Jack Cantin
Jack Cantin, still looking for closure. (Cantin family photo)

According to Noozhawk readers, it’s been a strange week for local news … delivery.

I wouldn’t know because I haven’t read a local newspaper in some 20 years, but based on the steady stream of inquiries and messages my staff and I have been getting, I gather that some of our acquaintances in Fossil Media took part of the week off.

According to our Google Analytics, MailChimp email program and Quantcast tracking service, Noozhawk had no issues with our daily delivery this past week. We had an audience of 100,974 readers over the last seven days, and they didn’t need to pay for the privilege — although a couple of thousand of them do pay voluntarily.

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What follows is my own take on the Top 5 stories you were reading over the past week. I must remind you that this is my opinion column, not a news story. I’m also Noozhawk’s publisher, not a reporter.

1. Mother of Jack Cantin Drops Lawsuit Over Santa Barbara County’s Possession of Son’s Remains

For more than two years, Kim Cantin searched doggedly for her son, Jack.

The Cantins — Kim; her husband, Dave; and their children, 17-year-old Jack and 14-year-old Lauren — lived along usually bucolic Montecito Creek in the 300 block of Hot Springs Road.

Their house, their lives and everything they knew were ripped apart in a matter of seconds on Jan. 9, 2018, when the creek’s monstrous flash flooding and debris flow slammed into them in the middle of the night.

Although Kim and Lauren survived, barely, Dave, Jack and the family dog were swept to their deaths. Dave’s body was found not long afterward, but Jack’s remains eluded discovery.

Search teams hunted for months after the disaster, which killed 21 other people in one of Santa Barbara County’s deadliest days ever.

The only bodies not located were those of Jack and 2-year-old Lydia Sutthithepa, who lived with three generations of her family in the Old Spanish Town neighborhood about 150 yards upstream from the Cantins. Lydia’s father, brother and grandfather also perished that morning.

Last July, however, Cantin revealed that a UC Santa Barbara assistant anthropology professor and a team of college students had come across Jack’s remains at an undisclosed location somewhere between her property and the ocean a mile away.

The community welcomed the news as a win. A grieving mother and sister could have closure, and Jack could be reunited with his dad at the nearby Santa Barbara Cemetery, where many of the other victims are interred.

And then things got weird.

After the UCSB team led by assistant professor Danielle Kurin determined the unearthed bones were human, Cantin apparently took them to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, which oversees the Coroner​’s Bureau.

According to a federal civil rights lawsuit Cantin later filed, the two parties and their experts disagreed over whether the remains were human or plant, the tests and methodology used to identify them, the chain of custody, additional uncovered evidence, and more testing.

Even Jack’s death certificate was subject to dispute, because Cantin says she couldn’t get a burial permit unless Jack’s cause of death was changed from “missing” to a medical cause. Only Sheriff Bill Brown, whose elected office actually is sheriff-coroner, can request such a change — and he wasn’t budging.

And then, as our Jade Martinez-Pogue reported, the lawsuit was abruptly dropped Jan. 18.

“There have been positive discussions, which we believe may lead to a satisfactory resolution, with the county counsel representing the sheriff-coroner,” Barry Cappello, Cantin’s attorney with Cappello & Noël LLP of Santa Barbara, told Jade.

“Based on those discussions, our client has chosen to dismiss the matter pending resolution. If the matter does not resolve, we will refile the lawsuit.”

County Counsel Rachel Van Mullem declined to comment on the litigation, but she shared with Jade a document confirming the negotiations.

“The parties have entered into negotiations toward a potential settlement of the action, and parties agree that the negotiations may result in a more efficient resolution of the dispute,” stated the executed “tolling” agreement signed by the two parties.

2. BizHawk: After 25 Years, Goleta Coffee Co. Era Coming to an End

Goleta Coffee Co.

Goleta Coffee Co. co-owner Stacy Rebich Hespanha, left, and her masked staff will be saying their goodbyes next month. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Change is percolating at Goleta Coffee Co., which is about to pour its last cup of coffee next month.

As our Josh Molina first reported, the popular coffee, salad and sandwich shop is closing Feb. 15 after 25 years in business at the Turnpike Shopping Center, at 177 S. Turnpike Road across from San Marcos High School.

“I am going to miss the people, interacting with the people who have been coming here,” co-owner Stacy Rebich Hespanha told Josh. “I have gotten to know a lot of our customers and made new friends, and just that chance to go to talk to new people everyday, I will really miss that.”

Although her shop is calling it quits, Rebich Hespanha isn’t. She’s opening Loca Vivant Kitchen, a wholesale vegan-friendly, gluten-free bakery whose goodies will be sold through local shops.

The business will be operated as an employee ownership trust, with most of the profits distributed annually among employees and a smaller share reinvested in the company.

Speaking of employees, all proceeds from Goleta Coffee Co.’s Feb. 15 sales — including its famed license-plate wall map of the United States and much of the décor — will go toward severance pay for staff. A celebration is planned for 3 to 7 p.m.

“We value our staff and believe offering severance pay, although untraditional in this industry, is the right thing to do,” Rebich Hespanha said.

Meanwhile, the under-renovations Turnpike Shopping Center will soon be welcoming another local coffee shop, Lighthouse Coffee, which is opening later this year. It will be Lighthouse Coffee’s third location in Santa Barbara, joining its stores at 711 Chapala Street and 1819-C Cliff Drive.

3. SpaceX Rocket to Carry Top-Secret Spacecraft from Vandenberg Space Force Base

National Reconnaissance Office patch

The space race is all business, and National Reconnaissance Office missions are top secret, but the patch work commemorating the expedition is important, too. (National Reconnaissance Office illustration)

A top-secret U.S. spy spacecraft is set to catch a ride into orbit next week on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base.

As our Janene Scully first reported, the daylight departure is scheduled between 8:37 a.m. and 1:38 p.m. Feb. 2 from Space Launch Complex-4 East on South Base, the VSFB area south of Ocean Avenue/Highway 246 southwest of Lompoc.

The hush-hush mission is carrying a National Reconnaissance Office payload, but that’s about all of the information available. Sorry, China.

SpaceX hasn’t yet announced whether it will attempt to land its reusable first-stage booster at the base’s Landing Zone 4 west of the launch pad or on a drone ship in the ocean off the Central Coast.

4. Miss Daisy’s Consignment & Auction House Moving Into La Cumbre Plaza’s Sears Building


Half of the old Sears store at La Cumbre Plaza in Santa Barbara is getting a new lease on life with secondhand goods. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Since closing nearly three years ago, the former Sears building hulking over Santa Barbara’s La Cumbre Plaza has been the subject of spirited speculation about its future — from rental housing to homeless housing to an overflow hospital for COVID-19 patients back when that was a thing.

Well, I’ll bet you didn’t see this coming: consignment house.

But this won’t be any old secondhand store. As our Josh Molina reported, it will span the spectrum of gently used furniture, bedding and mattresses, art and wine, along with in-person auctions, jazz music, mixers and other live events.

Glenn Novack, owner of Moving Miss Daisy at 4441 Hollister Ave. in Goleta, and a business partner have signed a 10-year lease for the 17,000-square-foot first floor of the building, and will be opening Miss Daisy’s Consignment & Auction House in early March.

“I can see people coming in after a nice dinner at the Lure and having a glass of wine, without ever leaving the parking lot,” he told Josh. “Anything that brings people to this area that has been kind of a ghost town for a long time is helpful.

“It’s a new added attraction.”

Renovations currently underway include the addition of a stage with professional sound and lighting.

“It’s going to be a professional entertainment venue,” Novack said. “I want this place to be packed.”

5. Santa Barbara Council Sets Aside Most Proposed Changes to Outdoor Dining on State Street

Downtown Santa Barbara

Give us some room on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Earlier this month, City of Santa Barbara staff proposed a raft of changes to downtown’s State Street promenade. Some of the alterations were clearly necessary and long overdue but, like just about everything associated with the coronavirus crisis, too many were arbitrary, abrupt and half-assed.

At least they didn’t claim the effort was all about SCIENCE.

The business community, reeling from nearly three years of economic hell and government overreach, pushed back hard. For the first time in a long while, elected officials heeded their concerns. I knew Mayor Randy Rowse would be a positive influence.

As our Josh Molina reported, the City Council on Jan. 25 ditched just about the entire slate of changes and ordered staff to go back to the basics, starting with the businesses they neglected to reach out to in the first place.

City Councilman Mike Jordan, who has put in 12 years of service between the council and Planning Commission, was blistering with his rebuke.

“This particular process, over the past 2½ weeks, is one of the worst that I have witnessed in those 12 years,” he said. “I found out about the fire lane issue the same day the public did.”

The fire lane — requiring a 20-foot-wide corridor in the middle of State Street — is one of the urgent issues. Currently, there’s about 14½ feet of space for emergency access.

Which begs the question: If a 20-foot corridor was truly that urgent, why wasn’t it addressed long before now? For that matter, why wasn’t it in on the literal ground floor when the city approved the promenade in May 2020?

As it turns out, evidently news to city staff, that minimun 20 feet actually is state law. The council agreed to proceed with the carveout.

The council did not approve of the nonsensical proposal to require all outdoor dining structures on State Street to be portable.

Councilwoman Meagan Harmon said the city is moving in the right direction in spite of the colossal communications collapse.

“The success of the last two years of the State Street promenade in a lot of ways is premised on our commitment as a city and to the responsiveness that is really rooted in the collaborative engagement of the stakeholders on the street,” she said.

“So much of what we have seen that has been positive about the promenade and what has developed is a function of that.”

•        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Gov. Gavin Newsom Lifts Stay-at-Home Orders Statewide.

•        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

Party On! for the Mirthmobile, licorice dispenser included: Wayne’s World AMC Pacer Sells for Over $70,000 at Auction.

•        •        •

Best of Bill’s Instagram

Montecito’s Hot Springs Trail parking problems returned to clog my Instagram feed this past week.

•        •        •

Americans Held Hostage: Day 151

It’s been 151 days since the United States abandoned hundreds — if not thousands — of U.S. citizens and green-card holders in Afghanistan. Most of them are still there, with no way — or help — to get out.

•        •        •

Watch It

If you’re gonna be a bear, be a grizzly. HT to Best of Bill reader Andy Welch, who was just itching to send me this link.

YouTube video

(BBC Earth video)

•        •        •

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