Shoreline Park
Spectators watch for tsunami signs from Santa Barbara’s Shoreline Park. (Mike Eliason photo)

Santa Barbara County doesn’t often get tsunami advisories and warnings, but Noozhawk draws a tidal wave of readers when we do.

The county hasn’t experienced much tsunami damage either, but that can be a doozy, too.

In fact, one of the most destructive tsunamis in California history was set in motion by a magnitude-7.2 earthquake in the Santa Barbara Channel on Dec. 21, 1812.

The quake, dubbed the Ventura Earthquake, exacted a heavy toll from Santa Barbara County, destroying the Santa Barbara and La Purísima missions and badly damaging Mission Santa Inés.

The tsunami caused flooding and other damage in low-lying areas of the county, and it reportedly carried a 283-ton ship, the Thomas Newland, a half-mile up Refugio Canyon and then back out to sea.

According to witness accounts, the waves were estimated as high as 50 feet.

The Jan. 15 tsunami advisory forecast possible conditions that were nowhere near that frightening scale. Still, readers surged to Noozhawk.

According to our Google Analytics, we had an audience of 103,177 readers this past week, with more than 25,000 alone clicking in within an hour or two after our tsunami story was posted.

What follows is my own recap of the Top 5 stories you were reading over the last seven days. As a reminder, this is my opinion column, not a news story.

1. Tsunami Advisory Issued for West Coast, Including Santa Barbara County

Santa Barbara County was placed under a tsunami advisory for much of Jan. 15 after a massive undersea volcanic eruption in Tonga triggered tsunami waves across the Pacific Ocean.

The South Coast — 5,200 miles away — did not appear to be on the same wave-length, however. Thanks in part to the geological presence of the Channel Islands and our south-facing geographic position, there was hardly a ripple locally.

As our Janene Scully reported, the U.S. Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami advisory for the entire West Coast, beginning at 7:45 a.m. in Santa Barbara.

“If you are located in this coastal area, move off the beach and out of harbors and marinas,” the advisory said.

Aside from a delayed start for the 40th Rincon Classic at Rincon Point, no problems were reported in the county.

The tsunami’s presence was sure felt elsewhere, though. Port San Luis in San Luis Obispo County reported a 3.1-foot surge that flooded a harbor parking lot.

Farther north, Santa Cruz Harbor was clobbered, with extensive damage to boats, pilings, infrastructure, and restroom and shower facilities. The Santa Cruz Port Commission estimated damages at $6.5 million.

By 10:30 p.m., the advisory had been reduced to an area stretching from Point Conception to Ragged Point, 50 miles northwest of San Luis Obispo.

The volcanic explosion killed at least three people in Tonga, where destruction was significant and widespread.

Communication was crippled with the tiny archipelago about 3,200 miles east of Australia, and a thick cloud of ash blanketed the skies for several days, hindering detailed aerial surveillance.

The first cargo planes and naval ships in an international emergency aid effort began arriving Jan. 20, delivering pallets of drinking water, desalination tools, food, shelter, telecommunications equipment, and hygiene and medical supplies.

2. Proposed Ordinance to Restrict Outdoor Dining Along State Street Frustrates Business Owners

Downtown Santa Barbara

What the souk have we done to our downtown? (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

The City of Santa Barbara giveth and the City of Santa Barbara taketh away.

Frustrated downtown restaurant owners are feeling a lot like Job these days. But unlike the biblical figure who remained a devout and compliant servant in the face of catastrophic adversity, they’re pushing back on some of the troubles that have been visited on them.

Even before the coronavirus was unleashed on the world, downtown was unraveling at a discouraging pace. COVID-19’s twin public health and economic plagues made things so much worse — and too hard to ignore any longer.

With uncharacteristic swiftness and understanding, city officials in 2020 turned 8½ blocks of State Street and the first block of West Victoria Street into a pedestrian promenade closed to vehicle traffic.

The objective was to permit restaurants to move dining operations out into the open to preserve their business and reassure a virus-wary public.

For the most part the plan worked, and much of downtown has experienced a rousing and refreshing rebirth.

But the hodgepodge — and, in many cases, ramshackle — appearance of the restaurants’ individual outdoor dining structures has also been hard to ignore, while also raising important mobility and emergency access issues for the neighborhood.

On Jan. 25, the City Council will take up a proposed ordinance that would require the street structures to be portable and would maintain at least a 20-foot-wide corridor in the middle of State Street.

Although the draft has not been released publicly, our Josh Molina obtained a copy of the proposal, which recommends, among other things, that “outdoor business facilities existing on Jan. 25, 2022, shall be modified as necessary to comply with the fire and emergency vehicle access requirement.”

Many restaurateurs are not happy about the ordinance, or the process that city staff used to create it. About a dozen of them met with city economic development manager Jason Harris to voice their concerns.

“The staff has already written a report, and they didn’t talk to any of the business owners,” Aron Ashland, owner of The Cruisery at 501 State St., told Josh.

According to Ashland, the restrictions would cost him about $250,000 in lost revenue.

“Are there problems with the promenade in its current state?” asked Richard Yates, co-owner of Opal Restaurant & Bar at 1325 State St. “Sure, but the tremendous value represented by the promenade, as the first positive thing the city has done in the last 15 to 20 years to address the decline of State Street, should motivate this city and its leaders to think proactively how to maintain that value while addressing these other issues.

“It’s entirely possible to conceive of designing a promenade from the ground up, to take all these issues into account as we go along.”

Mayor Randy Rowse, himself a former restaurateur and small business owner, was empathetic.

“The city is interested in maintaining the ability to provide outdoor space for customer seating,” he said. “We are required to provide a minimum 20-foot clearance for public safety in the roadway.

“The priorities have been toward trying to provide as much flexibility to the business community as possible, while having to balance the requirements for public safety, total community access and some sense of uniformity.”

Stay tuned. Josh will have more next week after the City Council meeting.

3. BizHawk: Goodland BBQ Coming to Old Town Goleta

Goodland BBQ

Ready for some “Smoky good vibes?” I am. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

No doubt aware of my oft-expressed frustration at the South Coast’s lack of Texas-style barbecue joints, two locals are preparing to open Goodland BBQ in Old Town Goleta next month.

Just kidding about that first part. I don’t know Tommy Ramirez and chef Tony Bones, but I feel like I’m going to after reading our Josh Molina’s Jan. 13 BizHawk column.

The duo will be serving two of my favorite foods, brisket and ribs, along with housemade sauces and a simple menu of smoke-show staples. They’ve taken over the old Alphie’s Restaurant location at 5725 Hollister Ave., adjacent to the Goleta Valley Community Center’s west parking lot.

“The main reason why I wanted to do this was that there are no real good barbecue places around the Santa Barbara and Goleta area,” Ramirez told Josh. “They are all down South.”

You can say that again.

Restaurants are in Bones’ bones, with Santa Barbara’s famed El Paseo and ill-fated Somerset in his family tree. Ramirez’s grandfather, the late Pascual Gamboa, owned the namesake Pascual’s Mexican Restaurant at 30 E. Victoria St., which is now home to Trattoria Vittoria.

“My approach to the menu will be to apply what I’ve learned in my travels and marry them with our 805 culture — Texas-inspired barbecue, with 805 flavor,” Bones said of Goodland BBQ.

“Our tagline is, ‘Smoky good vibes.’”

Sounds good to me. I’ve got a #bestofbillrecommendation ready to bestow if it meats my standards.

4. 2 Men Arrested in Shooting of 16-Year-Old on Santa Barbara’s Westside

Four months after a 16-year-old boy was seriously wounded in a drive-by shooting on the Westside, Santa Barbara police announced the arrest of two suspects.

As our Tom Bolton reported last year, police say the victim and a friend were walking in the 1200 block of San Andres Street, near West Anapamu Street and Bohnett Park, about 8 p.m. Sept. 22.

According to police, a car stopped, a verbal altercation ensued and one of the men in the vehicle opened fire … with a rifle. The victim was hit in the abdomen, but the other juvenile was unharmed.

The victim, whose identity was withheld because of his age, “was not affiliated with any gangs, and this shooting appears to be a random act of violence,” Sgt. Ethan Ragsdale told Tom.

He said the suspected gunman, 26-year-old Antonio S. Aguayo of Santa Barbara, was arrested by Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies Jan. 17 when they responded to an unrelated battery call in the 400 block of Glen Annie Road in Goleta. During their investigation, they discovered he was wanted on a felony warrant.

The District Attorney’s Office has charged Aguayo with four felonies: attempted murder, a gang enhancement, a firearm enhancement and an enhancement for using a firearm causing great bodily injury, Ragsdale said.

He added that the alleged getaway driver, 22-year-old Nicolas H. Fairbanks of Santa Barbara, was arrested last week in the Funk Zone and has been charged with the same felonies as Aguayo.

As of Jan. 21, both men were being held without bail in County Jail.

Ragsdale said a rifle that was believed to have been the weapon used in the shooting was seized during the execution of a search warrant.

“Both Fairbanks and Aguayo are known members of a local criminal street gang,” he said.

5. Multiple Major Injuries Reported in Highway 101 Rollover Crash Near Gaviota

A Jan. 17 rollover wreck on Highway 101 north of the Gaviota Tunnel sent five Guadalupe residents — including a pregnant woman and three children — to the hospital.

As our Tom Bolton first reported, Santa Barbara County fire Capt. Daniel Bertucelli said the southbound vehicle overturned in rainy conditions about 4:15 p.m. south of the Highway 1 exit ramp.

The vehicle rolled over several times, and one of the passengers was ejected in the wreck, Bertucelli said. Four of the victims suffered critical injuries, he added.

A Calstar medical helicopter landed on the highway to fly a 23-year-old woman, reportedly 8 months pregnant, to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

The three children — ages 8, 5 and 3 — were transported to the hospital by an American Medical Response ambulance with major injuries.

The driver, identified by the California Highway Patrol as 30-year-old Javier Morales, suffered moderate injuries and also was taken to the hospital by an AMR ambulance.

The CHP is investigating the circumstances of the crash, but alcohol and/or drugs were ruled out as factors.

•        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

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Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

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Best of Bill’s Instagram

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Americans Held Hostage: Day 144

It’s been 144 days since the United States surrendered Afghanistan to the Taliban, leaving hundreds — if not thousands — of U.S. citizens and green-card holders with no way to get home.

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Watch It

My kind of workout. Minus the housework, of course.

YouTube video

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