An Increase in Attendance, 9-1-1 Calls and Hospital Visits Takes Toll on County Resources;
County Officials Look to Better Prepare to Respond to Similar Festivities in the Future
This year’s Deltopia celebration — held throughout the day last Saturday — drew in crowds of roughly 15,000 to 18,000 people, surpassing last year’s count of 8,000 to 10,000 attendees and even exceeding the record attendance of 12,000 party goers who flocked to Floatopia 2009.
According to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff spokesperson Kelly Hoover, the influx of guests can be attributed to this year’s warmer weather. For this year’s event, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office not only recruited the help of extra staff, but also worked with representatives from the UC Police Department, Santa Barbara County Fire Department, Santa Barbara County Paramedics and Alcohol and Beverage Control.
Overall, law enforcement officials received 440 Deltopia-related 9-1-1 calls, in comparison to the 243 received for last year’s street festivities. The calls were related to 67 medical emergencies — which included 44 hospital visits — and one reported death. Many reported emergencies were due to injuries and excessive alcohol consumption, and total numbers greatly exceeded last year’s count of 26 medical calls, with 14 requiring hospital care.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office and UCPD racked up a total of 23 arrests and 71 criminal citations for the one-day celebration, compared to the 15 arrests and 70 citations given out during Deltopia 2012. Additionally, law enforcement officials responded to an incident in which four people were injured when the residence of 6643 Del Playa Drive — the senior house for fraternity Beta Theta Pi — had a balcony collapse.
The death of a first-year Cal Poly student, 18-year old Giselle Ayala, has alarmed community members and law enforcement officials alike, although the cause of her death is still unknown. Third District County Supervisor Doreen Farr said Ayala’s death is a tragic incident that is related to the overwhelming number of health and safety hazards caused by Deltopia 2013.
“I extend my deepest condolences to Giselle’s family in Santa Rosa and am extremely sorrowful about the death of this young visitor to our community,” Farr said. “Unfortunately, we’ve had people in the past who’ve had tragic accidents in the community, but I’d certainly like hers to be the last.”
According to Farr, the large size of Deltopia 2013 expended a great amount of the County’s services and resources, largely due to the unpredictability of its turnout.
“I think that despite all our best efforts to close the beach and keep people safe … when you have that many people consuming that much alcohol, it’s a recipe for disaster,” Farr said. “Our people did a fine job of keeping order, but it taxes law enforcement, university police, emergency responders, ambulances, Goleta Valley Hospital — [all] just totally inundated with medical calls.”
According to Hoover, although law enforcement was “not surprised” by this year’s larger crowds, officials are currently discussing future plans with UCPD officers and other law enforcement agencies to better prepare for next year’s event.
“There was a lot of underage drinking and a large crowd, and deputies are extremely busy trying to control the crowd, enforce laws and keep everyone safe,” Hoover said. “We had additional staff to handle the increased attendance, but there was a larger turn out than we had last year. Now, we’re looking at how to prepare and make it safer for next year.”
The arrests covered incidents such as fights, assaults, battery, sexual battery, theft and public intoxication. California Highway Patrol gave out 59 traffic citations, and there were five arrests for driving under the influence and five towed vehicles.
External Vice President of Local Affairs Rhandy Siordia said there were more people on DP this past weekend than on any other spring weekend of his four years at UCSB, amassing what he estimates to be more attendees than even Halloween 2012.
“Part of it could do with the longer amount of time. During Halloween, 10 p.m. to 3 p.m. is around the peak time, but during Deltopia, people were out there from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.,” Siordia said. “Also there were less police present than during Halloween…it’s just so hard to plan around.”
Social media may have also played a role in spreading the news of Deltopia 2013, resulting in the colossal attendance numbers, according to Siordia.
“It’s organized around Facebook groups. People click a button and say they’ll attend it, and whoever creates and administrates the Facebook groups help make these things happen,” Siordia said. “The Facebook event is the only source of a date and time. Whoever creates those events has more power than they realize.”
Farr also said social networking sites have contributed to Deltopia’s massive turnout.
“With this kind of event organized on social media on Facebook, we have no idea how many people are going to show up,” Farr said. “We can only prepare so much. It’s not like a sponsored event or something where you’re going to sell tickets and you know that when you sold the last ticket, you’re done.”
Despite all the unfortunate events which occurred during this year’s festivities, Siordia said Deltopia 2013 still had some positive notes.
“Deltopia has a lot of negative connotations,” Siordia said. “But, hopefully there were positive impacts like community-building…People were meeting other people from other schools and having fun.”
Isla Vista Adopt-a-Block from the Isla Vista Recreation and Park Department picked up trash resulting from the event, according to Siordia, who said the Environmental Affairs Board also assisted in such efforts.
According to Farr, much of the size and negative consequences of Deltopia 2013 can be attributed to the increased numbers of out-of-town guests who attended.
“The people that live in Isla Vista open up their homes to people coming in from outside,” Farr said. “Otherwise you wouldn’t have those numbers on Del Playa, and you wouldn’t have people on balconies to breaking point and so on.”
However, Farr also said it is still the responsibility of Isla Vista residents to respect their homes and community by setting a good example and staying safe and responsible.
“For the most part, I think the student community really enjoys living in Isla Vista, and is proud of the community, as I’m proud of the community,” Farr said. “But every once in a while, these things like this occur and it’s kind of like people forget. The message needs to be made that students need to care for their community and try to keep it safe and keep it local.”
PHOTO BY JOHN CLOW / Daily Nexus
A version of this article appeared on page 1 of April 9th, 2013′s print edition of the Nexus.