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Local News

Law Enforcement Gearing Up for ‘Deltopia’ Street Party in Isla Vista

The unsanctioned event, set for Easter weekend, is expected to draw thousands of revelers to the community near UC Santa Barbara

Young people swarm Del Playa Drive in Isla Vista during last year’s “Deltopia” street party, which turned violent during the evening hours. Officials are taking steps to prevent a recurrence of problems for this year’s event, scheduled for April 4.
Young people swarm Del Playa Drive in Isla Vista during last year’s “Deltopia” street party, which turned violent during the evening hours. Officials are taking steps to prevent a recurrence of problems for this year’s event, scheduled for April 4. (Mike Eliason photo / Santa Barbara County Fire Department)

Hoping to avoid a repeat of last year's violence, local law enforcement agencies are gearing up for the annual alcohol-fueled "Deltopia" street party in Isla Vista next month.

Last year's unsanctioned party escalated into rioting, deployment of tear gas, and injuries to deputies, officers and bystanders, as well as dozens of medical calls.

This year’s event is set for the weekend of April 4, and even though it coincides with the Easter holiday, authorities aren’t taking any chances.

They’re planning for 15,000 young college- and high-school-age people to descend on the densely populated unincorporated community near UC Santa Barbara’s campus.

A Facebook page shows more than 10,500 plan to attend.

Enforcement efforts will resemble those commissioned for the popular Halloween celebration every year in Isla Vista.

That event was rained out in October, forcing costumed revelers to take cover, but UCSB and Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department officials can’t count on precipitation to put a damper on Deltopia. 

Notable differences for this year’s Deltopia: more officers, no overhead surveillance cameras on Del Playa Drive, and the City of Goleta will implement temporary parking restrictions to limit on-street parking in neighborhoods surrounding Isla Vista.

The parking-permit program worked so well at Halloween that the Goleta City Council decided to use it again.

The city will send two parking permits to residents living between Cannon Green Drive and Storke Road and from Hollister Avenue to Whittier Drive.

Tear gas was used to control crowds and quell unrest during last year's unsanctioned "Deltopia" street party in Isla Vista. (Guiseppe Ricapito photo / UCSB The Bottom Line)

Only vehicles with valid permits can park on those streets from 9 a.m. Saturday, April 4 through 6 a.m. Sunday. The parking program cost the city $10,212 last year.

If Deltopia moves to the following weekend — the event tends to spring up in early April — Goleta is asking residents to follow the same times and procedures.

As usual, county officials have taken the preemptive step of closing Isla Vista's beaches, which was why the party moved up to Del Playa in 2010. The party used to be called “Floatopia,” leaving beaches covered with trash and human waste.

Del Playa will also be closed to parking and motor-vehicle traffic.

More than 20,000 revelers showed up in 2014, with a sizable number from out of town, contributing to the chaos that followed.

Last year, authorities arrested 130 people, issued 190 citations and responded to 520 calls for service — a number that doesn’t include an additional 216 fire and medical calls or Friday night enforcement, sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said.

During the Saturday night disturbance, which led to 17 arrests, 26 civilian injuries and seven officer injuries, deputies called in nearly 100 extra law-enforcement personnel to help with the civil unrest. For context, authorities made just 22 arrests and 116 citations in 2013, Hoover said.

Several hundred officers will be on hand this year, along with UC police officers and emergency personnel, but Hoover wouldn’t say exactly how many.

The surveillance cameras deputies put up along Del Playa last year weren’t being used again. Hoover wasn’t sure if the decision was based on funding or an evaluation of their effectiveness.

“It’s hard to predict what the actual turnout will be,” she said. “We’re hoping that Isla Vista residents will behave. We were very appreciative that UCSB students and Isla Vista residents did not invite out-of-towners to come to Halloween, and we’re hoping that the same sentiment will ring true for Deltopia.”

In a note to the campus community this month, Chancellor Henry Yang said UCSB would embrace the same strategies that made Halloween a success: pushing a “Keep It Local” message, implementing a no-guest policy in on-campus housing, requiring campus parking permits, and providing alternative student events — such as a street fair, movies and a late-night concert at the Thunderdome — on campus throughout the day .

“More than 100 officers, many from our sister campuses, will be on hand to assist with safety and security in Isla Vista,” Yang said. “Our resources will augment those of the County, which also plans to have approximately 200 officers at the ready.

"The county also has augmented its existing festival ordinance to cover unsanctioned festivals in the spring, thereby increasing fines for misconduct and extending noise ordinances.”

UCSB is also launching a social media campaign like the one for Halloween, discouraging visitors by informing them of ordinances, restrictions, penalties and consequences.

Hoover said authorities appreciate UCSB’s efforts, especially those of students and Isla Vista residents who don’t open their doors to strangers.

“The best way to avoid becoming a victim is to not invite strangers to your town and into your residence,” she said. “I’m really hoping that I.V. residents will really step up and set the tone. We discourage people from coming to the area. It will be very difficult to navigate around Isla Vista.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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