Naomi Kovacs is stepping down as head of the Citizens Planning Association (CPA), one of the flagship slow-growth advocacy groups of the South Coast, just as the City of Santa Barbara enters the final—and most contentious—phase of its general plan update process. Kovacs served nine years at the helm of CPA, longer than any of that organization’s previous directors. During that time, the group has tackled unwieldy issues such as state water, fought major developments like La Entrada and Rick Caruso’s Miramar, and been a consistent, traditional slow-growth voice in local politics.
In that vein, CPA members led the unsuccessful ballot-box charge last November to lower the city’s building height limit and have pushed against the increased housing densities advocated by those in the so-called “smart growth camp.” Under Kovacs’s direction, CPA endorsed oil company PXP’s plans to expand existing drilling operations off the coast into state waters. While the plan has been controversial in the extreme, CPA—along with many local environmentalists—lauded the deal because it promised to impose a drop-dead expiration date by which time PXP had to stop all oil operations off the county’s coast and dismantle platforms. No successor to Kovacs has been identified, and she will provide transitional leadership through the month of April.