Paseo Nuevo
Santa Barbara’s Paseo Nuevo: What’s going on here? (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

In a year of firsts, Vin Scully is on social media.

While the legendary Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster learns how to make his first pitch, Noozhawk was connecting with an audience of 104,693 readers this past week, according to our Google Analytics.

As most of you know, this is my weekly recap of your Top 5 stories during that period. As you should know, this is my column and not a news story.


1. Future of Paseo Nuevo Mall Sparks Controversy with Development Agreement in Final Stages

For a number of reasons, Paseo Nuevo is the linchpin of a reimagined downtown Santa Barbara.

I have an opinion about its future. You have an opinion about its future. Just about everyone has an opinion about its future.

But what is its future?

Our Josh Molina set out to explore that question, which is taking on some urgency with the open-air mall’s owners, El Segundo-based Pacific Retail Capital Partners, and the City of Santa Barbara closing in on a very long-range development agreement.

Josh meticulously outlined a number of Paseo Nuevo’s challenges and opportunities, providing crucial context for the public conversation we should be having, even as the Planning Commission weighs the development agreement’s details and efficacy.

Regardless of that outcome, changes are in store for the two-block property bounded by West Canon Perdido and West Ortega Street and State and Chapala streets. As Noozhawk has reported previously, Pacific Retail is proposing to transform the site with housing, a hotel and a new mixture of less retail-specific shopping experiences.

Officials caution that nearly all of the proposals will be years in the making.

Further complicating the matter is that the hulking buildings that were once home to Paseo Nuevo’s two former anchor tenants, Macy’s and Nordstrom, are not part of the agreement.

Stay tuned. This is about to get good.

2. Owners Fighting to Keep Dogs From Being Euthanized After Neighbor Suffers Bite

Maddie and Mason

Maddie, left, and Mason may soon be headed home. (Camp Canine photo)

After a two-day appeal hearing, two Santa Barbara dogs were spared execution over an incident in which one of the dogs allegedly bit a neighbor earlier this year.

According to court documents and a City of Santa Barbara brief our Josh Molina reviewed, Michael Biancone entered his neighbors’ property to discuss their shared fence. When he extended his hand to greet the dogs, the documents state, one of them bit it and the other lunged at his neck.

Biancone was treated for a level II trauma bite on his neck, the brief says.

The dogs’ owners — Kristen Figone and her dad, Ed — disputed the city’s account. They say the dogs — 6-year-old Mason, an American Staffordshire Terrier, and 7-year-old Maddie, a Rottweiler and AmStaf mix, are docile and not vicious.

“They have impeccable records,” Figone told Josh. “They have never had a biting incident with either a human or animal.”

Asserting that the dogs had been provoked, she added that they were “defending their home and family from a perceived aggressive intruder.”

Biancone did not respond to Josh’s requests for comment.

“Given the severity of the attack, and the temper and ferocity of Maddie and Mason, it is our decision that this dog [sic] be humanely destroyed,” police Sgt. Kasi Corbett, the Animal Control hearing officer, wrote in decreeing that the dogs must die for the Feb. 8 incident.

Since neither dog could be positively identified as the alleged culprit, both were condemned to euthanization.

After the dogs were seized the night of Feb. 8, Figone says she was only allowed to see one at a time, for a half-hour, until they were transferred to Camp Canine on March 27 as the coronavirus was taking hold. Since then, she’s been at the Lower Eastside boarding facility every day.

What’s more, Figone alleges that an animal control officer physically abused the dogs during their transfer to Camp Canine. When she arrived afterward, she says, “there was a trail of blood starting in the driveway that led all the way through the property“ to the back area where Maddie’s kennel was located.

“It’s devastating,” she said of the predicament. “It’s stressful. It’s heartbreaking.”

On Sept. 3, however, Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Donna Geck granted a stay of execution, with restrictions.

Geck directed the Figones and the city to work out details of property modifications, which include measures to keep the dogs in and outsiders out.

The dogs could be home as early as Sept. 10.

3. Homeless Man Found Dead in Encampment near La Cumbre Plaza in Santa Barbara

A homeless man was found dead in one of the many illegal encampments along Calle Real near La Cumbre Plaza, but Santa Barbara police say foul play is not suspected.

Sgt. Chris Payne told our Tom Bolton that the death was reported the afternoon of Aug. 30 when a transient asked a nearby business to contact authorities.

While the death does not appear to be suspicious, Payne said, the Santa Barbara County Coroner’s Bureau is investigating.

The man’s identity has not been released.

4. 15 Schools in Santa Barbara County Apply to Reopen for In-Person Classes Amid COVID-19

Cold Spring School

Cold Spring School in Montecito hopes it has an outside chance of fully reopening soon. (Amy Alzina photo)

As of Sept. 1, 16 Santa Barbara County elementary schools have applied for waivers that would allow them to reopen for in-classroom instruction.

Currently, all schools — public and private — are restricted to remote instruction because of the county’s presence on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide monitoring list of areas with high coronavirus infections.

Waivers are limited to K-6 schools, whose students are at an age when the effectiveness of online learning is especially dubious.

According to our Giana Magnoli, the current list of applicants includes:

» Coastline Christian Academy, Goleta

» Cold Spring Elementary School, Montecito

» Crane Country Day School, Montecito

» The Howard School, Carpinteria

» Knox School of Santa Barbara

» Laguna Blanca School (Lower School)

» Marymount of Santa Barbara

» Montecito Union School

» Montessori Center School, Goleta

» Pacific Christian Elementary School, Santa Maria

» Providence School in Santa Barbara

» Santa Ynez Valley Christian Academy

» Santa Ynez Valley Family School

» Valley Christian Academy, Santa Maria

» The Waldorf School of Santa Barbara

5. Montecito Man Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison for Defrauding Investors of $3.4 Million

A Montecito money manager was sentenced to three years in federal prison for scamming investors out of millions of dollars.

As our Jade Martinez-Pogue reported, 73-year-old Efstratios Argyropoulos was sentenced Aug. 31 in Los Angeles by U.S. District Court Judge George Wu, who also ordered him to pay $3.4 million in restitution to his victims.

Argyropoulos had pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in his years-long scheme of deceit.

He also admitted to intentionally violating a 2015 court order forbidding him from selling false investments and passing himself off as a licensed broker. That order was the result of a lawsuit brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which had investigated the initial fraud allegations.

Argyropoulos was the president and sole shareholder of Prima Ventures Corp., a Santa Barbara financial services firm, from 2010 to 2015.

Prosecutors accused him of misleading clients by telling them he had “amazing” investment opportunities to buy shares of companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Etsy before their initial public offerings.

Instead, he diverted the funds for other uses, such as unrelated day-trading in stocks and other personal expenses, like gambling, cars, and insurance and legal bills.

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Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? 4 Deaths Confirmed, 30 Still Missing after Dive Boat Conception Burns, Sinks Off Santa Cruz Island.

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Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

Social norms on social media: Beyond Zoom Etiquette — 21 Rules for Using Tech Now.

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Best of Bill’s Instagram

You go to Utah, you stay in Utah. OK, twist my arm. My Instagram feed this past week is breathtakingly #beautahful.

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Watch It

You want sharks? We’ve got sharks. These leopard sharks are off La Jolla.


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A post shared by Underwater Paparazzi (@underwaterpaparazzi) on

(Underwater Paparrazi video)

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If you value dependable local reporting, will you support Noozhawk today?
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at, follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk and 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.