Cristal's Blog


May 6, 2024

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Nestled between the majestic mountains and the glistening Pacific Ocean, Santa Barbara stands as a testament to architectural ingenuity, cultural richness, and timeless beauty. At the heart of this vibrant city lies the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara (AFSB), honoring creativity, education, and preservation. With a mission to promote quality in architecture, art, and design while fostering a deep understanding of excellence in our urban environment, AFSB has become an indispensable pillar of cultural enrichment for both North and South Santa Barbara County.

The two-story home of the AFSB, with its second floor terrace above the portico, and a wood sign in front.

Visionary Pursuits: AFSB's Mission

In a world where the built environment shapes our daily experiences and influences our perceptions, AFSB stands as a visionary force, championing the importance of architectural education and appreciation. Their mission is not merely to fill a gap in Santa Barbara County's education system for art, architecture, and design but to ignite a passion for creativity, innovation, and beauty in every individual they reach. AFSB strives to cultivate a deep-seated understanding of the intrinsic connection between architecture and community through a diverse array of programs, inspiring future generations to become stewards of our built heritage.

Three images side by side: the first people at an event, the second a building and the third people sitting in a garden

Experience AFSB: A World of Possibilities

As you step through the doors of the AFSB in downtown Santa Barbara, you are greeted with a sense of possibility, creativity, and wonder. Here, artistry flourishes, innovation thrives, and the boundaries of imagination are pushed to new heights. AFSB offers experiences designed to cater to every interest and inclination, from immersive youth programs and events workshops to captivating art exhibitions. Whether you're a seasoned architect, a budding artist, a student interested in architecture, or simply a curious enthusiast, there's something for everyone within the walls of AFSB.

A triptych of photos showing high school students taking advantage of educational opportunities through AFSB

Explore, Engage, Enrich: AFSB's Program Offerings

AFSB offers diverse programs designed to inspire, educate, and enrich through its various special events. Perhaps you’d be interested in attending any of the thought-provoking lectures led by industry experts, where topics ranging from sustainable design to historic preservation are explored with depth and insight. There are also ongoing art exhibits, gallery openings, artist talks and lectures..

AFSB’s educational programs are designed to nurture future architects and designers by teaching design excellence. The organization helps young people experience some of Santa Barbara’s finest designs and better appreciate the inspiration our built environment offers our everyday lives. through programs such as Kids Draw Architecture and the High School Architectural Design Competition. Scholarships are also awarded annually to local students pursuing college-level studies in architectural and related fields.

A group of people in front of the Lobero Theater on a walking tour with AFSB.

Architectural Walking Tours: Discovering Santa Barbara's Heritage

Among AFSB's crown jewels are its Architectural Walking Tours, which offer a window into the soul of Santa Barbara's rich architectural heritage. These tours are led by knowledgeable docents and provide a captivating glimpse into the city's past, present, and future. From the iconic landmarks of downtown Santa Barbara to the hidden gems tucked away in its historic districts, each tour is a journey of discovery waiting to unfold.

It all began back in 1989 when a small group led by highly knowledgeable volunteer docents offered a Saturday walking tour of the downtown area. These tours focused on architectural styles, significant and historic buildings, aesthetics, past and present building usage, and landscape history.

In 2001, a Sunday tour was added due to the popularity of the Saturday walking tours. The Sunday tour continued the history of art and architecture of downtown Santa Barbara as it was reborn after the 1925 earthquake. To this day, tours are available every Saturday and Sunday at 10 AM, led by a dedicated and knowledgeable group of volunteer docents. Join them for a weekend tour or ask about how to become a tour docent yourself! Reservations are recommended as a courtesy to the docents.

On the Sabado (Saturday) Tour, you’ll see the historic center of downtown Santa Barbara to celebrate the rich cultural heritage left by the first Spanish and Mexican settlers and those giants of Southern California architecture. This tour leaves from the City Hall steps at De la Guerra Plaza at 10:00 am, and is an easy stroll lasting approximately two hours.

Sabado (Saturday) Walking Tour:

  • Casa de La Guerra
  • City Hall
  • Santa Barbara News-Press
  • La Placita buildings, the 19th-century center of Santa Barbara
  • El Paseo, the restaurant, courtyard, and commercial spaces
  • Meridian Studios
  • Lobero Theatre (1924)
  • Lobero Office Building by Julia Morgan, architect of Hearst Castle
  • Santa Barbara Recreation Center (1912)
  • Castillo Building Masonic building (1924)
  • Montecito Bank, designed by Myron Hunt and said to be modeled on a basilica in Sicily
  • Hill-Carrillo Adobe (1828)

The Domingo (Sunday)Tour focuses on the historic art and architecture of downtown Santa Barbara as it was reborn after the 1925 earthquake. Meet across the street from the library on Anapamu Street at 10 am for this easy stroll lasting approximately two hours.

Domingo (Sunday) Walking Tour:

  • Pre- and Post-Earthquake Santa Barbara
  • Santa Barbara Central Library (1917)
  • La Arcada (1930)
  • East Figueroa Buildings
  • San Marcos Building (1913; 1926)
  • Santa Barbara Museum of Art (1914-1937)
  • Granada Theater (1924)
  • Upper Hawley Building (1887)
  • 1301 State Street
  • Arlington Theater (1930)
  • US Bankruptcy Court (1946-47)
  • Santa Barbara Medical Clinic Building (1920)
  • Trinity Episcopal Church (1919)
  • Plus many more, including Notre Dame School, Yoga Center, and Our Lady of Sorrows Church
  • Refer to the Domingo Tour meeting location map on the website during Public Library construction.

As a leading real estate professional in Santa Barbara, I wholeheartedly endorse the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara and its unwavering dedication to enhancing our community through education, engagement, and advocacy. Additionally, I take pride in my standing as the top-ranked realtor in Santa Barbara and Montecito, among over 60,000 Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices agents worldwide. As such, I'm committed to utilizing my wealth of knowledge and experience to assist you in navigating the intricacies of buying and selling property in our area. Reach out to me at (805) 886-9378 or via email at to arrange a complimentary consultation. Let's join forces to honor the beauty, innovation, and timeless charm of Santa Barbara's architectural wonders together.

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Client Reviews

“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