Wednesday, November 25 , 2015, 9:39 pm | Fair 48º

Residents, Authorities Troubled by Isla Vista’s ‘Deltopia’ Riots

Consensus is that ‘out-of-towners’ are largely to blame for violence in student-dominated community adjacent to UC Santa Barbara

A charred mattress lies outside an Isla Vista apartment Sunday, a day after the Deltopia street party turned violent.
A charred mattress lies outside an Isla Vista apartment Sunday, a day after the Deltopia street party turned violent.  (Justin Covington / Noozhawk photo)

By Tom Bolton, Noozhawk Executive Editor | @tombol |

[Click here for Noozhawk’s first-day Isla Vista riot coverage.]

Isla Vista woke up Sunday with what could be called a severe community hangover.

The cause was “Deltopia,” which degenerated late Saturday from a giant drunken street party into what most observers were calling a riot.

Dozens of people were arrested and hospitalized — including at least six law-enforcement officers who were injured in the melee — and the student-dominated community was left searching for answers.

“It was obviously very disturbing that we had as many people as we did behaving in a very reckless manner,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told Noozhawk on Sunday afternoon.

After a night that saw several hours of violent street encounters between law enforcement and a highly intoxicated mass of young people, Isla Vista was bruised and battered.

The streets of the densely populated area — especially the epicenter on Del Playa Drive and nearby roads — were littered Sunday with damaged vehicles, vandalized buildings and road signs, broken glass, and the remnants of deliberately set fires.

And while many residents were out in the morning cleaning up the mess, they also were pondering how things had gotten so out of hand, who was to blame, and what could be done to avoid similar incidents in the future.

Although some pointed to a heavy-handed law-enforcement presence, there was a fairly strong consensus that people from outside of Santa Barbara County — out-of-towners in the local vernacular — were largely responsible for the violence.

An Isla Vista resident cleans up Sunday, a day after the Deltopia street party turned violent and left parts of the community in shambles. (Justin Covington / Noozhawk photo)

“It’s easy to blame someone else for everything that went down, but it is more likely for ‘out-of-towners’ to cause problems because they do not have to deal with the repercussions,” UC Santa Barbara fourth-year student Andre Perrin-Martinez said.

Evan Hertenstein was near the corner of Camino Del Sur and Sabado Tarde when the situation began to escalate Saturday night.

“It got out of hand, but like the locals said, I think it has to do with the people who don’t live here,” he said. “It’s unfortunate. I wish it could have been more chill ... I thought the officers handled it the best way they could.”

Brown concurred with those assessments.

“People come from out of town hell-bent to cause trouble ...” he said. “I think you have a number of people who are downright agitators, and want to incite the crowd.”

Emergency personnel were kept busy throughout the day attending to minor skirmishes and responding to medical calls, including a large number of alcohol poisonings.

But the mood turned decidedly ugly shortly before 10 p.m., with an incident involving a UCSB police officer.

“The officer spotted a fight in progress, and went to apprehend the suspects,” Brown said. “One suspect swung a backpack filled with liquor bottles at the officer, striking him in the face and splitting his forehead open.”

As other officers rushed to his aid, a crowd gathered and became agitated, Brown said. From there things went quickly downhill.

On Sunday, many UCSB students were using social media to try to make sense of the Deltopia mayhem.

Some expressed concern for the university’s reputation and blamed visitors for the violence. They also were frustrated by what had transpired, stating that people will be less likely to take a UCSB education seriously.

“I’m trying to go to UCSB because of the amazing bio program, but if this keeps happening, all graduate (programs) are going to laugh at a degree from UCSB,” said Dex Sullivan, a student at Santa Barbara City College.

“Everyone within the Isla Vista community was prepared for Deltopia to get out of control, but not quite to this degree,” UCSB third-year student Nikki Allen said.

“I was walking down Del Playa Drive with three friends when the riot first broke out in response to a nearby house party being shut down,” she continued. “The crowd got very large, easily over a thousand people, and (people) started throwing glass bottles, full cans of beer, bricks, anything they could find really.

“After about 15 minutes, a huge riot van showed up, and an officer announced over the loudspeaker that they were declaring an unlawful assembly and that anyone who did not vacate the area would be removed by force,” she said.

“At that point I got out of there, but because the riot was eventually pushed back to just a block away from my house, I was still able to see what was happening.”

Third-year student Kat Sundberg emphasized the odd nature of the violence.

“The students who were out there weren’t even really angry,” she said. “Half of them were dancing, and the rest were just cheering.”

“The atmosphere for the bystanders seemed to be really scary, but a lot of people who were in it seemed to be having a grand old time,” she concluded.

In the aftermath of the event on Sunday, many students and Isla Vista residents wandered the streets picking up trash.

“(I am) proud to see hoards [sic] of students with trash bags and brooms out here right now,” Allen posted on Facebook.

Brown commended his deputies and other law enforcement agencies who responded to the incident.

“The response by deputies and other agencies was very courageous and controlled,” he said. “I think they actually prevented a much worse incident from developing. If the situation had gone on for another few hours, it had the potential to become much worse.”

Brown stressed that he believes “the trouble-makers were not from Isla Vista — were not even from Santa Barbara County.”

He added, “I think most of the people who live on Del Playa are fed up with having their homes and their community trashed by people who come in from the outside.”

“I think we were very well prepared for this,” Brown said when asked whether his department had adequately anticipated the challenges of Deltopia.

There were more than 130 law enforcement personnel assigned to the Deltopia event, working in two shifts, he said, and many more reinforcements were called in to help quell the violence.

“We had plans for a very large event,” Brown said. “We obviously had a contingency plan if it became an unrest or disturbance type situation.”

Brown said the Sheriff’s Department plans to work with UCSB, the District Attorney’s Office and stakeholders in Isla Vista to find ways of preventing future incidents of this kind.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)Noozhawk interns Justin Covington and Allyson Werner contributed to this report. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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