Following the success of last weekend’s crackdown on Floatopia, local officials have indicated they may rely on beach closures again in the future should public safety or environmental concerns arise.
In order to prevent a repeat of last year’s enormous beach party, county officials decided to block all beach access last Saturday. With the success of those closures — according to law enforcement, no one attempted to bypass the barricades — county officials said they maintain the right to do so again in the future on a case-by-case basis. The criteria required to make such a decision, however, remains vague.
County lawyers, 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr’s office and the California Coastal Commission were all consulted in the decision to shut down the beaches last Saturday, which was legally based on Chapter 26 of the Santa Barbara County Code.
Santa Barbara County Parks Dept. Director Daniel Hernandez said all public land closure decisions are situational and made at the discretion of his department.
Though such circumstances cannot be defined in advance, Hernandez said, any advertising promoting illegal activities on public land would be a major consideration in closure decisions. The number of people attending a potentially troublesome event would also be considered.
“It is broad, because [closures are] on a case-by-case basis,” Hernandez said. “This [last] weekend was real obvious because of all the publicity about it.”
Last weekend’s waterless Floatopia still drew roughly 8,000 partiers and a litany of arrests and citations. In total, officers made 70 arrests and issued 221 citations over the weekend.
If beaches are closed in the future, Isla Vista Foot Patrol Lt. Brian Olmstead said the Sheriff’s Dept. would alert the media and the public well in advance.
“I’m hoping we don’t have to do it again,” Olmstead said. “If we were to decide to close the beach again, the news would get out.”
Hernandez said Floatopia, which drew over 12,000 people last year, is an example of an event the county can not tolerate. Advertisements on social networking Web sites like Facebook alerted county authorities to planned illegal activity such as drinking on the beach beneath Isla Vista, causing them to respond.
“There were other Web pages that were actively promoting, ‘Bring your alcohol, bring your keg,'” Hernandez said. “All that stuff is not allowed without a permit.”