Cristal's Blog


February 15, 2024

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In the coastal haven of Santa Barbara, where sun-kissed landscapes meet the tranquility of the Pacific Ocean, there's a unique connection between the community and the magnificent trees that grace the city. More than their aesthetic charm, trees hold an intrinsic connection with the real estate landscape here. It's time to "Hug a Santa Barbara Tree Today" and explore the harmony between urban living and the untouched beauty of nature.

A drone shot of the Carpinteria coastline, with blue ocean, white surf, and sandy beach, along with homes, the Santa barbara Polo Club, and mountains in the background.

Trees: An Invaluable Resource

The recent storms resulting in extensive loss of majestic and often revered mature trees here, and in Northern California as well, are a stark reminder that each Santa Barbara tree is an invaluable resource. Together, the city’s trees provide more than $2 million in annual benefits: from stormwater and carbon dioxide reduction to reduced energy costs. That’s why the community's Parks Division Forestry Program cares for over 23,000 street trees found here on the American Rivera. And some, like our Moreton Bay Fig, believed to be the largest Ficus Macrophylla in the United States, have become popular attractions. Planted in 1877 from a cutting, it now has its own Instagram Page.

The backyard of a home with a pair of mature trees and a swing in the foreground.

Not only does the city appreciate trees, but homeowners here also admire their spectacular beauty. And for good reason. Investing in a property adorned with trees offers a multitude of advantages listed below. Plus, having an abundance of trees can boost property value.

A little wooden footbridge over a creek amongst trees and shrubbery.

History of Tree Admiration

There’s a good reason behind all the efforts put forth on behalf of the trees of Santa Barbara. Street trees add texture, color, and fragrance while providing shade, which prolongs the life of asphalt. But, the love and admiration of trees is not new. The European druids worshiped oaks; redwoods were a part of American Indian rituals; and Ancient Greeks, Romans, and scholars during the Middle Ages recognized trees in their literature. Then there are the dryads and tree nymphs: tree spirits that are important characters in many ancient Greek myths.

Famous Original Tree Huggers

In more modern times, naturalist John Muir and President Theodore Roosevelt became well known for valuing the wilderness, including trees. They established the modern conservation movement along with the National Park System and National Park Service.

Ansel Adams, the revered grandfather of landscape photography, immortalized trees as one of his most iconic subjects. His pioneering work not only defined the genre of nature photography but also left an indelible mark on the art of photography as a whole.

More recently, Julia Butterfly Hill, an environmental activist, spent more than 2 years living in a 180-foot-tall, estimated 1,500-year-old California redwood tree to prevent loggers from cutting it and other old-growth redwoods down. Her book, The Legacy of Luna, is a classic among environmentalists.

A meandering pathway through small boulders, native plants and trees, down to a green lawn below.

Here are 8 reasons to love the trees of Santa Barbara:

1) Trees Produce Oxygen
Human life could not exist if there were no trees. A mature, leafy tree produces enough oxygen per season for 10 people. What many people don't realize is that the forest also acts as a giant filter that cleans the air we breathe. Trees help cleanse the air by intercepting airborne particles, reducing heat, and absorbing such pollutants as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. They remove this air pollution by lowering air temperature, through respiration, and by retaining particulates.

2) Trees Clean the Soil
The term phytoremediation is the scientific word for the absorption of dangerous chemicals and other pollutants that enter the soil. Trees can either store harmful pollutants or actually transform the pollutant into less harmful forms. Trees filter sewage and farm chemicals, reduce the effects of animal wastes, clean roadside spills, and provide a barrier from water runoff into our streams.

3) Trees Control Noise Pollution
Trees muffle urban noise almost as effectively as stone walls. When planted at strategic points in a neighborhood or around your Santa Barbara home, trees can lessen the annoyance from major freeway and airport noise.

4) Trees Slow Storm Water Runoff
Flash flooding is reduced by trees. When fully grown, one Colorado blue spruce, either planted or growing wild, can intercept more than 1000 gallons of water annually. Underground water-holding aquifers are recharged with this slowing down of water runoff. Recharged aquifers counter drought.

5) Trees Are Carbon Sinks
To produce its food, a tree absorbs and locks away carbon dioxide in the wood, roots, and leaves. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas understood by a consensus of world scientists to be a major cause of global warming and climate change. A forest is a carbon storage area—or a sink—that can lock up as much carbon as it produces. This locking-up process stores carbon as wood so it does not infiltrate the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas.

6) Trees Provide Shade and Cooling
Trees are best known for producing shade, resulting in making Santa Barbara streets cooler in the summer. Studies have shown areas without cooling shade from trees can become heat islands, with temperatures as much as twelve degrees higher than surrounding areas.

7) Trees Act as Windbreaks
During windy and cold seasons, trees located on the windward side act as windbreaks. A windbreak can lower home heating bills by up to 30%. Wind reduction can also reduce the drying effect on soil and vegetation behind the windbreak and help keep precious topsoil in place.

8) Trees Fight Soil Erosion
Erosion control has always started with tree and grass planting projects. Tree roots bind the soil and their leaves break the force of wind and rain on the soil. Trees fight soil erosion, conserve rainwater, and reduce water runoff and sediment deposits after storms.

Neighborhood Tree Planting Opportunities in Santa Barbara

The city welcomes working with community members in growing our urban forest. For many years, Forestry staff has coordinated tree planting opportunities for Santa Barbara residents interested in planting trees in street parkways. Community tree plantings typically focus on neighborhoods and involve youth, community groups, and other volunteers. If you are interested in a neighborhood planting project, call our Arborist at (805) 564-5433.

Now that you understand the profound reasons to love the trees of Santa Barbara, it becomes evident why residing in a community that prioritizes such precious resources is truly exceptional.

One of our tree-lined – indeed, tree-rich -- communities is ready to welcome you when you discover your new dream residence. I am eager to assist by including your current property in my portfolio of fine homes in the area, and handling the complexities of finding and moving to your new abode in Montecito, Hope Ranch or any of Santa Barbara’s upscale communities. Feel free to reach out by calling me at (805) 886-9378 or sending an email to

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“It was an emotional experience selling our mother’s home in Montecito that we all loved so much but Cristal made the process easier on our whole family by guiding us through the transaction every step of the way. She knows the market so well and everything she recommended was on point including the asking price, painting, and staging the home, which looked beautiful and helped the buyer envision her new home. We sold it the first day it hit the market with an offer above asking! Cristal did an incredible job communicating with us and the buyer to ensure that the transaction would run smoothly. We highly recommend using Cristal, she was a pleasure to work with! ”

- J & A

“Cristal is a pleasure to work with! Her knowledge of the local real estate market coupled with her amazing listening skills resulted in her showing us an array of homes that were all excellent choices. Her low-pressure patient attitude made us feel extremely comfortable with the whole process. I cannot recommend her highly enough.”

- M.F.

“Cristal Clarke is #1 in her field - and you don't become #1 by luck. Cristal works harder, and longer, and with more charm and patience than any real estate agent I have ever worked with in the past; her calendar has no weekend, her days have no clocks, her only concern is selling your property as soon as possible and for the best price on the market. Am I a fan? You bet!”

- P.B.

“We have used Cristal now several times and cannot express how grateful we are for her expertise, dedication, and unwavering support throughout the entire home-buying process. Cristal is knowledgeable, patient and attentive. Her attention to detail is remarkable, and she consistently went above and beyond to provide us with all the information and resources we needed to make informed decisions. Cristal is a skillful negotiator and advocate. She can navigate complex negotiations with professionalism and grace and felt like a true partner to us in the home-buying process. Cristal has a genuine passion for real estate and a deep commitment to her clients' satisfaction. I cannot speak highly enough of Cristal and her exceptional service. She is a true expert in her field and her dedication to excellence, combined with unwavering support is the reason we choose to work with her for all our real estate buying needs.”

- T.C.

“Cristal is a top-notch realtor who sold my home before it ever went on the market. I had two competing offers that enabled me to get top dollar for my home. Not only is Cristal superb but her team is extraordinary. I cannot say enough about Cristal and her team. They are simply phenomenal, the consummate professionals, who took care of every possible detail, making the sale and transition period, smooth from our end. They are also lovely, caring people, who knew all the right professionals, to get the job done. Thank you, everyone!”

- D.R.

“I could list lots of cool adjectives to describe Cristal. All good by the way. But, that is not why I or anyone should hire Cristal. My reason for hiring her, which proved to be correct, is very simple. She got the job done. And, she does it time and time again and with zero issues. And, that is why she is one of the top agents in the country. End of subject. ”

- M.A.

“Working with Cristal was a complete pleasure. Cristal was extremely patient with us as we evaluated nearly 2 dozen homes over a span of 2 years. Her knowledge of the market is unmatched. Cristal provided us with exceptional counsel as we evaluated opportunities and negotiated pricing. The closing process was handled thoroughly and efficiently. We could not be happier with our purchase and even more happy to now call Cristal our friend.”

- D.K.

“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