Hot Springs Trailhead
Santa Barbara County envisions a multiplier effect of this parking appearance at Montecito’s Hot Springs Trailhead. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

This week, Noozhawk published the first phase of our investigation of Santa Barbara County’s shockingly chronic shortage of acute care psychiatric beds for locals experiencing a mental health crisis.

The series is reported by Jade Martinez-Pogue, our former staff writer who is now the assignment editor at KEYT News, as part of her 2021 Health Journalism Data Fellowship at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism.

Jade worked on this special project with managing editor Giana Magnoli, and it will continue in June after Jade and our team embark on additional investigative work following tips, leads and experiences that already are being shared by our readers. Click here to help us.

Our Mental Health Care in Crisis series is sponsored by the Mental Wellness Center, NAMI Santa Barbara County, Sanctuary Centers Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Foundation and the Family Service Agency.

This kind of in-depth reporting is also made possible by the generous financial support we receive from our readers. If you’re not already a member of our Hawks Club, you’re in luck because we’re in the middle of our spring membership campaign.

Will you do your part to support Noozhawk’s independent journalism as we dive into sobering issues like mental health and help to make a positive difference for you and our community?

Yes, you can count on me! >

Your contribution, at any amount, is welcome. Thank you.

According to our Google Analytics, we had an audience of 99,225 readers this past week. What follows is my own take on your Top 5 most-read stories for the period.

In other words, this is an opinion column — my opinion column, which I write in my civic capacity as Noozhawk’s publisher. Whether you agree or disagree, you can always click here to submit a letter to the editor.

1. Montecito Homeowners Take Legal Action Against County Over Parking for Hot Springs Trail

Glaciers move faster than Santa Barbara County’s permitting and approval process. But if it’s the county itself that wants something done, mountains can be moved magically.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, and the county may be, too.

As Noozhawk has been reporting for more than a year, parking congestion has been a growing problem around Montecito’s Hot Springs Trailhead, reaching astonishing levels on weekends. Add trash, debris, noise, overnight camping, illegal campfires and trespassing, and it’s no wonder that frustrated neighbors have been stirred up.

I live nearby and have posted plenty of examples of the mess in my Instagram feed.

Riven Rock Road was restriped last year to restrict parking on the narrow street, and law enforcement has been diligently ticketing violators on an almost daily basis.

But the challege persists: There are far more people who want to hike up the public trail to the popular hot springs and beyond than there are, or will ever be, parking spaces to accommodate them.

Residents have begged for relief from the county and their sole government representative, First District Supervisor Das Williams. What they got was not what they had in mind.

I’m old enough to remember President Ronald Reagan warning, only half-jokingly, that “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” My neighbors now know what he was talking about.

Since last year, the county has been working on a not-so-secret Hot Springs Trailhead Parking Design & Construction Project, whose primary purpose is to create more than 60 parking spaces on and around East Mountain Drive.

Earlier this year, the county sent letters to three East Mountain Drive property owners, ordering them to remove landscaping, walls, boulders and “No Parking” signs that it considers to be unpermitted private encroachments in the county right-of-way. Fines would be levied for noncompliance.

As our Josh Molina reported, four residents — Christopher Anderson, Ross Bagdasarian, Peter Barker and James Moreley — responded with a legal petition, contending that the county has not properly considered the environmental and emergency evacuation impacts of its project.

A Superior Court hearing for a preliminary injunction against the county is scheduled for May 6.

“The county has not even considered whether the environmental impact the addition of any parking spaces, much less the 62 that are contemplated, must be studied as required by the California Environmental Quality Act,” contends attorney David Cousineau, a partner with Cappello & Noël representing the plaintiffs.

According to the complaint, if each vehicle brings two people to the new parking spaces, the result would be “a thousand more hikers over an average week.”

“Such an increase in foot traffic undeniably satisfies the threshold required to perform the CEQA analysis,” the petition observes.

The filing also notes that the county has not considered evacuation plans for East Mountain Drive, Hot Springs Road and Riven Rock Road — which have experienced two catastrophic, and deadly, disasters in the last four years alone.

“The county is rushing to add these parking spaces before the late-May release of the comprehensive wildfire evacuation report from the Montecito Fire Protection District,” the complaint adds.

I don’t know about you, but I have this image in my head of the dozens of East Beach angled, back-in parking spaces lining the front yards on East Mountain between Hot Springs and Riven Rock roads, along with porta-potties and overflowing trash receptacles. It’s not a pretty picture.

However this issue is resolved, it may have unfortunate repercussions for Montecito’s semi-rural charm that could rumble all the way down to Channel Drive at Butterfly Beach. Is this really the hill that Williams wants his political career to die on?

2. FAA Revokes License of Pilot Who Crashed Plane in Santa Barbara County Backcountry

Trevor Jacob

Look out below. (YouTube screen capture)

A thrill-seeking pilot who parachuted out of his airplane after the engine “failed” over the Santa Barbara County backcountry last fall has been grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration.

As our Tom Bolton reported, the FAA revoked the private pilot’s license of 28-year-old Trevor Jacob, claiming the Mammoth Lakes resident “purposely” caused the Nov. 24 plane crash in Los Padres National Forest.

Jacob, a former Olympic snowboarder, videotaped the entire incident with the help of multiple cameras mounted on his single-engine Taylorcraft BL-65 and a selfie stick he wielded on the way down.

A 12-minute video — titled “I Crashed My Plane” — was posted on his YouTube channel and has been viewed nearly 2.5 million times.

According to Jacob, he experienced engine failure not long after taking off from the Lompoc Airport en route to Mammoth Lakes. In the video, which he posted Dec. 24, the propeller stops turning, he announces that the engine is out, and then he takes a sky dive.

Viewers and aviation experts immediately called B.S., claiming it was a staged stunt to benefit his social media presence.

They picked apart the video, questioning why he was wearing a parachute ahead of time, why he didn’t try to restart the engine, why he didn’t contact air traffic control, and why he didn’t attempt a glide landing somewhere.

Also, they wanted to know, who jumps out of a plane with a selfie stick?

The FAA was equally skeptical.

“You operated this flight to purposely cause N29508 to crash,” the FAA said in an April 11 letter to Jacob, who is required to surrender his pilot’s license or face fines of $1,644 a day until he does.

“Your actions … were careless and reckless so as to endanger the life and property of another,” said the letter, which was signed by Kyle Lomazow, an attorney with the FAA’s enforcement division.

“You demonstrated a lack of care, judgment, and responsibility by choosing to jump out of an aircraft solely so you could record the footage of the crash.”

Authorities have not been able to pinpoint the crash site for Noozhawk, but speculation is that the plane hit the ground in the San Rafael Wilderness, possibly near Manzana Schoolhouse northeast of Los Olivos.

Just days after hiking out from the remote crash scene, Jacob hired a helicopter to remove the wreckage and recover his cameras.

He did not respond to Noozhawk’s requests for comment.

3. BizHawk: Augie’s Tequila Bar Opening Soon on State Street in Santa Barbara


Augie’s, a new tequila bar at 700 State St. in downtown Santa Barbara, promises to be different. (Jeff Shelton rendering)

Augie’s, a high-end and highly anticipated tequila bar, is a little over two months away from opening in downtown Santa Barbara.

The bar at 700 State St., at the Ortega Street intersection, is being designed by Jeff Shelton, a Santa Barbara architect well-known for his whimsical, innovative creations.

That spirit, if you will, will extend to the products being served inside, which include agave drinks, cocktails and “California fresh and healthy cuisine.”

General manager David Peszek told our Josh Molina that he’s excited about the uniqueness of the operation.

“It’s a Jeff Shelton space, so it will be funky and fun, with very high-level finishes,” he said. “We will have hundreds of agave spirits behind our 36-foot bar. Culinary will be California fresh, local, healthy with Mexican flavors.

“And we will be looking to deliver fine dining levels of service, but without the white tablecloth and the stuffiness.”

Peszek says a soft opening is planned for the week of July 11 with proceeds to benefit local nonprofit organizations.

4. Santa Barbara School District Sweating Over Transitional Kindergarten Mandate

Harding University Partnership School

Students at Santa Barbara’s Harding University Partnership School — and other public schools — will be getting younger. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Public school enrollment has been plummeting in California.

The state Education Department says enrollment is down for the second school year in a row, by more than 110,000 students this time. Fewer than 6 million students are now in the public school system, a low point not seen in more than a century.

Education officials blame it on the state’s lack of affordable housing, but I can’t help but wonder how much the public schools train wreck of the last two years has to do with it.

Not to worry, though. Gov. Gavin Newsom has a plan to get more bodies: universal free transitional kindergarten for 4-year-olds!

In typical Newsom fashion, of course, he doesn’t have any real plans to pay for it. Or enough qualified teachers for the age group. But those are all problems for local school districts to figure out. He’s just The Mandate Guy.

As our Josh Molina reported, the cash-strapped Santa Barbara Unified School District is in a near-panic, estimating that the requirement will cost an additional $1.2 million just in annual staffing expenses, let alone facilities and other needs.

“This will quickly deplete our reserves and require cuts to be made to staffing and operation costs, reducing what we are able to provide to students,” according to the board packet trustees received for their April 26 meeting.

I’m no education expert — or a medical doctor or an epidemiologist, as you know — but that sounds a bit like robbing Peter to pay Paul. Apparently, there’s gonna be a lot of that coming our way with the district projecting a $6.8 million budget shortfall this year, a $7.1 million shortfall next year and a $4.8 million shortfall the following year.

“A teacher could lose their job,” school board member Virginia Alvarez said. “We are going to have to make some really tough decisions.”

Local school officials aren’t opposed to the TK concept, which they say is a way to close the racial achievement gap and free up preschool positions for 2- and 3-year-olds.

“I am concerned about the impact it will have on the budget, however, since Santa Barbara Unified will not receive funding for this mandate along with other districts in California,” school board president Rose Muñoz said.

5. Free State Park Passes Now Available from Public Libraries in Santa Barbara County

El Capitan State Beach

You can now check out El Capitán State Beach from the local library. (Noozhawk file photo)

In one of those “why didn’t we think about this before?” situations, public library card holders can now check out free day-use entry passes to any of California’s more than 200 state parks — including all state parks and beaches in Santa Barbara County.

As our Carolyn French reported, the $9.1 million California State Library Parks Pass pilot program has distributed passes to nearly 1,200 public libraries throughout the state.

Library card holders can check out the passes for free park or beach entry for one passenger vehicle with up to nine people, or one highway-licensed motorcycle. The passes can be held for seven days, but are not good for overnight accommodations.

The passes are available at all public libraries in the county, but be prepared to be on a waiting list.

•        •        •

Good Reads

The three stories in Noozhawk’s Mental Health Care in Crisis series just missed the Top 5, but they are well worth your time:

» Santa Barbara County’s Shortage of Psychiatric Acute Care Beds Leads to Long Waits, ER Holds — Jade Martinez-Pogue’s analysis of health-care data found that the lack of proper facilities is taking a catastrophic personal toll on many people and their families, while significantly increasing pressure on hospital emergency services.

» Santa Barbara County Pays Millions to Send Local Mental Health Patients to Faraway Hospitals — Jade’s comprehensive review found that local patients are being shuttled throughout California — to the tune of millions of dollars a year — due to the inadequacy of the county’s 16-bed Psychiatric Health Facility.

» Santa Barbara County Underutilizing Its Highly Anticipated Crisis Stabilization Unit — Jade’s investigation discovered significant shortcomings in the county’s $1.5 million voluntary facility for patients in need of psychiatric crisis care.

If you have a tip, a lead, or your own experience to share, click here to let us know. Thank you!

•        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? 1 Person Killed in Crash on Highway 101 Between Orcutt and Los Alamos.

•        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

Really Old Guys Rule … with exercise: 11 Workout Tips from Ancient Civilizations.

•        •        •

Best of Bill’s Instagram

A cruise ship anchored my Instagram feed this past week.

•        •        •

Americans Held Hostage: Day 241

In addition to the hundreds of U.S. citizens and legal residents we gave the Taliban when we fled Afghanistan 241 days ago, we also gifted them more than $7 billion in military equipment. Our generosity knows no bounds.

•        •        •

Watch It

Hats off to this resourceful meerkat for using his head.


A post shared by Nature (@nature)

(@nature video)

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— 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

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.