The Santa Barbara harbor has 1,143 marina slips — and a consistent waiting list that actually has shrunk to 16 from 79 a few years ago. (Noozhawk file photo)

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Question: A tourist asked me, how many boats do we typically have in the Santa Barbara Harbor?
— Santa Barbara resident Diane Solis

Boating season is here and with that brings tons of tourists and boats, but the Santa Barbara waterfront boards thousands of vessels year around.

The harbor was built in 1929 and is a popular destination for fishermen, recreational boaters, tourists and even liveaboarders (those who live on their boats) and make up about 10 percent of the vessels in the harbor. Currently, the Santa Barbara harbor has 1,143 marina slips, with about 40 to 50 of them reserved for visitors and the rest for long-term occupants.

With 100 percent occupancy all the time, boat owners can be waiting for a slip to open up for quite some time. As a result, those who are lucky enough to obtain a permit slip have a hard time letting them go.

“Some of these people have been on the waiting list for a long time, and demand has always exceeded supply,” Mick Kronman, the city’s harbor operations manager, told Noozhawk.

Within the last couple of years, the waiting list has dropped to just 16 people from 79. Those waiting for a marina slip can be put on a series of three waiting lists: the original waiting list, the sub-master waiting list and the lottery waiting list. Although the applicants may have signed up for a specific slip size category, that doesn’t guarantee that the size requested will be the first to open up.

Slip sizes can range anywhere from 20 feet to 100 feet, and the waiting list contains people who have signed up for various slip sizes. Once a slip opens up by either a permit transfer or a terminated slip, which happens when someone breaks the rules, the next person on the waiting list has 90 to 120 days to occupy that slip.

“One thing people don’t realize is that the slips are municipal property, and those who obtain a slip don’t necessarily own the slip, but simply have a permit for the slip,” Kronman said.

The cost for the slips depends on the size, ranging anywhere from $2,000 a year to more than $20,000. The slip fees are raised at the same rate for everybody, averaging about a 2 percent increase annually.

As complicated as the slips get, the city controls the rates by charging a slip transfer fee, to ensure that occupants of slip permits are not engaging in underground transfers, which increases the wait on the waiting lists. These fees are determined by the Harbor Commission.

“The Santa Barbara harbor has a wonderful history,” Kronman said. “The commercial land, vessels and fishing bring anywhere from $10 million to $11 million in revenue, and that translates to about $30 million in economic benefit, which is great for our city.”

Every Saturday the harbor holds a fisherman’s market from 7 a.m. to noon at the city pier in the marina, where locals and tourists can taste the fresh fish that is caught daily.

Noozhawk intern Sheridan Taphorn can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.