On the Beat

Levy Bankrupt: Bill Levy’s timeshare commercial project at the foot of State Street was something few wanted except for Levy, his investors, and the City Council (after Levy, his friends, and his family made big donations to some councilmembers). The present council would never approve it. Yet now, even after Levy put his company into bankruptcy, new investors will be emerging to build the unwanted and unneeded timeshares, a monstrosity at the city’s front door. One informed city-watcher predicts that whoever the new outfit is will likely return to City Hall to tweak the design. But surely not enough to require City Council review, of course. Someone’s still going to make a lot of money out of this fiasco. The question is: Who are the losers and by how much?

Miramar Up for Sale: No way was Ty Warner shopping the Miramar Hotel around prior to his decision last week to sell it due to a recent “attack letter” from the Montecito Association, said Greg Rice, Warner’s executive vice president. Warner has spent $2.9 million redesigning the revamped Miramar and $1.9 million or a new easement on railroad property, Rice said. “Why would we have been spending that?” he asked, if Warner was trying to sell the property. Rice was countering a claim by Robert Collector, Montecito Association president, that Rice had been seeking buyers since August. When the association, one of Montecito’s key land-use review groups, sends “attack letters,” how do you figure you’ll get a fair shake when your project comes before it? Rice asked. Far from being supportive, the group has actively opposed “every single project we have run by them,” Rice said. Meanwhile, Rice said, since Warner’s announcement last week, he’s been getting inquiries from possible buyers.

Stonehouse Reopening: The San Ysidro Ranch’s Stonehouse Restaurant, closed for more than two years due to a fire and major renovations at Ty Warner’s upscale resort in the Montecito hills, will reopen Monday. The Stonehouse, with John Trotta as chef, will be open for dinner only until further notice (6-10 p.m.), according to Tamara Fangman, sales and marketing director. The Plow & Angel lounge in the lower level is due to reopen in “early 2007,” she told me.

Pep Boys Closing? Pep Boys has sold the property housing its auto parts store at 424 State Street, and there are reports it will be closing at some point. An employee I talked to confirmed the sale report. A downtown business source said potential tenants are sizing up the place, but employees told me they had no idea when it might close. A move to Goleta is one possibility being rumored, one employee said.

Another McCaw? According to J’Amy Brown’s column in The Independent, “We hear rumors that there will soon be another McCaw nesting in Santa Barbara. It seems Craig McCaw, ex-husband of News-Press publisher Wendy McCaw, has been looking at some very expensive homes in Montecito.” My information is that Craig has been shopping for 10,000-square-feet of office space. Craig’s wife, Susan Rasinski McCaw, carries some impressive credentials. She’s ambassador to Austria for President Bush, for whom Craig reportedly raised a lot of money in the Pacific Northwest.

Free Turkeys: According to my sources, the people who gave away hundreds of free turkeys from the front gate of their beautifully decorated East Valley Road home last week were Jim and Rosemary Towle. A nice thing for a lot of people, but, asked one Montecitan: Why free turkeys to those driving by in well-to-do Montecito and not given to the FoodBank or other nonprofits feeding the needy?

News-Press Fence: Don’t be surprised if the News-Press management does a lot of legal fencing with the city, which wants that no-permit chain link fence removed. Wendy is not one to back down. If the real reason for the blight is to shield signs on employee cars reading “McCaw Obey the Law,” wouldn’t it be easier from a PR standpoint to reach some sort of agreement with the newsroom? Trivia question: What small business flourished in the NP parking lot across Anacapa Street during the regime of owner T.M. Storke?

Raffle Baffle: The Contemporary Arts Forum claims it wants to clear up confusion between its successful million-dollar home raffles and another group’s recent less-successful raffle. CAF boardmember Joan Crawford said the CAF “watched in disbelief when another Santa Barbara Home Raffle was held by a group that decided to fly under our same acronym, CAF. The Contemporary Arts Forum staff received many calls by confused residents.” While the arts forum raffles in the past three years all sold out awarding three winners $1 million each, according to Crawford — this year’s California Academy Foundation’s Dream Home raffle awarded 260 prizes but the grand prize winner won $200,000 instead of a million-dollar home because not all tickets were sold.

You can reach Barney at 965-5205 or via He also writes a Tuesday online column at and Barney’s Weekend Picks on Fridays.

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