The cost of transferring a slip and the cost of adding children to a slip permit were the main focuses of discussion at the Oct. 28 subcommittee meeting.
SANTA BARBARA—The Santa Barbara Harbor Commission’s Slip Assignment Policy Subcommittee held its first meeting Oct. 28 to address slip assignment policy concerns recently raised by slip tenants and investigate ways of improving the policy. Concerns brought to the Waterfront Department included the cost of the slip transfer fee, the inability to add children or grandchildren to a slip permit without paying a transfer fee and concerns about paying a county possessory interest tax.
Waterfront Department Director Mike Wiltshire provided background and information on the city’s current slip assignment policy at the Harbor Commission meeting on July 16 in response to the public’s concerns and on Sept. 17, the Harbor Commission formed a subcommittee to look into ways of improving the policy.
The cost of transferring a slip permit to a child became one of the major focal points of the Oct. 28 meeting, which was mostly spent diving into the policy and answering questions about it.
“We shouldn’t be adding $20,000 to add an adult child to an existing slip, it’s an outrage,” said William Nash, in a public comment.
Wiltshire and Assistant City Attorney Sarah Knecht discussed the legal reasons why children and grandchildren cannot inherit a slip, including the Public Lands Doctrine.
“These slips are held in trust for the public and to protect that public trust,” Knecht said. “That is why the State Lands Commission, the Attorney General, the grand juries have looked at this process many times through the years and said these slips cannot be transferred and held from the public through time and not come back to the Waterfront Department.”
Some of the public speakers acknowledged the Public Lands Doctrine issue but urged the subcommittee to push for a lower price tag for family transfers.
Meanwhile, others said the overall cost of the slip transfer fee makes it hard for the working class to even afford a slip in the harbor.
“Your argument is that you are saving the public asset for the public through the high transfer fee and I just want to say it’s really prohibitive for the working class, this high transfer fee, so in a way it’s saving the public asset for the people who make a lot of money,” one commenter said.
The transfer fee currently ranges from $200 a foot for slips less than 20 feet to $525 a foot for slips between 35 feet and 100 feet. The waterfront bases the cost of the transfer fee on private market value, with the fee ranging from 5 to 35 percent of the market value of the slips.
“It’s hard to talk about the slip transfer fee without talking about the inheritance issue, if we start talking about changing some of those then the budget gets impacted, one begets the other and I think that’s what we’ve wrestled with,” Santa Barbara Harbor Commissioner Jim Sloane, who is one of the three members on the subcommittee, said.
Santa Barbara Harbor Commissioner Michael Nelson, who is also on the subcommittee, suggested looking at how other California coastal cities that also deal with slip transfers handle the issue.
“Part of me wants to know if somebody else has a better idea or how we might approach this thing a little bit differently,” Nelson said. “So, in terms of the information gathering that I would like to see staff prepare would be that, how does everybody else deal with this issue.”
Wiltshire said Waterfront Department staff will look into how other harbors handle slip transfers and provide the gathered information at an upcoming meeting.
In the meantime, the subcommittee will address the issue of the county possessory interest tax and how the city can help with that issue at the next meeting. Wiltshire said he will invite someone from the county to speak on the topic at the meeting. A meeting date has not yet been set.
Boaters interested in contacting the Waterfront Department regarding the city’s slip transfer policies can reach out to Wiltshire at firstname.lastname@example.org.