by Nick Welsh

Angry boat owners crowded the City Council chambers Tuesday to
protest a proposed five percent increase in harbor slip fees,
managing to delay action by the Santa Barbara City Council’s
Finance Committee. The slip fee controversy arose after
Councilmembers Das Williams and Helene Schneider expressed concern
that the City’s Parks and Recreation Department was subsidizing the
ostensibly self-sufficient Waterfront Department. Parks and
Recreation spends $186,000 a year to groom waterfront beaches and
maintain its landscaping. Williams and Schneider hoped some of the
savings from withdrawing this assistance could fund the
labor-intensive work of organic pest control in city parks.

But Harbor Commissioner Frank Kelly argued such a fee increase
would accelerate Santa Barbara’s conversion into a “country club
harbor” by chasing out middle-class boat owners. Kelly proposed
allowing the beaches to remain in their natural state, eliminating
the costs of beach grooming altogether. If City Hall wants money to
maintain the beaches, he suggested picking tourists’ pockets, since
they — not the slip holders — are most likely to use the beaches.
Finally, Kelly and others noted that the Waterfront Department was
bracing itself for the withdrawal of federal funds used to pay for
harbor dredging, which will add another $1.5 million to the
Waterfront’s annual payroll. He also suggested the Waterfront
Department yield control — and the revenues — of several beachfront
parking lots east of Stearns Wharf, which he estimated would yield
roughly $150,000 for the Parks Department. That option will be
discussed in more detail next week. “I was expecting to get lynched
between here and my office,” Williams said. “I was ready for it,
ready to fight. I’m still ready to fight, but I’m also willing to


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