Santa Barbara Harbor Commission recommends slip transfer fee increase

SANTA BARBARA — A proposal to increase slip transfer fees earned the support of the Santa Barbara Harbor Commission on May 21 despite three recusals and one nay vote. The Santa Barbara City Council will now consider the proposal to increase slip transfer fees by $25 per linear foot on all but two slip categories.

The final vote was 3-1, with three recusals, in favor of recommending the slip transfer fee increase. Three commissioners recused themselves because they were slip holders. 

If council members approve the Harbor Commission’s recommendation, the slip fee increase will apply to categories with the exception of 20- and 25-foot slips. Accordingly, the slip transfer fee could increase from the current rate of $375 per linear foot to $400 per linear foot and would apply for the next fiscal year.

The slip transfer fee for 20-foot slips is frozen at $200 per linear foot, while 25-foot slips are locked at $350 per linear foot, Waterfront Department Business Manager Brian Bosse said.

Bosse added the amount of revenue the proposed slip transfer fee, if approved, could produces varies depending upon the number of transfers realized within a fiscal year. Santa Barbara Harbor is experiencing an increase in slip transfers this fiscal year, Bosse said.

“Predicting our slip transfer fee revenue is not an exact science. One year it will be $575,000, the next year it could be $300,000. Over the past three fiscal years, it hovered around the $675,000 mark,” Bosse said.

Commissioner Elizabeth Cramer, who was the sole vote against the recommendation, expressed concern of automatically increasing the annual slip transfer fee. Harbor Operations Manager Mick Kronman responded the annual increase is a balance of maintaining city revenues and charging a fee to use a harbor where demand exceeds supply.

“Many years ago, it was basically established as an administrative policy to increase the transfer fee $25 a year in order that the city get back some of the revenues that are accrued for the privilege of being able to transfer a boat in Santa Barbara Harbor and not have to go through a public waiting list,” Kronman told commissioners. “It’s always been a difficult and delicate balance between managing wait lists in our harbor and allowing a slip transfer policy, which has gone back to the 1960s.”

A suggestion was made by Commissioner Cory Bantilan to institute a tiered fee policy as opposed to automatically increasing the fee each year.

Santa Barbara’s City Council is scheduled to consider the slip transfer fee increase as part of its overall budget review process later this month; the budget review is scheduled for June 23.

In March, harbor commissioners did approve other fee adjustments for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, including a 2 percent slip fee increase. Also adjusted were the Annual Waterfront Parking Permits ($5 increase) and Visitor Slip Fee (10 cents per foot increase). Finally, the commission voted to establish a Harbor Patrol Vessel Replacement Fund.

The slip transfer fee was not adopted at the March 19 meeting because of a lack of quorum, according to city staff; all four commissioners eligible to vote on the slip transfer fee increase were present at the May 21 meeting.


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