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

Hard Work Pays Off for Local Scholars
By Nick Schou   |   May 21, 2020

In an otherwise dismal end to the academic year, there’s some late-breaking good news for nearly 2,000 local students heading on to college or graduate-school. On May 15, the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara awarded college scholarships totaling more than $6 million, providing an average $3,357 per recipient. The foundation is the nation’s largest community-based […]

Civil Rights Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of Lompoc Federal Prison Inmates
By Nick Schou   |   May 21, 2020

Although it houses just 1,162 people behind bars – not to mention a healthy supply of razor wire – Lompoc Federal Prison already has no less than 900 inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19. That’s not only well more than 70 percent of the prison’s population, it’s also roughly half the number of people […]

Will Montecito Go Full Speed Ahead with Desalinated Water?
By Nick Schou   |   May 21, 2020

This month, roughly 4,600 households in Montecito and Summerland received a special insert along with their monthly water bill. “WATER RATE UPDATE!” the flyer declared in urgent all caps, adding that the “Montecito Water District has Plans for Delivering a Secure Water Future.” Stating that its customers “want their drinking water to come from local, […]

‘A Time of Innovation’: Santa Barbara-area Schools Wade into the Uncharted Territory of ‘Remote Learning’
By Nick Schou   |   May 17, 2020

On Friday, March 13, yes Friday the 13th, all schools in California, public and private, closed their doors for the foreseeable future. Then Santa Barbara, like much of the rest of the state, had at most a single week to switch to an entirely new, online model of education, by now known to most as […]

Will Montecito Go Full Speed Ahead with Desalinated Water?
By Nick Schou   |   May 17, 2020

This month, roughly 4,600 households in Montecito and Summerland received a special insert along with their monthly water bill. “WATER RATE UPDATE!” the flyer declared in urgent all caps, adding that the “Montecito Water District has Plans for Delivering a Secure Water Future.” Stating that its customers “want their drinking water to come from local, […]

Montecito Sanitary District Teams with UCSB to Test Feces for COVID-19
By Nick Schou   |   May 7, 2020

Just how many Montecito residents have the dreaded coronavirus, aka COVID-19? Or to put it another way: Just how much COVID-19 is in Montecito’s collective supply of excreta? Thanks to an ongoing COVID-19 tracing project by Dr. Patricia Holden, a professor of environmental microbiology at UC Santa Barbara, and the Montecito Sanitary District (MSD), we […]

Santa Barbara Beekeepers Guild Hosts a Bee-Friendly Garden Contest
By Nick Schou   |   May 7, 2020

Ever since 2013, the Santa Barbara Beekeepers Guild, an offshoot of the Santa Barbara Beekeepers Association, has dedicated itself to educating children about bees and other important pollinators by bringing live insects to school. The guild, which has about 85 members, both bee enthusiasts and beekeepers, also provides free bee rescues to local residents, so […]

How to Buy a Montecito Mansion During a Global Pandemic
By Nick Schou   |   May 7, 2020

Last Friday, I took a guided tour of a charming abode hidden at the end of a long and curving driveway on East Mountain Road. Located just a block away from the San Ysidro Trailhead, the property included an historical guest cottage (believed to have once belonged to Priscilla Presley), and a home office above […]

When it Comes to Maintaining the Sewers, the Sanitary District’s Work Never Stops
By Nick Schou   |   April 30, 2020

Earlier this year, before the COVID-19 emergency, I took a tour of the Montecito Sanitary District’s waste treatment facility, where the town’s collective fecal matter is slowly bio-engineered into top-notch soil fertilizer that ends up on the shelves of our local gardening emporiums (see “Montecito’s Most Unusual Harvest,” Montecito Journal, February 12). Part of my […]

Santa Barbara Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Sues Santa Barbara County
By Nick Schou   |   April 30, 2020

You might recognize the Santa Barbara Coalition for Responsible Cannabis from various letters to the editor and reader-submitted editorials that have run in the Montecito Journal, Carpinteria’s Coastal View News, and other local newspapers in Santa Barbara county. Although the group claims not to oppose cannabis per se, its members have consistently decried what they […]

Foggers for County First Responders
By Nick Schou   |   April 30, 2020

Much has been made lately in news articles about the effort to provide masks and other emergency preparedness gear to first responders in Santa Barbara. But not all such gear is wearable. To wit: One805, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting first responders, emergency preparedness and response, has just announced the purchase of 45 electric […]

Santa Barbara Zoo Hosts “Drive By, Wave Hi” Donation Parade
By Nick Schou   |   April 30, 2020

Ever since March 17, the Santa Barbara Zoo has been off limits to the public. That’s not surprising, given California’s stay-at-home restrictions, but it’s a disaster for the Zoo, its employees, and animals. In fact, the 57-year-old institution is facing the most dire financial crisis in its history. For that reason, on Saturday, April 25, […]

Fire Chief Kevin Taylor Talks COVID-19 and Crazy Weather
By Nick Schou   |   April 30, 2020

When I first met Montecito Fire Chief Kevin Taylor last year, I remember asking him what the biggest challenge was facing his department. “The weather,” he told me, quickly adding that the sheer unpredictability of Montecito’s weather threats, be they fire or rain, made his job uniquely worrisome. This week, I caught up with Taylor […]

Tommy Delgado and Hunter Self of J&S East Valley Garage
By Nick Schou   |   April 23, 2020

Back in the day, if you needed your car worked on for whatever reason, you took it to the one place in town that could do the repair job: your full-service neighborhood gas station. And for several decades in the past century, J&S East Valley Garage on East Valley Road was exactly such a spot. […]

Montecito Journal Hosts Zoom Call with Local Politicians and Business Owners
By Nick Schou   |   April 23, 2020

Last Friday morning, around 100 people joined a Zoom conference call hosted by Montecito Journal Editor-in-Chief Gwyn Lurie and Publisher Tim Buckley. The goal of the call was to generate ideas that could help businesses bounce back from the loss of revenue stemming from social-distancing restrictions that were set in place by California a month […]

The Right Stuff: Santa Barbara’s Kate Farms is Changing Lives with Plant-Based Lightning in a Bottle
By Nick Schou   |   April 23, 2020

Plant-Based Nutrition with Personal Roots Perseverance must be all over the Laver family DNA. It was there for tennis giant Rod Laver when he won the Australian Open in five sets, four hours, and one-hundred-degree heat. It was there for Laver’s nephew Richard, who, with his wife Michelle spent years developing their own home-grown nutrition […]

Pam Peterson of Hair Lounge of Montecito
By Nick Schou   |   April 16, 2020

It was mid-March when Pam Peterson, owner of the Hair Lounge of Montecito, realized she was going to have to close her popular salon. It was a more delicate decision than for many local employers, because all eight stylists who work at the shop are independent contractors, and on top of that, although California didn’t […]

Beer and Bread to the Rescue
By Nick Schou   |   April 16, 2020

For a man who brews beer, Montecito resident Kristopher Parker, the grandson of Fess Parker, the famed winemaker and 1950s television actor of Davy Crockett fame, has a somewhat surprising family background. “I grew up in the wine business,” Parker confirms. “My dad is a winemaker, but winemakers drink beer, and he also did home […]

Appleton Partners Turns 3D Printers into Mask Makers
By Nick Schou   |   April 16, 2020

During normal times, Appleton Partners, the architecture firm founded by Marc Appleton and based in Santa Barbara and Santa Monica, uses 3D printers to build models of custom houses as well as individual design features. But in mid-March, as news began to build of the health dangers posed by the looming coronavirus pandemic, the firm […]

Village People: Slim Gomez, Matt Mosby, Caroline Geddes, and Jorge Bernabe of Montecito Natural Foods
By Nick Schou   |   April 9, 2020

During the disastrous Thomas Fire and debris flows two years ago, the entire Montecito Country Mart was closed for business with the exception of Montecito Natural Foods. That turned out to be a good thing for the town’s first responders, particularly the Montecito Fire Department, because emergency workers were laboring under high stress in unsanitary […]

Cannabis and Toilet Paper in the Coronavirus Era
By Nick Schou   |   April 9, 2020

Thanks to the fact that California has deemed cannabis to be an essential part of the state’s economy, Santa Barbara County’s cannabis industry is one of the few major employers that isn’t either completely shut down or drastically downscaled during the COVID-19 pandemic. CARP Growers, which represents legally licensed Carpinteria cannabis farms such as Autumn […]

Silverhorn Plans New Designs for Post-Coronavirus Era
By Nick Schou   |   April 9, 2020

Although it had to close its design studio on Coast Village Road and boutique shop inside the Four Seasons Hotel a week ago, Montecito’s Silverhorn Jewelers isn’t letting the coronavirus epidemic stall its preparations for the future. “All our employees are working from home since we are listed as an unnecessary business,” says Anne Luther, […]

Santa Barbara Tourism Update
By Nick Schou   |   April 9, 2020

In the past few weeks, hundreds of Montecito and Santa Barbara residents have been laid off or furloughed in the wake of the social distancing and shelter at home mandates issued in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. To get a sense of how this has already affected Santa Barbara’s tourism and hospitality industries, we […]

Pee, Poop and Paper Only, Please!
By Nick Schou   |   April 2, 2020

Eagle-eyed readers of this esteemed journal may have noticed the Montecito Sanitary District’s public service ads that have run in the paper the last two weeks urging residents not to flush wet wipes down the drain. “SAVE YOUR PIPES, DON’T FLUSH WIPES!” the announcement reads, informing customers that supposedly flushable disinfectant wipes can clog both […]

A Coronavirus Update from Montecito Fire Department Chief Kevin Taylor
By Nick Schou   |   April 2, 2020

Based on the rush of emergency supply hoarding that has gone on for the past few weeks, it seems reasonable to suggest that most Montecito residents weren’t exactly prepared for the COVID-19 crisis when it first hit two weeks ago. Fortunately for us, the Montecito Fire Department (MFD) has been preparing for the event for […]

Santa Barbara’s Stitch Witch Now on Mask Duty
By Nick Schou   |   April 2, 2020

A decade ago, after working at Nordstrom for several years, Ellen Sztuk took a lunch break one day and called up her husband, telling him she was going to quit her job. That night, when she came home from work, her husband asked her what she could possibly be thinking. “I told him that I […]

Friendship Center, Easy Lift, and Bucket Brigade Team Up for Home Food Deliveries
By Nick Schou   |   April 2, 2020

Since 1979, Montecito’s non-profit Friendship Center has provided group therapy for senior citizens from Monday through Friday at its rustic headquarters on Eucalyptus Lane. Normally by mid-morning on a weekday, the center would be a buzz of activity, with caregivers dropping off members to enjoy a day full of live music, therapy dog yoga, talks […]

Tecolote Book Shop’s Mary Sheldon
By Nick Schou   |   April 2, 2020

Don’t even try to tell Mary Sheldon about how COVID-19 is hurting local businesses. After all, the owner of Tecolote Book Shop in Montecito’s Upper Village has been a bookseller for 30 years, the last 20 of which had the misfortune of taking place after the unprecedented rise of online shopping spearheaded by Amazon. Technically, […]

Village People: Jett, Jim, Josh, Mike, and Fabian of Village Auto Repair
By Nick Schou   |   March 26, 2020

Last week – in the middle of the mess of coronavirus-related closures and several days of seemingly nonstop rain – the inevitable happened: I got a flat tire. The tire pressure light on my Prius had been on for a few days, so I did what any sensible busy person would do and swung by […]

Montecito’s Bucket Brigade Goes Shopping
By Nick Schou   |   March 26, 2020

Not even an epic coronavirus pandemic can slow down Abe Powell. The founder of the Bucket Brigade who became a local hero in Montecito after the 1/9 debris flow, when he led local residents in an impromptu effort to dig out their neighbors’ homes, is now taking a front-line role in educating the public about […]

Spring Baby Season Adds Urgency to Wildlife Rescue
By Nick Schou   |   March 26, 2020

Although for humans it might seem like life has come to a complete stop, the cycle of life and rebirth in the natural world around us continues. This pattern is never more striking than during spring, however, which to wildlife rescue experts has another name: “Baby Season,” which is when mammals produce the bulk of […]

Pet Fostering in a Pandemic
By Nick Schou   |   March 26, 2020

Summerland resident Lee Heller has lived in Santa Barbara County, including Montecito, for the past 23 years, and has been active in animal services for another few decades before that. She’s also a longtime volunteer with the cat-centric Animal Shelter Assistance Program, or ASAP, which is based in Goleta. According to Heller, animal shelters throughout […]

The Solo Joy of Sunrise Summitting
By Nick Schou   |   March 26, 2020

One person who has no problem practicing social distancing in Montecito’s front country is Andrea Strand, 42, a registered nurse and nurse practitioner who gets up well before dawn each morning to ride her bike up various paved inclines, especially Gibraltar Road, with the goal of reaching the top by sunrise. “I’m the unofficial hill […]

Social Distancing Now Mandatory on Montecito’s Trails
By Nick Schou   |   March 26, 2020

Despite mounting fears over the COVID-19, aka the “coronavirus,” on March 24, the U.S. Forest Service officially declared that the extensive trail network in the hills above Montecito will remain open for recreational activities until further notice. The news came as a relief to Ashlee Mayfield, president of the Montecito Trail Foundation (MTF), in part […]

Organic Soup Kitchen Expands Delivery Service During Coronavirus Scare
By Nick Schou   |   March 19, 2020

In the past several days, the so-called coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic has spread into California and registered its first infection in Santa Barbara. On March 13, Santa Barbara’s Organic Soup Kitchen announced it is expanding its delivery service to help people stay in and stay healthy during the health scare. “We produce soup and deliver […]

Debbie Ousey, Montecito Coffee Shop
By Nick Schou   |   March 19, 2020

If you’ve ever had breakfast or lunch at the Montecito Coffee Shop – it’s the restaurant next to the San Ysidro Pharmacy at the intersection of East Valley and San Ysidro roads – then you may have been waited on by a petite and unassuming woman who seems to know her way around the establishment. […]

The Heart of Dankness
By Nick Schou   |   March 12, 2020

A long–simmering conflict over cannabis odor and pesticide use continues in Carpinteria Smell, What Smell? On a recent afternoon, Hans Brand steers his electric golf cart-type vehicle from the main office of his Carpinteria cannabis farm to a sprawling greenhouse that seems big enough to fit a football field inside it. Inside the structure, at […]

The Los Padres Crew
By Nick Schou   |   February 27, 2020

About four miles and 3,500 vertical feet uphill from the San Ysidro Trailhead, a Los Padres Forest Association (LPFA) work crew wearing hardhats printed in block letters with their names, are wielding hand hoes. They’re fixing a somewhat crumbling ridge dotted with small bushes and the scorched skeletons of small trees that burned in the […]

Let It Flow
By Nick Schou   |   February 13, 2020

The Montecito Sanitary District (MSD) was formed in 1947 with the sole purpose of collecting, treating and disposing of the community’s wastewater, but it didn’t actually come online as a completed sewage system and treatment facility until the early 1960s. Today, the MSD serves approximately 3,100 customers in Montecito, with only a scattered number of […]

Meet Your 37th Assembly District Candidates
By Nick Schou   |   February 6, 2020

As evidenced by the January 27 debate between First District Supervisor Das Williams and challenger Laura Capps – the Montecito Journal Media Group’s standing-room-only event at the Music Academy of the West’s Hahn Hall – we’ve been paying a lot of attention to local politics of late. Continuing with that mission, we offer this guide […]