Riven Rock Road
Word on the street needs to be that there is no room for legal parking on Montecito’s Riven Rock Road, and that ticketing and towing will soon replace California Highway Patrol warning citations. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Before we begin, a disclosure: This is my opinion column, not a news story.

The purpose of the nearly 600 Best of Bill columns I’ve written every Friday over the last 11 years is to simply recap — in my own words and with my own commentary — Noozhawk’s Top 5 most popular stories of the week, as tracked by our Google Analytics.

It’s just a way to share what you’ve been reading while providing some background on the inner workings of Santa Barbara County’s most popular local news site.

I write these commentaries in my civic capacity as Noozhawk’s publisher. As most readers know and appreciate, Noozhawk does not take political positions or make endorsements, and our reporters keep their opinions out of the stories they write.

But we understand that Noozhawk fills an important role in our community, and that we can use our voice to amplify or articulate vital points of view on certain issues.

I’m the one doing that, using my name. It’s not under the guise of an opaque “editorial board” that includes editors and reporters who also just happen to be “objectively” covering the same issues on which they’re pontificating.

While I’m on the subject, it has been Noozhawk’s policy and practice since we launched in 2007 to identify the opinion writer in the headline. In all but a couple of instances, every commentary — regardless of subject — is introduced with the writer’s name in such a way.

When you see the name Bill Macfadyen, or Judy Foreman, or Randy Alcorn, or Susan Miles Gulbransen, or Jim Langley, or Alana Walzcak, you know that what follows is their opinion. Some may be less opinionated than others, but it’s a signal that what you’re about to read may contain subjectivity.

We do that for several reasons. Transparency is one, and the distinctiveness of the headline is an abrupt departure from the format we use for the straight news stories and information articles that account for the vast majority of what Noozhawk publishes.

It also saves time for readers, who attach their own unique value to each name or are searching specifically for one of us.

As you know from my columns, my column often winds up in the Top 5. It’s nearly always in the Top 10 and, in fact, it’s Noozhawk’s most popular column — by far. That’s on you, but I thank you for it.

Noozhawk had an audience of 100,240 readers over the last seven days, and my column from last week, “Readers Have No Reservations Checking In on Four Seasons Biltmore’s Closed Call,” was in the Top 5 for all but a few hours during the period.

But then our Josh Molina kicked me out at, literally, the 11th hour April 22, when what ended up being the No. 4 story of the week muscled its way in just before midnight.

And speaking of Josh …

1. On Montecito’s Riven Rock Road, Hikers and Homeowners Clash Over Parking

For months, I’ve been using my Instagram feed to chronicle the community dumping ground that is Montecito’s upper Riven Rock Road at the Hot Springs Trailhead. My neighbors there have been through an awful lot these last three years, but the impacts from the crowds of people headed up the mountain over the last several months have been growing untenable.

I know many of the residents, and no one begrudges the hikers, bikers and trail runners getting out and using nature — especially during the coronavirus crisis.

But the trash, debris, noise, overnight camping, campfires, trespassing and long, long, long line of parked cars along the narrow street are another story. Anyone living near popular open space can relate.

Earlier this year, homeowners petitioned the Santa Barbara County Public Works Department for help in the form of white lines painted along both sides of Riven Rock Road to define the width of the roadway.

“It is illegal to park on a roadway,” in the words of California Highway Patrol Capt. Michael Logie, citing California Vehicle Code — ergo parking is prohibited on the street since there is no shoulder on either side.

Unfortunately, there is little evidence that the subtle sign is working, as our Josh Molina found last weekend when he ventured up there to see for himself.

The CHP has been helping out by issuing warning citations and, beginning in June, officers will be ticketing and towing cars to drive home the message.

That should free up the street, although it’s just as likely that the parking problem will be rerouted elsewhere. And as bad as the Hot Springs Trailhead congestion is, it’s even worse at the Cold Spring Trailhead about a mile to the west.

As for the trash, well, that responsibility lies with the visitors who are leaving it behind. At this point in their lives, it should be enough to expect them to pick up after themselves, including the dog poop.

2. What You Can and Should Do Once You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated

As expected, Santa Barbara County has moved up to the orange tier of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s arbitrary and baffling four-step COVID-19 “reopening” plan, which leaves us with one level to go before the county can be truly unlocked.

But what does that mean? No one — including the perfervid Newsom champions I hear from regularly — actually knows, which is why every tier-stained conversation among family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues and random people we come in contact with every day always begins with the words, “what does that mean?”

We had our Brooke Holland try to figure that out for you, and you can read her comprehensive April 20 report for more information and insights.

More and more locals are being vaccinated, however, and everyone over age 16 is eligible. As of April 22, according to the county’s Community Data Dashboard, more than half of county residents have received at least the first dose.

Those numbers — and the confidence that comes with them — have triggered a clear shift to personal risk assessment about what you can do once you’ve gotten your shot in the arm.

Our Jade Martinez-Pogue wrapped up the official Santa Barbara County Public Health Department do’s and don’ts, which was a good reminder that common sense is still a critical component of our coronavirus defense.

Still, when you read through Jade’s report, the takeaway is that the COVID-19 vaccinations not only work, they are the keys to our freedom.

What’s more, the vaccine is finally getting to be almost as ubiquitous as flu shots, meaning it’s pretty much available to anyone who wants it, anywhere you want to get it.

Click here for our Giana Magnoli’s coverage of when, where and how to get inoculated. And then go do it.

Click here to subscribe to our free weekly COVID-19 Update emails.

3. BizHawk: South Coast Deli Opens on State Street in San Roque

South Coast Deli

From left, Izabelle Ruehlman, Olivia McCafferty-Cable, Armando Crucillo and Melina Buso are keeping their eyes on the new South Coast Deli on upper State Street. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

After years of searching for just the right location in Santa Barbara’s San Roque neighborhood, South Coast Deli owner Jim St. John has opened a new store on upper State Street.

As our Josh Molina first reported, the popular restaurant has begun serving its creatively named and consistently delicious sammies and salads at 3534 State St., just east of North Ontare Road. The place is the former home of Pizza Guru and a long block walk from Noozhawk World Headquarters.

“This just kind of fell into our lap in December,” St. John told Josh. “It seemed to be a perfect spot, a perfect fit, and we’re excited.”

It’s the fourth South Coast Deli on the South Coast, with the others at 10 E. Carrillo St. and 1436 Chapala St. in Santa Barbara and 185 S. Patterson Ave. in Goleta.

South Coast Deli is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and offers dine-in, takeout and delivery service.

4. Closure of Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Still a Mystery as Employees’ Legal Action Looms

Coral Casino Beach & Cabana Club

The Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, and its Coral Casino Beach & Cabana Club, have been closed for 13 months and counting. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Will Montecito’s old Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara reopen in 2023 or 2025, or at all? Will it still be run by Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts?

Has billionaire owner Ty Warner decided to remodel the stately Spanish Colonial Revival luxury hotel into a Moorish monstrosity like his over-the-top Montecito Club?

Could the handful of cottages at the lush campus at 1260 Channel Drive be sold off as condominiums? Will I see the inside — or the outside — of the Coral Casino Beach & Cabana Club ever again?

What the hell is going on over there?

About the only thing anyone knows for sure is that bulldog employment law attorney Bruce Anticouni is representing more than 250 “furloughed” Four Seasons employees. The workers have been effectively without jobs — but not actually laid off — since the hotel shut down a year ago as part of the COVID-19 lockdown. It’s been closed ever since.

As our Josh Molina first reported, the Four Seasons has agreed to a mediation session next week.

“The difference between a furlough and a termination of employment affects Four Seasons’ obligation to pay its former employees millions of dollars in severance compensation,” Anticouni wrote in a memo obtained by Noozhawk.

“Four Seasons is contractually obligated to compensate its former employees substantial separation pay when their employment has come to an end. Assuming the hotel opens on Jan. 1, 2023, the employees would be out of work for at least 33 months. Because the layoff has now extended for more than 13 months, our clients are entitled to separation pay.”

As is their custom, neither Warner’s company nor the Four Seasons returned Josh’s requests for comment.

5. Authorities Urge Caution After Parts of Isla Vista Bluffs Collapse Onto Beach

Isla Vista bluffs

No bluffing in Isla Vista. (Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

A good-sized chunk of Isla Vista bluffs toppled onto the beach just after midday April 15. Fortunately, there were no injuries from top to bottom.

As our Tom Bolton first reported, Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason said two larger slides and two minor ones were reported around 12:30 p.m. near Camino Pescadero Park in the 6500 block of Del Playa Drive.

Yellow caution tape was draped around the rubble of rocks and dirt in case more of the cliff fell, and to keep curious beachgoers away.

The cause of the collapse was not known, but Eliason said no earthquakes had registered in the region.

•        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Fire Destroys Small Commercial Building at Santa Barbara Harbor.

•        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

I’ve said from the start that we will pay a terrible price for not treating the economic meltdown from the COVID-19 crisis with the same urgency — and at the same time — as the public health catastrophe. That bill is coming due and Justin Hart has begun to itemize it: The Horrifying Flip-Side of Lockdowns.

•        •        •

Best of Bill’s Instagram

An obscure fence post sure got noticed in my Instagram feed this past week.

•        •        •

Watch It

Ever seen the birth of a volcano?

YouTube video

(Shuttermonkeys 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.