The Natural Cafe
The Natural Café is closing after 30 years at 508 State St. in downtown Santa Barbara, and owner Kelly Brown has some parting shots. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Thirty-six years ago, I was at work when my pregnant wife, Missy, called to say her water had broken.

I remember my bewilderment as I awkwardly told my colleagues it was time for me to go. The next nearly 24 hours were a blur, at least for me. They were excruciating for Missy.

We eventually met our firstborn son, Will, and it was the greatest day of our lives. Or maybe it was night. I was delirious when he finally arrived.

That indescribable joy was repeated two more times when God blessed us with our son, Colin, and our daughter, Kirsten.

Bill Macfadyen and Nico

I’ve got the kind of radiant personality that can put anyone to sleep. Just ask my grandson, Nico. (Will Macfadyen / Noozhawk photo)

I think we’ve just topped that, however, with the Oct. 28 birth of our adorable grandson, Nico.

Oddly, many of those same disoriented, starry-eyed feelings came flooding back when I got a text from Will that morning while I was in Austin, Texas, at the Independent News Sustainability Summit. He and our daughter-in-law, Colleen, were not expecting their own bundle of joy for another week, but someone forgot to tell the baby.

This time, we have no direct responsibility for things like feeding, sleeping and changing diapers. We can just enjoy the moment, as well as the accomplishment, wonderment and expectation that we see written all over Colleen and Will’s tired faces.

My wife is excited beyond words, and I think that may make me the happiest while I adjust to my new, uncertain role as a grandfather.

Perhaps I’ll have some nuggets of wisdom to share with little Nico but there’s plenty of time for that. So far, I’ve only seen him sleep — which just proves we’re related.

While I was taking those grand baby steps this past week, Noozhawk had an audience of 119,371 readers, according to our Google Analytics.

What follows is my own take on the Top 5 stories you were reading. And by “my own take,” I mean my opinion.

Yes, this is my opinion column, not a news story, and I’ve definitely got a few things to say this week.

1. Natural Café on State Street to Shut Down Over Homeless, Parklets and Rats

The 500 block of State Street, six blocks from Santa Barbara’s world renowned waterfront, should be an ideal destination for locals and tourists alike. Instead, according to a longtime restaurant owner, it’s overrun with criminal vagrancy, vermin, and an indifferent, listless city government.

He’s out.

Kelly Brown opened The Natural Café 30 years ago at 508 State St. Last week, he informed his landlord that he’s closing the doors when the lease is up in March.

“There is no more business lunch,” he said in a letter to SIMA president and CEO Jim Knell, who actually is one of downtown’s more proactive property owners.

“The tourists don’t go downtown; they go to the Funk Zone. There’s the criminal homeless and the parklet problems. This isn’t a restaurant issue. It’s a location issue.”

That pretty much sums it up, but Brown brings the receipts.

“Aggressive panhandling has always been challenging, but it has now turned into straight-up criminality,” he said. “Consuming alcohol and drugs in public, using planters for toilets, camping in empty storefronts or locking themselves in our bathrooms and showering, sleeping and using drugs is an everyday occurrence.”

Anyone who has spent more than about 10 minutes on State Street downtown the last few years knows exactly what Brown’s talking about, including City of Santa Barbara officials — elected and otherwise — who nod and do nothing.

He had a few choice words for them, too.

“We need to remove the parklets, clean up State Street and police it,” Brown said. “Why is it so hard for the city to do these simple things? Seems like Job No. 1 to me.”

Fed-up Santa Barbarans should start demanding those answers from City Hall, although all they’ll get is a canned response about deferring to the latest six-figure consultant working on a State Street Master Plan to be unveiled in the next decade or two.

Or this:

“Kelly has been there long enough to have seen it all,” Mayor Randy Rowse told Josh. “He wouldn’t be giving it up if it were a viable location. To lose a longtime person on State Street like that is not a good sign.”

I don’t know how many signs Rowse and his colleagues need to see because Brown is just the latest in a long exodus, and he probably won’t even be the last to leave this year.

Brown says all of the restaurant’s downtown staff will be offered jobs at The Natural Café’s other locations, including 361 Hitchcock Way in Santa Barbara and 6990 Marketplace Drive in Goleta’s clean, safe and bustling Camino Real Marketplace.

2. No Day at the Beach for One Tesla Owner in Carpinteria

Tesla in the ocean

Now that’s an expensive wrong turn. (Robin Karlsson photo)

You can read our Tom Bolton’s story about why a Tesla was found submerged in the ocean off Sandyland Beach in Carpinteria, but I saw in the photo a forlorn metaphor for the “all-electric” utopia being forced on a state that can’t even meet its power needs today — let alone those 4,167 days from now.

I’m sure that tide will turn, though. Hah!

3. 2 Lompoc Women Killed, Goleta Man Critically Injured in Fiery Head-On Collision Near Gaviota

Highway 1 crash

As bad as this Highway 1 crash looked, it was much, much worse. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

A fiery head-on collision on Highway 1 near Gaviota left two Lompoc women dead in the early morning hours of Oct. 28. A Goleta man was severely injured in the crash and arrested on suspicion of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason told our Tom Bolton that emergency personnel were dispatched just after 4 a.m. to the crash scene, about a mile west of the Highway 101 interchange north of the Gaviota tunnel.

California Highway Patrol Officer Gabe Rodriguez said 22-year-old Kyle Nelson of Goleta was driving a Ford C-Max compact car south on the highway at approximately 80 mph when he ran up on slower traffic in front of him.

Nelson, he said, “wantonly passed over solid double yellow lines, traveling the wrong way” and directly into the path of an oncoming Chevrolet Malibu driven by 19-year-old Jenna Causby of Lompoc.

Both drivers swerved, he added, but the two cars slammed into each other, spun around and caught fire. Eliason said both vehicles were engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived.

Causby and her passenger, 20-year-old Dorothy Ann Guthrie of Lompoc, were declared dead at the scene after the fire was extinguished in the obliterated Malibu.

Nelson was removed from the wreckage and then transported by American Medical Response ambulance to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital with major injuries, Rodriguez said.

He said Nelson was arrested on suspicion of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated with toxicology tests pending.

The CHP is investigating the circumstances of the collision.

Guthrie was described in her obituary as a fun-loving “social butterfly” with a broad circle of friends and a deep love for animals, especially cats. The Cabrillo High School alumna aspired to be a teacher like her mother, Kathy Guthrie, who teaches fourth grade at Manzanita Public Charter School in Lompoc.

She is survived by her parents, Kathy and Patrick Guthrie, of Lompoc; a grandmother, Nancy Thompson; and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.

A visitation is scheduled for 4 p.m. Nov. 4 at Starbuck-Lind Mortuary, 123 N. A St. in Lompoc, followed by a funeral service at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 5 at First United Methodist Church of Lompoc, 925 N. F St. She is to be buried at a later date at her family’s home cemetery in Warren, Indiana.

4. Major Injuries Reported in Rollover Crash on Highway 101 Near Santa Barbara

Highway 101 crash

This rollover wreck injured two people at El Sueno Road off Highway 101 west of Santa Barbara. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

A rollover crash on Highway 101 near Santa Barbara left two women trapped in the wreckage with major injuries the morning of Nov. 1.

As our Tom Bolton first reported, the crash occurred around 10:15 a.m. at the northbound freeway exit ramp at El Sueno Road.

According to the California Highway Patrol, the driver of a Honda SUV reportedly was speeding recklessly at more than 100 mph before she lost control.

The SUV flipped over and skidded onto nearby Calle Real, and Santa Barbara County fire Capt. Scott Safechuck told Tom that a lengthy extrication was required to get the two women out of the mangled vehicle.

Both women were transported by AMR ambulances to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. Their identities and medical conditions were not released.

The CHP is investigating the circumstances of the crash.

That wasn’t the day’s only carnage on Highway 101. As our Janene Scully reported, a 6-year-old Santa Maria boy died in another rollover wreck that injured three other people, including a 2-year-old, near the Gaviota tunnel.

Safechuck told Janene that the driver of a Nissan Frontier lost control of the northbound vehicle around 7:40 p.m. just north of the tunnel. The pickup truck rolled on its side and slid off into the boulder-filled creek bed about 30 feet below the roadway.

He said the four occupants were extricated from the wreckage and transported to Santa Ynez Cottage Hospital, where the 6-year-old later died.

The CHP said alcohol and drugs were not factors in the crash, which is under investigation. Rain was reported in the area that evening.

Two hours before, a crash on the nearby Nojoqui Grade ended up with a victim being transported by AMR ambulance to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital with major injuries.

5. Man Arrested on Arson Charges in Connection with Vegetation Fire Near Goleta

Goleta Beach County Park wildfire

That’s a lot of flames. (Ryan Cullom / Noozhawk photo)

A spectacular fire erupted in a highly flammable eucalyptus grove northeast of Goleta Beach County Park late on the night of Nov. 2. A suspected arsonist was detained within minutes and officially arrested the next day.

Our Tom Bolton said the fire was reported at 11:40 p.m. burning in the grove near Southern California Gas Co.’s La Goleta Natural Gas Storage Facility, across Atascadero Creek from Rancho Goleta Mobile Home Park at the south end of Ward Drive east of Highway 217.

A solid wall of flames greeted firefighters converging on the scene, with wind-blown embers igniting spot fires throughout the area. An overnight evacuation warning was issued for residents along More Ranch Road.

Santa Barbara County fire Capt. Scott Safechuck said more than 85 firefighters from the county, Santa Barbara, Montecito and Carpinteria-Summerland fire departments battled the blaze through the night.

“The perimeter is not really active, which is good,” he told Tom the morning of Nov. 3. “It’s just that we’re working among 100-foot trees that are considered widowmakers, burned out at the base.

“We need to make sure no trees fall on us as we also cut them down.”

By the afternoon, the nine-acre fire was 75% contained, and Safechuck said crews were continuing to mop up around it.

“We’re just trying to keep the embers down before the winds come,” he said.

Santa Barbara County sheriff’s spokeswoman Raquel Zick said a suspect — identified as 30-year-old José Martin Alvarez-Castro of Santa Barbara — was taken into custody about 15 minutes after the fire was reported.

“Deputies located and detained a person matching the suspect’s description provided by a witness on the bike path near Patterson Avenue,” she said.

Alvarez-Castro was booked into County Jail on suspicion of felony arson, misdemeanor obstructing a police officer and misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance. As of Nov. 4 he was being held without bail.

No structures were damaged nor were any injuries reported.

•        •        •

Good Reads

Here are six more stories worth your time to read:

» BizHawk: Tri-County Produce Property in Santa Barbara Sells to Team of Local Investors — Locals — my wife included — are highly protective of Santa Barbara’s Tri-County Produce, and staff writer Josh Molina explains what the sale of its South Milpas Street property means for the market.

» Santa Maria Firefighters Rally to Support Colleague’s Family Amid Cancer Diagnosis — In the battle for her life, the wife of a Santa Maria firefighter has a powerful support group in her corner. North County editor Janene Scully relates the story of grace, hope and generosity.

» PG&E Takes First Big Step to Keep Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant Running — Reporter Mackenzie Shuman of our partner, the San Luis Obispo Tribune, plugs into the latest development with the Diablo Canyon Power Plant, whose nuclear-generated electricity is desperately needed to keep the lights on in California.

» Santa Barbara County Supervisors Pass Modoc Road Multiuse Path Project in Santa Barbara — Staff writer Grace Kitayama is along for the ride as the controversial Modoc Road multiuse path is approved unanimously by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.

» County Supervisors Approve Santa Claus Lane Dispensary, Nojoqui Farm Cannabis Permits — Managing editor Giana Magnoli has the dope on Santa Barbara County’s latest cannabis joints — because, apparently, we haven’t reached peak marijuana yet.

» Small Plane Safely Makes Emergency Landing East of Orcutt — Janene encounters unexpected traffic on East Clark Avenue near Orcutt.

•        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Randy Rowse Out Ahead in Race for Santa Barbara Mayor.

•        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

Not only is Gov. Hot Air all talk, as usual he didn’t do his homework on the disastrous local impacts either: Gov. Gavin Newsom Campaigned on Building 3.5 Million Homes, and Hasn’t Gotten Even Close.

•        •        •

Best of Bill’s Instagram

Babies, Aggies and food. You’ll find them all in my Instagram feed this past week.

•        •        •

Watch It

Pickleball, y’all.

YouTube video

(Holderness Family Laughs 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

William M. Macfadyen, Noozhawk Publisher

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.