No matter what anyone tries to do about it, Isla Vista seems to be a magnet for party seekers throughout Southern California. If an event is posted on Facebook, the party people come. Last weekend’s Deltopia was one of these events.
About 15,000–18,000 people attended the Deltopia celebration, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department. Many if not most of the party goers came from out of town. They descended upon Isla Vista in droves looking for that rare commodity — a parking place.
What is Deltopia?
Deltopia is an outgrowth of Floatopia, an annual beach celebration that was last held in Isla Vista in 2009. The nexus of the party is Del Playa. People walk up and down the street looking for the next party.
This annual party used to be held at the beach. People would grab their floatation devices and their six packs and head down to the sand. After the 2009 Floatopia celebration, however, Santa Barbara County officials deemed annual beach closures a local necessity, because party goers had wreaked havoc, dumping trash and other environmental hazards into the ocean and surrounding area.
If you are wondering how county officials are able to keep track of budding Floatopia-type celebrations, it’s not hard at all. Party planners publicize the events through Facebook and other social media.
This year, Deltopia was a mixed bag of fun, mayhem, and tragedy. For most, Deltopia provided an opportunity to walk around Del Playa in board shorts or a bikini or/and drink alcoholic beverages on a balcony overlooking Del Playa. For most people, the day-after experience probably involved a hangover, looking for lost items, and trying to rally enough energy to walk or drive home. However, there were quite a few people whose experience at Deltopia wasn’t so positive.
The Grim Side of Deltopia: There were several incidents that made Deltopia seem more than just innocent fun. The first involved the death of 18-year-old Giselle Esme Ayala, a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student. Her body was found on the beach at Campus Point on Saturday morning, April 6. According to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, an autopsy found that she had injuries consistent with a fall. The investigation into her death is ongoing.
Another group of young people were injured when a balcony overlooking Del Playa collapsed. Four people were taken to the hospital.
Here are the preliminary statistics on Deltopia, compiled by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s office:
• 23 arrests for a variety of crimes including fights, assaults, sexual battery, public intoxication, and thefts
• 71 citations
• 44 people were taken to the hospital due to injuries or excessive alcohol intake
• Santa Barbara County Fire Department responded to more than 70 calls
• In all, law enforcement received 440 Deltopia-related calls
The Future of Deltopia: Last year’s Deltopia celebration came and went without fanfare, in strong contrast to this year’s. It is easy to see why people would be drawn to a Deltopia-like celebration. Everyone wants to have fun in the sun. The end result, though, has been a definite negative for the Isla Vista community. If you focus merely on the amount of money spent, on law enforcement and fire department services, you’ll question whether it should happen again.
Local residents not involved in the partying had to deal with parking problems, trash, people going to the bathroom in the open spaces, noise, noise, noise, and more noise. Lots of money was spent on law enforcement and fire department services. This is a real problem, but the answer isn’t so simple. The county can’t block off access to Del Playa the way it did to the beaches. The solution will have to be creative. Community members will have to get together and figure out solutions.
The best way to make a celebration positive, and not a bane to our community’s existence, is to keep it local. But unfortunately, if you post it, they will come.