Santa Barbara and Its Trees

Santa Barbara and Its Trees title=
Drawing of Santa Barbara in the mid-1830s (image courtesy of Santa Barbara Historical Museum)
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By Sheila Lodge

I was much saddened by the negative comments on the City’s reaction to the unpermitted cutting down of trees on Paterna Road. Three were city owned trees on city property. One was in the front set-back of the property. City law protects its trees. All four required permits for removal.

Santa Barbara’s trees are protected because they are a vital part of its beauty, its clean air and its livability. They provide shade and a calming serenity.

In 1769 Santa Barbara was described as “dismal”. The Presidio was built in 1782 on a largely “treeless plain”. A visitor in 1793 said that there were “a few dwarf trees and groveling shrubs.”


Photo of Santa Barbara c. 1880 (photo courtesy of the Santa Barbara Historical Museum)

Some 50 years later large ornamental trees planted by new residents soften the no longer barren landscape.

Starting in the mid-19th C., noted horticulturalists imported plants from all around the world to this place where just about everything grows. Eventually Santa Barbara acquired its substantial urban forest. One-quarter of the city is covered by tree canopy.

Now whichever way you look, whether on a hill looking down or at street level looking up, you see mostly trees.

Even on parts of its main commercial street, State Street, you see mostly trees. They must not be taken for granted.

Today an estimated 320,000 trees grow along city streets, in parks and on private property, creating Santa Barbara’s urban forest. The urban forest touches the lives of Santa Barbara residents and visitors every day and profoundly enhances the city’s urban landscape as well as its economy.

Imagine what a loss it would be if the Italian Stone Pines on East Anapamu or the Magnolia trees on San Andres weren’t there. Imagine Santa Barbara without its urban forest.

Its quality of life would be dramatically and drastically reduced.

In addition to beauty trees bring many other benefits:

• Their leaves filter the air by removing dust and other particulates. They absorb carbon dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide and give off oxygen. They clean the air we breathe. • Tree roots capture rainwater and remove impurities, reducing creek and ocean pollution.

• They reduce noise levels.

• Their shade reduces the use of air-conditioning by as much as 25%.

• They reduce soil erosion.

• They increase real estate values.

• Their shade prolongs the life of asphalt.

• Workers with views of trees are generally more productive, less stressed and happier.

• Post surgery patients with views of trees recover more quickly than those without.

• People simply are nicer where there are trees; their presence reduces domestic violence.

I hope everyone will do everything they can to maintain and enhance our urban forest. We all will benefit.


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drbigness Jan 06, 2021 09:00 PM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

i agree with sheila 100%. but a fine is not enough. wealthy pay fines to get their way. jail time is what i propose. after 20 years in almost treeless san diego, i relished the trees here. in del mar and other coastal towns there, wealthy will cut down trees in dead of night to get their ocean views. so sick

dukemunson Jan 06, 2021 09:14 PM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

I’m assuming it’s humor... but the again Santa Barbara as a whole has lost its mind. Had the misfortune of hitting east beach, IV and kids world today... we’ve completely lost this town to homeless encampments and all their trash, debris, litter and craziness...what the hell are our elected officials doing... this is literally nuts! I’ve had 3 bikes stolen In the last 5 weeks!!! we used to care about the litter and ecological impact of plastic straws... now trash, debris and human waste are everywhere... what the hell SB?????

Basicinfo805 Jan 06, 2021 09:07 PM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

Jail time? Felons aren't even getting jail time these days in California. C'mon DrBigness are you serious?

dukemunson Jan 06, 2021 09:07 PM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

That’s good humor! We aren’t jailing people for felonies... but cut down a shrub on the edge of your property... jail!

Jence Jan 06, 2021 08:00 PM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

Perhaps we’ve been spoiled for too long and forgot that Santa Barbara is technically considered a “coastal desert”. The trees are beautiful and all, but I think the native landscape is just as beautiful, if not more, with the live coastal oaks and natural grasses, flora and fauna ; all the while being naturally drought tolerant and supportive of the ecosystem. Oh well,,, just my opinion.

a-1609940543 Jan 06, 2021 05:42 AM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

Imagine calling Santa Barbara's native grassland and wetland environment "dismal" and "barren."

The word 'beauty' comes up in this more than most anything actually meaningful:
like, for example, the fact that erosion and destruction of key ecosystems such as ~surprise!~ Santa Barbara's original wetlands is one of the largest contributing factors to native species endangerment, or that Italian Stone Pines are particularly drought sensitive and susceptible to bark beetles and ours have required extensive irrigation intervention which will doubtless become increasingly unsustainable as our climate changes.

Embarrassing take all around, Sheila.
It's clear that you, like the Council, are primarily concerned with maintaining Santa Barbara's Costco Croatia aesthetics, but I'd like to see the time and funds being spent here put toward changes that actually make the city more "livable" for it's residents, like a functional permit system.

a-1609991250 Jan 06, 2021 07:47 PM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

I didn't suggest that leaves pollute streams, or mention cars. I think you are replying to the wrong poster.

Per the City's own Urban Forest Management Plan, Santa Barbara's original landscape was "a largely treeless landscape of grassland and coastal wetlands." There were coast live oaks "along canyons and hillsides." They did not cover the plain. The destruction of grasslands and wetlands has been tremendously harmful to many native species, and the introduction of non-natives has contributed to the catastrophic nature of our fires.
There are many reasons to preserve our urban forest. We cannot unbuild our city, but the city's approach is aesthetic and short-sided.

Ant lion Jan 06, 2021 06:23 PM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

The barren wasteland described by Sheila was the result of cutting all the native oaks that once mostly covered the coastal plain. Perhaps it would be better if many street trees were replaced by natives, but I think the exotics are also valuable and beautiful. It's ludicrous to suggest that the leaves are polluting the streams. Finally, I hope we never consider the affect of a tree on people's cars as a factor in street tree choice. Park somewhere else if it bothers you or buy a cover.

Basicinfo805 Jan 05, 2021 09:09 PM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

Yeah Sheila you're barking up the wrong tree. The city's blowing it in this realm. Ridiculous argument.

CoastWatch Jan 04, 2021 01:04 PM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

All those "Beautiful -non-native" trees POLLUTE our creeks and waterways that are vital to the health of the beaches and ocean with all their "tree-litter"... That non-native organic material has a huge environmental impact on what was once the natural state of our creeks and waterways that feed to the ocean...

PitMix Jan 04, 2021 03:36 PM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

I never thought about that but I haven't ever read that organic matter was our biggest problem. I thought it was nutrients from fertilizers and toxins from pesticides and oil and gas that caused the most problems like red tide. Plus now they are talking more and more about micro-plastics.

sbdude Jan 04, 2021 12:23 PM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

I get that the city has control over street trees in the parkway between the sidewalk and the street. Every homeowner knows that. The guy on Paterna probably figured that since Eugenias are a) hedge plantings, b) not the official street tree, and c) not native, that he could just cut 'em down.

The bigger problem is that many of the city's street trees are terrible, and the city is notoriously inflexible in dealing with them. They are too often either ugly and messy like Evergreen Pears, ruinous to the sidewalks and sewer lines like Jacarandas and Liquidambars, or they outgrow the confines of the parkway, like Eucalyptus or the Ficus trees of upper State. But once they are there, no matter how horrible and problematic they might be, they are essentially untouchable.

theaaaron Jan 04, 2021 12:01 PM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

Mayor Lodge,
Pay the yahoos no mind. Most of our residents love having a robust urban forest and
the removals were absolutely illegal. If they had applied for a permit they would have been informed of the law but they didn't bother. Fine the heck out of them I say.

dukemunson Jan 04, 2021 12:14 PM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

You have obviously never dealt with the city before...lucky man!!!!!

biguglystick Jan 04, 2021 11:22 AM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

I have got a real complaint with the city arborist! On our street they have planted bottle bush trees up and down, lining the street. These trees are MESSY and drip sap and tiny red needles that RUIN any car unfortunate enough to have to park underneath them! When I called the City Arborist to talk about this I got an answering machine and NO call back. He doesn't give a rat's a$$. Meanwhile, neighbors complain because you have to park in front of their houses in order to avoid the drippy mess of these tress. I don't care if they are native or not, they are a MESS!!!! There are other native trees that don't absolutely ruin a car and cause a ground hazard from shedding. LOOK INTO THIS, Santa Barbara!

Minibeast Jan 06, 2021 10:54 PM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

BIGUGLYSTICK. A "ground hazard?" Thanks. I needed that laugh. Callistemons/Bottlebrush are native to Australia. Guess who does like those trees? Allen's hummingbirds, Anna's hummingbirds, Northern mockingbirds, Hooded orioles, Mourning cloaks (butterflies), Honeybees . . . In my neighborhood even the White-breasted nuthatches spend time in the Callistemons. Sometimes the Sharp-shinned hawks use the trees as a launching pad for their ambush of other birds. ---------- One of Santa Barbara's greatest charms is its vast and wonderful variety of trees and shrubs. Please try to see past your inconvenience and instead appreciate the contributions to our environment and the beauty of such living things.

Council Member ... Jan 06, 2021 06:13 PM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

It seems as if you're a bit confused, I'm not the APS representative, I representative the Westside (District 3), so I'm not really sure what you're referring to. I was elected by my constitutes to serve the whole city, even you, and I'm happy to do so.

LselStationAmba... Jan 06, 2021 05:34 AM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

He's probably busy, given that the city's been investigating his questionable ethics and potential Brown Act violations for his conduct regarding another tree case, LOL

ZeroHawk Jan 05, 2021 10:35 AM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

my lot is off of ortega near bath. drive down that block and also on Cota and notice the massive peruvian and brazilian trees. notice they are much larger than the plot allows. Notice the side walks unlevel and broken. Mission creek ground water is there and those trees suck it up and grow very large. These are just some of the trees i'm referring to. 1 month of the year, the entire block is yellow colored from the cute little flowers that rain down on us...then comes 3 months of thick heavy sap that coats our cars/windshields. We spend $10 a week to clean our vehicles due to this (otherwise i'd probably wait for rain to get it washed). The city does nothing about that either. I've pleaded with the arborist, the parks and rec, the mayor, the city council. There is no money in it for them so they ignore mostly all of the letters they receive from residents. The response if you even get one is normally half hearted at best. Our current city council members are some of the worst we could have as well as our missing Mayor ( i say this because shes been pretty much MIA since she won the election). We need change here and not more of the same. People Like Oscar Guitierrez should be removed from the city council. That guys is an @ss of the highest level. He only cares about his constiuents and the $$$ along APS. The list goes on. We need to vote some better people into these positions so we can start to take back our city. They have run our city into the ground. Honestly...i've been here since 1982 and this is the absolute worst i've ever seen santa barbara. The police aren't even allowed to roust out the junkies and homeless encampments nor can they prosecute most misdemenors. Ugh....i want my sail boat now please....so i can just go...far...away

dukemunson Jan 04, 2021 11:49 AM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

We've finally found the issue that unifies damn near everyone on EDHAT (and possibly SB!)...annoyance at dealing with the City regarding it's insane permit process (and near universal denial of said permit) regarding non native trees!!!!!!!!!!

PitMix Jan 04, 2021 11:38 AM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

And bottlebrush branches randomly break off and smash your car if you are parked underneath. The breaks do not coincide with excessively wet or dry periods so there is no way to figure out when you shouldn't park under them. My neighbors avoid their trees during the spring sap period and live with the pollen the rest of the time. At least the hummingbirds and bees make use of them when the sap is running- I hate non-native trees that don't provide ANY benefit to wildlife or birds, except sometimes rats. No disrespect meant to rats.

ZeroHawk Jan 04, 2021 11:20 AM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

ok Sheila...ok. Glad you have had a chance to share your opinion. Let's just start with a few facts. 1 of the trees is on his property. If the city is so concerned about their trees on private property, they should go collect them. The others were more or less in front of his house. I applaud him and hope he fights and wins in court. This is serious local government over reach. I've shared similar experiences with the city, their 'aborist' and his opinions and rotten attitude as well. They plant NON native trees in the city and they do not maintain them. They allow giant peruvian and brazilian trees to tear up the side walks, but do little to nothing to fox those problems. When those branches start encroaching on private property, blocking out sun, tearing up pipes, and then a large branch comes down and takes pwoer lines and internet lines with it. This has happened right in front of my house and it took the city 3 days to get there (downtown...) to fix and clean it and they did a very poor half hearted job, they also hired a bunch of unskilled laborors to hack and saw at the branches on the tree once we protested it. That tree has since died due to poor pruning and management. Why aren't they up in arms about that tree? Because THEY screwed it up so it's ok? Really this city needs to get off it's high horse and start with a reality check.

biguglystick Jan 04, 2021 11:26 AM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

ZEROHAWK, Could not agree more! The city arborist should be fired. We need a better city government. The priorities are all messed up, and yes, it's overreach, for SURE.

PitMix Jan 04, 2021 11:11 AM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

Branch on city tree breaks off and smashes windshield. City says we're not liable. City tree roots invade sewer line requiring costly repair. City says we're not liable. If the buck stops at my desk, I should have the right to decide how to manage my property. If I don't, City should assume liability. They want their cake and mine also.

Babycakes Jan 04, 2021 11:06 AM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

The owner of the property should not have taken down the trees - agreed. However, looking at the "before" photos, these trees were fantasy/joke/whimsical in nature. No one raised any concerns that these "lollipop" trees had been maintained in such a manner. They had been lopped/topped as to not interfere with the homeowner's view. I do not understand why the city is spending one dime on prosecuting/fining/jailing the home owner when the entire downtown and waterfront areas are falling apart. From my perspective, it's like a roof that has a giant hole in it and rain is pouring into my house, but the focus is on polishing the doorbell button. ....and 50 feet away is a massive junkyard of frog-this and frog-that....crickets.....

a-1609785082 Jan 04, 2021 10:31 AM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

The bottom line for me is that if the City claims ownership and control of these and similar "street trees" then the City should maintain them. But they don't. It is up to the property owner to maintain them for the City following the rules laid down by our rulers.

Rinconer Jan 04, 2021 10:00 AM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

Very thankful that our community values trees.
Trees cannot defend themselves. Any idiot, kid, or profiteer with a saw can cut down a tree in a few minutes. Replanting another tree is not the same as one with an old existing root structure.
It is all our jobs to protect the trees.

a-1609779797 Jan 04, 2021 09:03 AM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

The first drawing shows that there were few trees here early on. Why? because they need a lot of water. Our droughts are increasing. Connect the dots.

edney Jan 03, 2021 09:56 PM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

Read the regs.
https://www.santabarbaraca.gov/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?BlobID=17169

Not only do most people own the parkway, they are also legally responsible for safety and maintenance thereof. There are rules as to what you can do with your property, what you can plant (plants can't be more than 8 inches high... trees obviously can be taller but must be approved), whether you can use black plastic to kill the weeds (you can't). The City has a right of way that is often interpreted as "ownership" because of how strictly the City enforces its rights over the property. Did you know that the City can require the property owner to keep the parkway weed free? They cannot enforce that if they own the property, Parks or Streets would have to do it if they own it outright. Trees are different, and there are specific rules regarding what owners can do to the trees in the City Right of Way (not much) and now ANY tree deemed a specimen on your property needs a review and permit to remove. It can be lifting your foundation, clogging your sewer, the roots can be creating a giant dam so rain ponds in the yard and floods your garage... if the board votes no, you are SOL.
My guess is the Paterna landowner's lawyer will argue something like 15.20.090 in the link I provided and say the tree roots were pushing up the sidewalk creating a safety hazard or the fruits were slippery or something similar. The property owner is still is supposed to go through channels though and will lose and have to pay a fine...

I've dealt with Nathan Slack, the new City Arborist, on some Eugenias that were inside a fence. They were originally planted two feet apart as a hedge, but the previous owner had gotten old and had stopped maintaining the height and they'd all grown to over 20 feet. The idea was to restore them to a hedge height of 6 feet. He said no, those were trees (most hedges are made of trees) and their height made them specimens.
He gave us a letter telling us to clean the dead out for health and to not reduce the height.
In other words, he gave us work to do, and denied us the ability to restore the 50 foot line of overcrowded trees into the original hedge. In his favor, he did say if we could find an old original landscape plan approved by the city specifically calling this a hedge he would reconsider... which was impossible because the previous owners had planted the hedge form 1 foot skinny seedlings themselves multiple decades ago when no one cared.
Like I said, these Eugenias are unhealthy, they were planted inside an existing fence that was 10 feet from edge of pavement. There were 50 plants and he noted he could/would fine me per tree if I disregarded his directions.
In spite of all that, he's a pleasant guy to talk with, but has a bright close line beyond which he gives zero *bleeps*.

a-1609826863 Jan 04, 2021 10:07 PM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

The property owners on the corner of Cota and Alisos were ordered to hack their tall Eugenia hedge down to 3 1/2 feet due to safety reasons. The trunks are about 8" in diameter. It looks hideous.

qmc Jan 04, 2021 10:49 AM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

To bad the likes of Dan Condon, the City Arborist back in the 1980s and 90s, couldn't be City Arborist. He was proactive and spent much of his time in the field which upset the City pencil pushers.

edney Jan 04, 2021 10:36 AM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

The ruling was that once the Eugenias were allowed to grow to Specimen dimensions, they became a closely spaced row of street trees and were no longer a hedge.
(it is height and caliper) The Eugenias cut on Paterna possibly did not have the height dimension for specimen but definitely had the caliper

edney Jan 04, 2021 09:06 AM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

The ruling was that once the Eugenias were allowed to grow to Specimen dimensions, they became a closely spaced row of street trees and were no longer a hedge

Bird Jan 04, 2021 08:11 AM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

Sounds to me that city arborist is not acting according to the city muni. Code which says that hedges in the interior setback must be no higher than 8’. http://qcode.us/codes/santabarbara/view.php?topic=28-28_87-28_87_170

RHS Jan 03, 2021 06:24 PM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

The arguments posed her by Lodge are elitist. Her view is that she knows best. And she incorrectly states the facts. The parkway is not city property. It is the part of a lot that abuts a street and over which the city claims some sort of zoning or easement use. As noted before, it is highly unlikely that these plants were put in the ground knowing of that claim. It came many years later. Secondly, these were not trees but bushes. The city's rights seem to be to control the removal of "trees" from this area. Had the plants been two foot high no one would have said anything about their removal. These were plants that normally would be used as hedges or shrubs but were "trained" to look like trees. This does not make them trees. No where in nature do they look like trees. So let's talk about trees and the city. Lodge shows beautiful Jacaranda trees in here essay. The city is planning to remove very old and important Jacaranda trees on Mission Street to accommodate bikers. I hope her objections hold for this act of destruction. But probably not as she seems to easily segue from concerns about private behaviors as contrasted to public acts.

biguglystick Jan 04, 2021 11:13 AM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

Thank you, RHS, I couldn't have said it better myself. Her views here are elitist. The city does whatever it wants and the rest of us be damned.

RHS Jan 04, 2021 10:39 AM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

AHCHOO: Here is a map which seems to show the plots of each SB lot and the street right of way and location. If I read this correctly it appears that the streets are often immediately abutting the lots while in other cases there is a large gap. Sometimes the streets appear to be built on one side of the easement leaving no buffer while the other side of the street has a huge margin. Probably there is something technical here that I do not understand but if it is as it appears, some lots are not in the street easement and some are. https://maps.santabarbaraca.gov/Html5Viewer/Index.html?configBase=/Geocortex/Essentials/REST/sites/City_of_Santa_Barbara__
Public/viewers/SantaBarbaraPublic/virtualdirectory/Resources/Config/Default&
run=ParcelQuery&apnValue=019-090-015

RHS Jan 04, 2021 09:54 AM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

Bird, the "elitist" aspect of the comment is to the point that Lodge, without any economic investment in the issue, thinks it appropriate for the government to protect her interest in the benefits of trees without giving the person actually impacted by the problem a good alternative. It is also interesting to me that the values she promotes are somewhat alien to the idea that we should protect our native flora (and fauna) from invasive non-native plants. Would we decide to plant the Carizzo Plains with pine trees to give us more oxygen and shade and some camp sites? Perspective is important and the idea that the chance tree here and there is sacred is not a healthy balance.

Bird Jan 03, 2021 10:07 PM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

I don't think it is "elitist" to speak for the trees --- and under the code, chapter 15.20 and sections under Urban Forestry. And the Eugenias there were trees, single trunked, not "bushes", as defined in the code, those with multiple trunks. True, they had been tortured into unnatural shapes, probably without permission. Why is it "elitist" to stand up for the Municipal Code requirements? If it is anything beyond purely selfish, it is elitist to maintain one has the right to chop down what are public-owned trees in the City's easement zone for one's own selfish benefit! Thank you, Sheila Lodge, for providing information about the city's historic self and our present urban forest.

Ahchooo Jan 03, 2021 08:37 PM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

RHS, on my street the parkway is definitely not part of private lots. I don’t know about your area, but our parkway is city property. Also, I have seen very large, old Eugenia trees that do look like trees. I don’t like them, but if left natural, they can be tree-like.

Ahchooo Jan 03, 2021 06:18 PM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

And yes, I do understand that the city has say over trees that are actually *on* residents’ private property.

Ahchooo Jan 03, 2021 06:17 PM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

In one of the recent stories, commenters said that the “street trees” are on the homeowners property. I don’t know how it is everywhere, it might vary. But on the Westside where I live, the street trees are definitely not part of my plot. I know the exact dimensions of my plot, and the parkway is not part of it. I would still be upset if the parkway tree messed up my plumbing or my view, but I would know it is not mine.

PitMix Jan 04, 2021 07:53 AM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

On my lot, westside, I own the parcel to the curbline. City has easement over 1st 10 ft.

Watcher237 Jan 03, 2021 06:02 PM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

In the original story, the fact the trees were on public property was not clear enough. This contributed to the triggering of the reminder of what a bad experience dealing with the city is, especially regarding tree maintenance. Only a week before we had another story of an elderly woman who was being prevented from removing a tree on HER property, because of these boneheads. I"m being polite here. When this story popped up, it sounded like more of the same. If it's YOUR property, it's YOUR business.

a-1609797317 Jan 04, 2021 01:55 PM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

Everyone should have the right to turn their property into a vehicle wrecking yard. It's the path of freedom!

Watcher237 Jan 04, 2021 01:32 PM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

It is HOPED, that in time, the fine citizens of the City of Santa Barbara will rise up and take back the individual liberties that have been stolen from them by their local government. It starts at the ballot box, or the RECALL box.

biguglystick Jan 04, 2021 11:17 AM
Santa Barbara and Its Trees

WATCHER, If only... it SHOULD be your property your business, but the overreach of this city's government and it's self appointed grandiose self-importance is insanity. If you want to change a quarter inch anything on your own property and you go through the supposed correct channels, be prepared to be handed a heft of bureaucracy, red-tape and ridiculous fees and fines! It's INSANE. This is the worst city I've ever dealt with in California, and I know there are some doozies out there.

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