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Santa Barbara County’s Community Services Department will be closing Isla Vista beaches this Saturday and Sunday due to the potential for a “Floatopia” event to occur.
The closure has been enacted in order to prevent the reoccurrence of conditions that resulted in the infamous Floatopia 2009, a massive beach party that attracted roughly 12,000 participants from I.V. and surrounding communities. The action was authorized by Santa Barbara County Code Section 26-11, which allows the Community Services Department to close any area within the county, including beaches.
According to Santa Barbara 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr, the people who have jurisdiction over I.V. beaches — Community Services Director Herman Parker and Santa Barbara County Assistant Director Paddy Langlands — made the decision to close the beaches in conjunction with the sheriff’s department based on the potential health and safety issues a repeat of Floatopia could cause.
“Closing the beaches isn’t an action the county wants to take or likes to take,” Farr said. “It’s only since Floatopia that there’s been a problem with an unsponsored event posing a threat to health and safety. If someone worked with the county to organize something like Floatopia it could be plausible, but the issue is that it’s not a sponsored event.”
Farr said that because Floatopia has posed serious safety concerns for students and resulted in environmental damage in the past, the county has no choice but to enforce the closure. However, the county is open to discussing proposals for a safe, organized and sponsored event.
“Big events happen all the time,” Farr said. “If someone with the resources were to come to the county and go through a checklist and application process to ensure the event will be safe and organized, things could be different. For instance, A.S. goes through that process with us every year for the Pardall Carnival.”
Farr also said that beach closure is not the result of county opposition to an event like Floatopia but rather toward the unwarranted aftermath that followed Floatopia 2009.
“What happened in 2009 was so catastrophic,” Farr said. “Even though the party may happen anyway on Del Playa as it has been on weekends in the past, it’s still safer that if people are drinking excessively, they do not have water nearby.”
According to Farr, the county encourages students to host fun events so long as there is communication with the county, adherence to county ordinances and some sort of sponsorship.
“This is my fifth year in office and I’ve been waiting for someone to sponsor an event, but no one has come by,” Farr said. “We like events — big events — but it always has to be done in a safe manner. Safety is always the single most important priority, and it’s the threat to health and safety that triggers authority to take action.”