The City of Santa Barbara's Waterfront Department provides the community with quality space for recreation and commercial activities and with mooring and landside services for boaters. The Department manages some 250 acres of tidelands and submerged lands that include Santa Barbara Harbor and Stearns Wharf. While the lands belong to the State, the city holds them in trust. The city reinvests rents, boat and parking fees, and other incomes sources into maintenance, improvements, services, special events, public education, and other activities.
The Harbor Commission was established in 1926 to supervise the construction of Santa Barbara Harbor. The breakwater was completed in 1930, and the duties of the Commission were expanded to cover the waterfront, including Stearns Wharf. Today, the Harbor Commission advises the City Council on matters related to vessels within the Santa Barbara Harbor and the maintenance of the harbor and facilities. These include all navigable waters, buildings, wharves, docks, piers, warehouses, utilities, and facilities related to water commerce, navigation, and fisheries in the harbor. The Commission recommends rules and regulations related to Santa Barbara Harbor to the City Council and recommends budgets, qualifications and duties of the Harbor Director, and acquisition and disposal of harbor equipment and facilities.
Stearns Wharf is the oldest working wharf in California. Built in 1872, visitors come from all over the world to see Santa Barbara Harbor's Stearns Wharf and to dine in one of the many fine restaurants located there or to browse one of the unique shops.
Santa Barbara Harbor's waterfront is protected from severe weather by the Channel Islands, and it has a year-round mild and comfortable climate. Today, the harbor supports a working port with a productive fishing fleet. The waterfront also contains five parks and an eight-kilometer trail for walkers and bicycles. Visitors can hire sailboat charters or rent small sailboats in Santa Barbara Harbor.
Santa Barbara Harbor's fisheries have supported fishermen for thousands of years. Today, sports and subsistence fishers depend on the fishery. Santa Barbara Harbor abounds with red abalone, sea urchin, spiny lobster, crabs, squid, sardines, rockfish, and a host of other edible marine creatures. Commercial fishermen frequently go out at night for their catches of lobster and crabs.