CPA History


CPA has deep roots in the Santa Barbara community that can be traced back to Pearl Chase’s Plans and

Planting Committee, which helped to establish in Santa Barbara the first Architectural Board of Review in the

nation. The group was instrumental in creating the cohesive sense of community identity that exists in Santa

Barbara today due to Spanish-style architectural requirements, stringent zoning requirements and a very

restrictive sign ordinance. Their efforts were particularly timely as Santa Barbara struggled to rebuild itself

after the 1925 earthquake, which badly damaged the city.


The first board of CPA, back in 1960, was a veritable Who’s Who of Santa Barbara County’s leading citizens. Board members included Pearl Chase, Clinton Hollister, Duke Sedgewick, Dr. Samuel B. Gould, Dr. Harry Girvetz, Standish Backus, Major General P.M Hamilton, Robert Hoyt, and T.M. Storke. The influence of such a prominent group of citizens was readily apparent when, within months of its formation, CPA called upon both the City and the County of Santa Barbara to adopt General Plans as a means of planning for future growth. Faced with resistance on the part of elected officials, the organization hired an outside consultant who successfully developed plans with collaborative community support. Only then did local elected officials endorse the project. These plans laid the groundwork for protecting our community’s quality of life by safeguarding the city and county against unplanned and unwise growth.


Santa Barbara County’s original General Plan Report in 1962 notes in its Introduction: “The General Plan came into being due to the efforts of many citizens. The Citizens’ [sic] Planning Association, composed of representatives from diverse groups representing all levels of activity in the County, aided materially by encouraging the Legislative bodies of both the County of Santa Barbara and the City of Santa Barbara to initiate this program.


”CPA is also called out prominently in the Introduction of the City of Santa Barbara’s original General Plan, adopted on July 28, 1964: “Without any question, the most telling influence on the relationship between the community and the General Plan program has been and is the activities of the Citizens Planning Association of Santa Barbara County. Without the assistance of the C.P.A., much of the effectiveness and scope of the General Pan presentations throughout the community would have been lost. Many factors in the research and planning phases of the program owe a consideratble debt to this organization. Indeed, a large measure of responsiblity for the very existance of the program can be attributed to the C.P.A. In the years to come, as the Plan is studied, amended and various elements of it are effectuated, it is hoped that the C.P.A. will contine its activities and that the community will give it every possible support.”


CPA was established in 1960 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization to educate the public in Santa Barbara County on the environmental and planning issues paramount to our communities and neighborhoods, and to encourage both the County and City of Santa Barbara to develop and adopt General Plans, to protect Santa Barbara County’s cherished quality of life.


In the mid 1980s, the board of CPA determined that the effectiveness of the organization would be improved through the establishment of a 501(c)(4) sister non-profit organization which could become more directly involved in issue and legislative advocacy. In order to capitalize on the strong community loyalty for CPA, the board decided that the new advocacy group should take on the CPA name. The 501(c)(3) non-profit (up until then known as CPA) continued with its educational work under the new name of Citizens Planning Foundation (CPF).


In 2009, the boards of CPA & CPF determined that it was legally possible for CPA to do all of its activities as a 501(c)(3)(h) non-profit, and that merging the two organizations together again would eliminate the extra work and resource use associated with running two separate organizations, as well as eliminate the public confusion between the two organizations. The merger was approved by both boards of directors and the CPA membership, and became official on June 15, 2009.


In 2010, CPA celebrated its 50th anniversary!









This photo was taken circa 1880. Since 1977, CPA’s office has been located in The Cota-Knox House, at 914 & 916 Anacapa Street in downtown Santa Barbara. The Cota-Knox House was built in 1871 and was designated as a city landmark in 1995. CPA’s office is on the left side of the building as you’re looking at this picture.