the 10-year-old was found dead under the vehicle. Her identity was withheld pending notification of her family.

The 8-year-old was airlifted by a county helicopter to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital while Perez De La Cruz was transported by American Medical Response ambulance to Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria. Details of their conditions were not available.

The CHP is investigating the circumstances of the crash, but alcohol and drugs do not appear to be factors.

The crash site is not far from the scene of an awful, Sept. 16 collision at the intersection of Highway 1 and Santa Lucia Canyon Road.

Eight people — including five very young children — were injured in the crash, which occurred when the driver of a Honda minivan pulled out in front of an oncoming Toyota sedan.

Although strapped in a car seat, one of the children was ejected from the minivan.

3. Santa Barbara City Council Slams Door on Controversial Vacation Rental Proposal

Santa Barbara vacation rentals

By the numbers … (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk illustration)

In a Sept. 25 Noozhawk exclusive, our Josh Molina reported on a City of Santa Barbara staff proposal to legalize short-term vacation rentals pretty much everywhere while also imposing new fees, standards and inspections.

Two days later, the proposal was all but dead, with the City Council voting unanimously to direct the Planning Commission to come up with a more realistic solution to the contentious issue.

Vacation rentals currently are only permitted in areas zoned for hotels, even though we all know homeowners are operating illegal rentals throughout the city. As Josh reported, of the 1,119 properties cited in the staff report, only 101 are paying the required transient-occupancy taxes.

Getting control of those dollars and process was the main objective of the staff proposal, but it ran into a wall of opposition from the council and the public.

“We are 100% against short-term rentals in single-family neighborhoods,” homeowner Steve Fort told the council. “There is no compelling reason to allow them.”

That pretty much summed up the pushback, which was joined by Councilwoman Kristen Sneddon, who observed, “I wholeheartedly believe that if this was taken to the voters, the voters would say ‘no.’”

She’s not wrong, although I suspect they’d add an exclamation point for good measure.

There was no timeline for when the Planning Commission is to report back, but we know this is a major interest of our readers. We’ll keep after it. And by “we,” I mean Josh.

4. Paul Flores’ Lawyer Offered to Lead Investigators to Kristin Smart’s Body, Warrant Shows

Paul Flores

Closing arguments are about to begin in the trial of Paul Flores, who is accused of killing Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student Kristin Smart in 1996. (Brittany Tom / NBC News Dateline pool photo)

Closing arguments are expected to begin Sept. 30 in the trial of Paul Flores, who is charged with the murder of Kristin Smart, a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student who disappeared 26 years ago. Flores’ father, Ruben, is a co-defendant, charged with helping his son conceal the alleged crime.

Our partners at the San Luis Obispo Tribune have been closely following the case since, well, 1996, when Smart, a then-19-year-old freshman from Stockton, vanished after an off-campus party.

Tribune reporter Chloe Jones has been heavily involved in the coverage, both at the trial taking place in Monterey County Superior Court in Salinas and with the newspaper’s own investigation. As a result of the latter, the Tribune won a legal challenge to unseal a trove of improperly sealed documents about the case.

In a Sept. 23 report, Jones summarized an arrest warrant for Ruben Flores that includes a statement from Paul Flores’ attorney, who told investigators in 2010 that the younger Flores could lead investigators to Smart’s body in exchange for a plea deal.

There are other gripping, infuriating and also lurid details in Jones’ story, but her dogged reporting is very helpful to fill in gaps for readers.

The arrest warrant, granted by San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Matthew Guerrero in 2021, states that facts and circumstances “show that Paul Flores is responsible for the death of Kristin Denise Smart” and that “Ruben Flores has assisted Paul Flores in keeping the remains of Kristin Smart hidden.”

Smart’s remains have never been found, and she was declared dead in absentia in 2002.

5. Suspect in Knife Attack Arrested at Goleta Shopping Center

An assault near Home Depot at Goleta’s Camino Real Marketplace the morning of Sept. 23 set off a frenzy of law enforcement activity that certainly caught the attention of volunteers setting up for the weekend Goleta Lemon Festival.

As our Janene Scully was first to report, Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies converged on the shopping center around 9:15 a.m. after a man with a knife took a few swipes at a marketplace employee.

The victim avoided contact in the attack and was not hurt, but the suspect got away.

“Deputies established a perimeter around the area and, with the assistance of Home Depot staff, vacated the business,” sheriff’s spokeswoman Raquel Zick told Janene.

“While deputies searched for the suspect inside Home Depot, additional deputies were on the lookout for the suspect in the surrounding area.”

About 45 minutes later, deputies spotted the suspect behind the Target store across Storke Road, and arrested him without incident.

Zick said the suspect, identified as 43-year-old Jeremiah Jacobson of La Mirada, was booked into County Jail on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon. As of Sept. 30, he’s still there with bail set at $60,500.

During the incident, Noozhawk received several texts and phone calls from Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce volunteers at Girsh Park behind Home Depot. The volunteers, putting together booths and rides for the chamber’s annual Goleta Lemon Festival, at first were alarmed but then provided updates as the manhunt continued.

•        •        •

Good Reads

Don’t miss these six stories before you go:

» DART Hits Asteroid Bull’s-Eye in First-of-Its-Kind Planetary Defense Mission — It may sound like a sci-fi plot, but North County editor Janene Scully tracks a historic NASA mission that got its launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base.

» Vandenberg Space Force Base Bids Farewell to Delta IV Heavy Rocket with Afternoon Launch — Janene Scully watches as the final Delta IV Heavy rocket roars away from Vandenberg Space Force Base.

» Butterfly Lane Pedestrian Undercrossing Reopened Following Completion of Improvement Project — Staff writer Serena Guentz checks out the cool new Butterfly Lane pedestrian tunnel under Highway 101 in Montecito.

» Santa Barbara Police Nab Multiple Suspects in Trio of Residential Burglaries — Executive editor Tom Bolton has the 4-1-1 on a string of apparently unrelated residential burglaries busted by Santa Barbara police.

» Dale Frederick Myers of Santa Barbara, 1935-2022 — My friend, Dale Myers, was passionate about serving the men and women of the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, and was an even bigger servant of the Lord. Rest in peace, and prayers to the Myers family.

» BYU Volleyball Coach Heather Olmstead Becomes Fastest in NCAA to Reach 200 Wins — Sports editor Barry Punzal marks the milestone of Carpinteria native Heather Olmstead reaching 200 NCAA Division I women’s volleyball victories in record time. The BYU coach is a Carpinteria High alumna and a member of the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table Hall of Fame.

•        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Atlas V Rocket on Track for Monday Launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base with Latest Landsat.

•        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

Dodger Stadium is already Blue Heaven on Earth — now on the outside, too: He’s Turning Dodger Stadium into a World-Class Garden, One Native Plant at a Time.

•        •        •

Best of Bill’s Instagram

The sky was the star of my Instagram feed this past week.

•        •        •

Watch It

Last week’s video visit to Inyo County reminded me of when our kids were little and a long-ago family road trip on the Enchanted Highway near Regent, North Dakota.

YouTube video

(Smilin’ Don OUTDOORS 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 Instagram: @bill.macfadyen, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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