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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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!!!!!!!!!!

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

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

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.

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.

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!!!!!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 09:07 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!

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 09:14 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?????

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