Last year’s Floatopia was unquestionably out of control, ending with injured students and a filthy beach. The Isla Vista community acknowledged the excess that was Floatopia 2009 and took steps to correct it, organizing beach cleanups and an effective boycott of Floatopia 2. The county also took notice, instituting a reactionary beach alcohol ban in the hopes of quashing the holiday. But rather than use this year’s event to gauge the effectiveness of a well-enforced alcohol ban, the county has overstepped its bounds, announcing plans to deny I.V. residents access to the beach.
The county’s decision to blockade I.V. beach access points and patrol waters on Saturday is extreme — and borders on a violation of our rights.
Even worse than a one-day beach closure, the Sheriff’s Dept. has stated that it will consider blocking beach access beyond this weekend, as it deems necessary. This kind of heavy-handed, preemptive police presence sets a dangerous precedent — where is the limit?
For a plan supposedly intended to promote safety, this blockade is shockingly short-sighted. Just as controlling a symptom does not cure the disease, blocking students from official beach access points will not stop them from drinking to excess if that’s what they want to do. Realistically, it won’t even keep them off the beach–determined drunks can slide down the cliffs, a far more dangerous alternative to the stairs.
If the county’s real goal here is to protect students and the environment, there is a better solution. Instead of wasting thousands of dollars maintaining barricades and patrolling the surf, officers could staff standard checkpoints. By acting in such a forceful manner, based only on hypothetical misconduct, the county and police department are violating the spirit (if not the letter, through a series of lucky loopholes) of California law that guarantees public beach access.
UCSB students are not a public nuisance — we are college-educated adults and vital members of the community. This beach blockade is an offensive, poorly thought-out mistake.