Author spotlight: Nick Schou

Nicholas Schou is an award-winning investigative journalist and author of several books, including Orange Sunshine and Kill the Messenger. If you have tips or stories about Montecito, please email him at newseditor@montecitojournal.net

No Conflict of Interest Found in Cannabis Licensing Scandal; L.A. Magazine Stands by Story
By Nick Schou   |   May 27, 2021

It’s now been two months since Los Angeles Magazine published a bombshell exposé by former Montecito Journal reporter Mitchell Kriegman claiming marijuana-related corruption inside Santa Barbara’s City Hall. At the center of Kriegman’s sprawling, roughly 4,000-word story, which the Journal declined to publish last year before Kriegman departed from the paper, was the contention that […]

Veteran Teacher Resigns During Tense Cold Spring School Board Meeting
By Nick Schou   |   May 20, 2021

The most recent meeting of the Cold Spring School District’s Governing Board took place at the school campus at 6 pm on May 10 and, despite lingering COVID-19 concerns, drew a standing-room only crowd. Participants included all five board members, school officials including Superintendent and Principal Amy Alzina, Chief Operating Officer Yuri Calderon, and about […]

Did Cannabis Baggage Derail Das Williams’ Coastal Commission Bid?
By Nick Schou   |   May 20, 2021

On May 5, California Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Santa Barbara City Councilmember Meagan Harmon to the California Coastal Commission, one of the state’s most powerful institutions, which serves to preserve and protect the coastline from commercial and development interests. A New York University trained lawyer and Harvard graduate from Lompoc, who is a relative newcomer […]

New Lawsuit Alleging Missing Documents is Latest Salvo in Ongoing Cold Spring School Standoff
By Nick Schou   |   May 6, 2021

Previous articles in the Montecito Journal have described what by now has become a no-holds-barred legal conflict between the Cold Spring School and Amanda Rowan, a parent of a child who was suspended from the classroom last year, and who was subsequently named in a restraining order filed on behalf of three employees of the […]

Foothills Forever Announces Fundraising Milestone
By Nick Schou   |   May 6, 2021

The campaign to purchase the West Mesa of the San Marcos Foothills is nearing the finish line but Foothills Forever, which has been raising cash for the conservation effort, is still looking for last-minute angel investors. This week, the group announced a partnership with Allemall Foundation, which recently helped the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy complete […]

First-Ever Artist in Residence Joins Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
By Nick Schou   |   May 6, 2021

From April 21 to June 27, 2021, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden will welcome Canada-born artist Libby Holland as its first-ever Artist in Residence. For eight weeks, Holland will immerse herself in the garden’s native plantings for an exploration of “blooming where you’re planted and allowing yourself to be free” with her collection “Grow Wild.” […]

Legal Stakes (and Delays) Mount at Cold Spring School
By Nick Schou   |   April 29, 2021

Last week, the Montecito Journal reported on the latest involving the ongoing conflict between the Cold Spring School District and Amanda Rowan, the parent of a child who was subjected to a one-hour school suspension for posing during a Zoom session as the school’s principal, Dr. Amy Alzina, while using a photograph of Rowan’s dog. […]

Beekeepers Guild of Santa Barbara Announces Springtime Schedule
By Nick Schou   |   April 22, 2021

With Santa Barbara’s long-awaited springtime flower blooming season already strongly underway, Santa Barbara’s Beekeepers Guild is hoping to encourage local residents and homeowners to help our county’s bee population thriving. You don’t have to be a beekeeper to do this, the guild says. In fact, planting flowers that bees like may actually be more important […]

101 Freeway Construction Closures
By Nick Schou   |   April 22, 2021

Northbound Highway 101 Sunday nights, 9 pm – 5 am, 1 lane:  Bailard Avenue to Santa Claus Lane and N Padaro Lane to Sheffield Drive, on- and off-ramps at Bailard Avenue, Casitas Pass Road, Linden Avenue, and Santa Monica Road • Monday-Thursday nights, 8 pm – 5 am, 1 lane:  Bailard Avenue to Santa Claus […]

Tensions Palpable as Distinct Sides Form in Cold Spring School Kerfuffle
By Nick Schou   |   April 22, 2021

Two weeks ago, the Montecito Journal reported that Cold Spring School (CSS) had attempted to file a restraining order against Amanda Rowan, a parent of a child at the school, on behalf of three employees of the school district. Santa Barbara Superior Court Commissioner Stephen Foley refused to immediately grant the request; however, attorneys for […]

Murillo Talks Second Term Goals
By Nick Schou   |   April 8, 2021

Readers of this column may have noticed that the Montecito Journal has in the past few months published a series of stories highlighting three candidates running for the office of Mayor of Santa Barbara: James Joyce, Deborah Schwartz, and last week, Randy Rowse. Noticeably absent on that list is the mayor herself, Cathy Murillo, who […]

A Restraining Order Unveils a Hot Mess at Cold Spring School
By Nick Schou   |   April 8, 2021

In the already dramatic annals of parental engagement, one particular case threatens to break the mold. To most outside observers, the drama began on March 10, 2021, when Greg Rolen, a lawyer for Montecito’s Cold Spring School District, filed a restraining order on behalf of three employees purportedly in physical danger from a parent at […]

Former Councilmember and Paradise Café Owner Randy Rowse Joins Mayoral Race
By Nick Schou   |   April 1, 2021

As a 66-year-old downtown businessman Randy Rowse is no stranger to Santa Barbara city politics. In 1983, Rowse opened the Paradise Café across the street from the Santa Barbara News-Press; last year he sold the joint, which has now been re-christened La Paloma Café. A longtime Democrat, Rowse dropped his party affiliation in the 1990s, […]

Santa Barbara Launches Probe in Wake of Corruption Allegations
By Nick Schou   |   March 17, 2021

On Monday, March 16, Santa Barbara Interim Police Chief Barney Melekian issued a statement responding to a March 12 Los Angeles Magazine article that raised allegations of corruption and undue influence involving Anthony Wagner, the department’s public information officer, who previously helped run the city’s cannabis dispensary licensing process. Melekian’s announcement stated that he was […]

New Owner of San Ysidro Pharmacy
By Nick Schou   |   March 12, 2021

Wayne Siemens and his wife, Sharol, have been customers of Montecito’s iconic San Ysidro Pharmacy for the past 35 years. When he was younger, Siemens and as many as eight of his tennis pals, known as the “Pharmacy Boys,” would drop by, dripping wet, after their morning games to eat at the adjacent Montecito Coffee […]

Emergency Landing at Montecito Union School
By Nick Schou   |   March 11, 2021

At 2:07 pm, Montecito resident Abe Powell was driving north on San Ysidro Road when he noticed a pair of paragliders swinging in the sky. “They were just too low,” Powell said. “I knew they weren’t going to make it to the beach, because they were coming low and towards the powerlines that come across […]

Santa Barbara Mayoral Candidate Deborah Schwartz is Not Your Figurehead
By Nick Schou   |   March 11, 2021

It’s sometimes said that Santa Barbara, with its powerful full-time city administrator overseeing more than 1,000 city employees in ten different agencies, tends to leave the mayor as a figurehead, not much more than a glorified seventh city councilmember who happens to represent all constituents rather than those in one district. But don’t tell that […]

Montecito Journal Hosts Town Hall Meeting with Local Officials on COVID-19 Vaccination Rollout
By Nick Schou   |   March 4, 2021

On February 19, the Montecito Journal hosted a mid-morning Zoom meeting during which several local politicians and health officials answered questions and addressed the challenges that have affected Santa Barbara County’s ongoing efforts to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to residents. Hosted by Editor-in-Chief Gwyn Lurie and Chief Operating Officer Tim Buckley, the meeting’s guests included U.S. […]

Health Officials Answer Questions from Our Readers
By Nick Schou   |   March 3, 2021

The Montecito Journal on February 19 hosted a COVID-19 Town Hall meeting on Zoom, during which Editor-in-Chief Gwyn Lurie read questions from the audience. These questions were answered by U.S. Congressman Salud Carbajal, First District Supervisor Das Williams, Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso, and others. Because the meeting was limited to an hour, not all of our readers’ pre-submitted questions could be […]

101 Freeway Widening Construction Update, Feb. 21 – March 6
By Nick Schou   |   February 26, 2021

Closures on Northbound Highway 101 Monday night, Mar. 1, 8:00 pm – 5:00 am, 1 lane:  N. Padaro Ln. to Sheffield Dr., on- and off-ramps at Evans Ave, Ortega Hill Rd, Sheffield Dr. Mon. – Wed. daytime, Feb. 22 – 24, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm, on-ramp at Linden Ave. Southbound Highway 101 Mon. night, […]

A Conversation with Brittany Heaton, Santa Barbara’s New Principal Cannabis Analyst
By Nick Schou   |   February 25, 2021

Earlier this month, Barney Melekian, Santa Barbara County’s former assistant executive officer for public safety, left his County job to become interim police chief for the City of Santa Barbara, replacing retiring Chief Lori Luhnow. One of Melekian’s key roles for the county was overseeing enforcement of the county’s legal cannabis industry. Replacing Melekian in […]

Did You Know That the 101 Freeway Widening Project Has an Aquatic Resource Biologist?
By Nick Schou   |   February 25, 2021

In this, the Journal’s third profile of the people who work behind the scenes in the biggest infrastructure project to hit Montecito in recent memory, we meet Sarah Sandstrom, Caltrans’ aquatic resource manager. According to Tim Gubbins, Caltrans District 5 Director, Sandstrom is a key player in the agency’s effort to protect the environment as […]

Montecito Family YMCA Launches Annual Fundraising Campaign
By Nick Schou   |   February 25, 2021

At 6 pm on February 17, Montecito’s beloved YMCA officially launched its annual fundraising campaign in an effort to help ensure that everyone in southern Santa Barbara County has access to community programs and resources that support youth development, healthy living, social responsibility, and struggling families. This year, the YMCA hopes to raise $120,000 to […]

Longtime Montecito Cafe Waitress Subject of a Local GoFundMe Drive
By Nick Schou   |   February 18, 2021

A week ago, the former manager of the Montecito Inn’s Café, Arielle Chang, manager of the marketplace, gave notice to the Journal about the fate of Barbara Dutra, a manager of the restaurant who has fallen on hard times with stage four colon cancer. “Barbara has worked with us for fifteen years,” said Chang. “She […]

City of Carpinteria Asks California for COVID-19 Economic Relief
By Nick Schou   |   February 18, 2021

On February 8, Carpinteria Mayor Wade Nomura sent a letter to State Senator Monique Limón asking for her support for a proposal to provide economic relief to local businesses based on economic losses per square footage.  “Although some businesses in the city have been allowed to gradually reopen with protections in place, business activities within […]

American Riviera Bank Helps Local Businesses Obtain a Slice of Federal Stimulus
By Nick Schou   |   February 18, 2021

Sometimes it takes a global pandemic to highlight the crucial role that community banks play in rescuing local businesses from the economic nightmare that comes with a year-long statewide shutdown. For American Riviera Bank (ARB), which opened in 2006 thanks to about 400 local shareholders who put up roughly $25 million in start-up cash, the […]

‘Coffee With a Black Guy’ Creator James Joyce Announces Santa Barbara Mayoral Bid
By Nick Schou   |   February 11, 2021

Four years ago, James Joyce III began an ambitious project called “Coffee With a Black Guy.” The idea was simple: Using a combination of wit, humor, and blunt honesty, Joyce sought to help Santa Barbara residents engage in a frank dialogue about issues relating to race and politics, both in our community and nationwide. The […]

Meet Dave Emerson, Interim Highway 101 Corridor Manager
By Nick Schou   |   February 4, 2021

Last time inthis ongoing series of profiles of the people leading the 101 Freeway widening project currently taking place in Carpinteria, Summerland, and Montecito, we introduced you to the project’s head honcho, Fred Luna, director of project delivery and construction for the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments. This month, we introduce readers to another […]

Paul Madsen Finally Digs Out of Debris Flow that Buried His Home
By Nick Schou   |   February 4, 2021

Three years after a January 9, 2018 debris flow half-buried Paul Madsen’s home, the Montecito resident who lives on Posilipo Lane adjacent to the Rosewood Miramar Beach has finally dug himself out of the mud. Excavation work that has been underway for the past few weeks is scheduled to wrap up later this week. According […]

With Statewide Lifting of Stay-at-Home Order, Outdoor Dining Finally Returns to Santa Barbara County
By Nick Schou   |   February 4, 2021

Just a day after California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the end of a months-long, statewide stay-at-home order, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department officially allowed outdoor dining to take effect at exactly 8 am on Tuesday, January 26. According to First District Supervisor Das Williams, he first heard word of the coming news over […]

The Great Montecito Copper Water Caper, Continued
By Nick Schou   |   January 28, 2021

Readers of this column are already aware of the bizarre situation unfolding on Montecito’s Middle Road, where the Montecito Water District (MWD) recently informed resident homeowner Trev Broudy of abnormally high copper levels in his drinking water. Subsequent tests showed that a stray electrical current was likely responsible for causing the copper to leach into […]

After the Deluge
By Nick Schou   |   January 21, 2021

Three years after Montecito’s devastating debris flows, some memories just won’t fade away Although the mud is gone, and most of the rocks have been either carted away or stacked in piles nearby, the intersection of Hot Springs Road and Olive Mill Road still bears witness to the work that remains to be done before […]

One Fortunate Feline
By Nick Schou   |   January 21, 2021

December 29, 2020 started out as just another regular day for the cat-rescue volunteers at Santa Barbara’s Animal Shelter Assistance Program (ASAP), a private nonprofit group that helps the county’s animal control agency find homes for abandoned cats. “We were operating on a very limited scale because of COVID,” said Becky Morrill, ASAP’s shelter operations […]

Watt’s Going On With Trevor Broudy’s Water Supply?
By Nick Schou   |   January 14, 2021

Trevor Broudy could be forgiven for thinking he might just be the unluckiest person in Montecito. The Middle Road homeowner’s troubles began early last year, when Bacall, his beloved golden retriever, began to rapidly and inexplicably lose weight. Aside from taking his pet to various veterinarians, Broudy stopped giving Bacall tap water to drink and […]

Montecito Trails Foundation Celebrates New Year With Trash Pickup on Local Trails
By Nick Schou   |   January 14, 2021

On December 31, the Montecito Trails Foundation (MTF) held its inaugural New Year’s Eve trash pickup event on local trails, with dozens of members fanning out along some 90 miles of trails in the front country above town as well as community trails within Montecito, Summerland, and Carpinteria. Because of COVID-19 concerns, the group encouraged […]

Somebody’s Watching You, But Who’s Watching Them? Welcome to the Weird World of the Stalkers of Celebrity Stalkers
By Nick Schou   |   January 7, 2021

Montecito’s Unique Stalker of Celebrity Stalkers Catch and Release The Montecito Journal’s investigation into the shadowy world of the stalkers who stalk celebrity stalkers began, in more ways than one, with a simple cup of coffee. On a weekday afternoon in mid-October, a Journal editor was about to leave a local coffee shop when he […]

101 Freeway Construction Holiday Update
By Nick Schou   |   December 31, 2020

Note to readers: This update covers the time period from Dec. 20, 2020 to Jan. 9, 2021. Crews will not work on Dec. 24, 25, 31, and Jan. 1 in observance of the holidays. Drive safe and enjoy the break! Closures: Northbound Highway 101 Sunday nights, 9:00 pm – 5:00 am, 1 lane: N Padaro […]

Meet the Head Honcho for 101 Freeway Widening Project
By Nick Schou   |   December 31, 2020

Assuming that Montecito makes it through the next few years without any major wildfires, floods, mudslides, earthquakes, or tsunamis (okay, so that last potential natural disaster seems about as likely as a meteor strike), then the biggest story that will affect everyone in town for the foreseeable future is the 101 Freeway widening project. With […]

Santa Barbara Salvation Army Toy Drive Helps Hundreds of Families Celebrate Christmas
By Nick Schou   |   December 31, 2020

The shortest day of the year turned out to be an unexpectedly generous one for needy Santa Barbara area drive families. From 9 am to 6 pm on Monday, December 21, the Santa Barbara Salvation Army held a food and toy drive at its headquarters on Hollister Avenue, providing gifts of food and toys to […]

The Little Fire Engine That Could
By Nick Schou   |   December 24, 2020

You might recognize Dana Newquist and his 1937 Ford Fire Engine from Montecito’s annual Fourth of July parade, which he cofounded in 1996. Newquist bought the engine about 20 years ago from a Hollywood producer who used the vehicle for only a day – the lovingly restored, bright-red truck still bears the previous owner’s initials […]