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Celebrity Homes: Santa Barbara Sanctuaries of the Famous

December 7, 2018

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Santa Barbara is the secret hiding place for many of Hollywood’s ultra-rich and famous

INTX: The Internet & Television Expo, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Santa Barbara is a true oasis for the famous, which is why you’ll find so many celebrity homes here. The fact that celebrities choose to live on the American Riviera is not so surprising. What is surprising though is that Santa Barbara may be home to more celebrities per square mile than Beverly Hills. In fact, it has earned the moniker “Beverly Hills North.”

The town, known as an American treasure, sits on the Pacific Ocean just under two hours north of Los Angeles. Nestled at the base of the Santa Ynez Mountains, it offers what locals love: a backdrop of beautiful mountains and a “front yard” of Pacific Ocean and gorgeous beaches. They also appreciate the perfect Mediterranean climate. Celebrity residents value the fact that Santa Barbara is truly one of the most beautiful places in the world. They treasure the fact that they can live here without being bombarded by fans and paparazzi every time they step outside.

My friend, author Robert L. McCullough, wrote an entire book about it: Where Hollywood Hides – Santa Barbara: Celebrities in Paradise.

The book takes a look at the history of celebrities living in and around Santa Barbara. According to McCullough, it all started in 1912, long before Hollywood had a foothold in the entertainment industry. That’s the year the Flying A Studios opened in downtown Santa Barbara. One of the earliest film production facilities on the West Coast, Flying A Studios produced more than 1,000 films. Those movies put Santa Barbara on the map as a prominent center for movie magic.

A decade later, Hollywood had become the new center of international film production, but Santa Barbara never lost its celebrity allure. Since those early days, the area has continued to attract a wide range of celebrities seeking respite from the demands of Tinsel Town, a mere 90 miles away.

The quiet streets and uncrowded beaches of Montecito, Carpinteria, Hope Ranch, and Summerland have always attracted the internationally famous. This book celebrates the Santa Barbara-Hollywood relationship, paying homage to some of the show business personalities who lived here: from Charlie Chaplin, known for building the landmark Montecito Inn, to Santa Barbara’s current most famous resident Oprah. But she’s not the only star to make Santa Barbara Home these days.

Tim Allen, Steven Spielberg, Ed Asner, Kevin Costner, Julia Louis Dreyfus and her husband, writer Brad Hall all have homes

here. So, do Tom Cruise, Whoopie Goldberg, Eric Schmidt, Dick Wolf, Brian Wilson, Stevie Nicks, Jeff Bridge, and George Lucas, among others. No surprise here since Santa Barbara has some of the richest communities in Southern California -- without the limelight and paparazzi. The area is a quiet and peaceful oasis for the extremely well-to-do’s.

Oprah’s Home
The world’s most famous television talk show host, Oprah Winfrey, famously purchased a mansion in Montecito a few years back. She bought the estate for $48 million while on vacation. It didn't take Oprah long to fall in love with Montecito. Her Montecito palace is a fully renovated estate that includes 6 bedrooms, 14 bathrooms, 10 fireplaces, a modern high tech gourmet kitchen. It also has a state-of-the-art theatre, a wine cellar, a barn, orchards, two ponds, an outdoor theater, tennis court, a 4,500 sq. ft. guest house with a pool, an outdoor entertainment area, and even a man-made lake stocked with fish. Like many homes in the area, it has both mountain and ocean views.

Ellen’s Estate

Another famous talk show host is one of Oprah’s neighbors in Montecito, namely Ellen DeGeneres. Ellen and her wife Portia DeRossi bought a 13 acre estate in 2013 for $22.5 million. That was quite a deal for the two-story property listed for $26 million. Built in the late 1920s using locally quarried stones, the 10,500 square foot home has nine fireplaces and a Roman column standing in the garden that dates from 200 B.C. In fact, Ellen has purchased, renovated and sold several homes and estates in Montecito and the Santa Ynez Valley.

George Lucas

“Star Wars” creator George Lucas plunked down about $25 million for his spectacular beach house in Santa Barbara. With an estimated fortune of $3.25 billion, he snapped up the 1.7-acre estate when the price was reduced from $37.5 million. Build in

1980, the 3,540-square-foot home has 4-bedrooms in the main house with walls of glass facing the beach. The 2-bedroom guest house also has amazing ocean views. Down a long and narrow outdoor pool, there’s an exercise room and yoga room. Outside George hangs out on his brick-paver patio or his wood plank deck that surrounded the lap pool, both with ocean views

Neverland Ranch
The historic landmark once owned by Michael Jackson is also located within Santa Barbara County. The King of Pop lived in the magical paradise getaway in the Santa Ynez mountains for more than 20 years. Named after the fantasy island in the story of Peter Pan, the ranch was fully staffed when Michael and his family lived there. It even had its own theme park, and mini-zoo that housed two tigers, four giraffes and three chimpanzees. To this day, there are still several barns on the property, and a petting zoo with goats.

In 2009, Thomas J. Barrack Jr., an American private equity real estate investor, purchased this

historic landmark in his conquest for distressed celebrity properties. The property hit the market again in 2015 for $100 million and is still for sale today. I’d be happy to arrange a tour for serious buyers.

Celebrity Worthy Home For Sale
Take the Somerset Estate pictured above for example, where European and Montecito influences meet. This 5-bedroom, 6.5 bathroom single family home was built in 1918 in Montecito’s elite “Golden Quadrangle.” Combining provenance, impeccable care, skillful renovation, and tasteful updating, Somerset estate stands ready to welcome its new celebrity owner. From 1939 to the 1960s, the home’s owner, Henrik Westen, commissioned iconic architect Lutah Maria Riggs to design and oversee several alterations and additions. Landscaping of the approximately 1.6-acre grounds is believed to be attributed to prominent landscape architect Lockwood de Forest. Today, the home is an example of superior 21st-century workmanship and conveniences while honoring early 20th-century charm and class.

Other Celebrity Homes for Sale
There are many other celebrity-worthy homes for sale in Montecito, Hope Ranch or any of Santa Barbara’s upscale communities listed on my comprehensive website.  If you’d like to take a tour of any listed on my site or find out about exclusive pocket listings, call me at 805.886.9378 or email me at

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Client Reviews

“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

- S.N. Decker Ph.D.

“Living in Europe, we were to say the least, unaccustomed to the nuances of Real Estate acquisition in California and Cristal steered us through the process with absolute professionalism and personal attention to detail at every turn. Her in-depth knowledge of the market place combined with enthusiasm and drive was the only reason we secured the property of our dreams and will be forever grateful. If you are looking for personal discrete and private representation of the highest quality we suggest you look no further than Cristal Clarke.”

- Johan and Paula van den Berg

“Cristal is very straightforward, cheerful, helpful, professional and trustworthy….we felt very lucky to work with her.”

- John and Lacey Williams

“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch