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UCSB Taking Precautions to Prevent Haunting Halloween in Isla Vista

University officials are stressing safety for this weekend's celebrations, expected to draw tens of thousands of young revelers

UC Santa Barbara officials are crossing their fingers headed into the Halloween weekend, hoping that the expected big street party in nearby Isla Vista will remain relatively tame.

Leading up to what historically has been a busy weekend for law enforcement in the densely populated community adjacent to campus, UCSB officials on Wednesday told Noozhawk they still weren’t sure what type of holiday weekend they were in for.

They're hoping for nothing more than the usual costumed celebration, which typically draws tens of thousands of young revelers to Isla Vista.

But they are also wary about the possibility of violent clashes that occurred during April’s all-day Deltopia street party.

Executive Vice Chancellor David Marshall seemed confident the university has undertaken the appropriate efforts to prevent another major disturbance, but he stopped short of promising a quiet, uneventful weekend.

“We’re making massive efforts to try to keep people away,” Marshall said. “I think the word is out.” 

Marshall and other UCSB officials sat down with Noozhawk on Wednesday to talk about precautions the university is taking to protect students in Isla Vista, an unincorporated community marred by violence in Deltopia and in May’s mass shooting and stabbing spree that claimed the lives of six UCSB students.

Out-of-towners have been warned to stay away this weekend by university officials and the Associated Students in letters to more than 100 universities and student governments.

A Friday night concert is planned for UCSB students only, with more activities Saturday — all in the hopes of keeping students occupied in safe and non-destructive ways.

Executive Vice Chancellor David Marshall says UCSB is "making massive efforts" to keep the crowds down during this year's Halloween celebrations in Isla Vista. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

Students living in campus housing won't be allowed to have guests, most on-campus parking lots will be closed off, more UC police officers from other universities will be on hand, and temporary chain-link fences have gone up near private properties fronting Del Playa.

No one knows what’s going to happen, but UCSB officials aren’t taking chances.

“Deltopia was the defining moment,” said George Thurlow, executive director of the UCSB Alumni Association who serves as UCSB's special assistant on Isla Vista. “Deltopia caught everybody, everybody, by surprise.”

Marshall said May’s tragedy made the community closer while creating a sense of urgency to act instead of react. He said the university has added campus lighting and a handful of cameras, while increasing its collaboration with the City of Goleta, local business owners and landlords.

“This isn’t just a UCSB issue,” Marshall said.

A new permanent fence soon will be added along the Isla Vista bluffs in six public parks along Del Playa, where temporary orange construction fence was put up over the summer.

Thurlow worked with stakeholders on that project, which was approved Wednesday by the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission.

The 54-inch-tall safety fence will be a three-rail wooden pole fence covered with a small-space coated diamond chain link on the side facing land to prevent climbing or sitting on it.

“While nobody’s totally thrilled with what’s going in, there’s enough consensus,” he said.

In the long term, Marshall said, UCSB would like to work more closely with Santa Barbara City College officials, since so many of its students also live in Isla Vista.

The university is also looking at ways to integrate what officials believe is an overall cultural shift into curriculum, and to make sure students face adequate consequences if found breaking the law.

Thurlow hopes outsiders stay out, and was happy to hear some UCSB students say they planned to head out of town to avoid this weekend’s reveling.

“We’re all hoping for rain,” he said. “I don’t think any of us know what’s going to happen.” 

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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