Isla Vista residents will soon need permits to drink alcohol in the parks because of an amendment approved at Thursday night’s meeting of the I.V. Parks and Recreation District (IVRPD).
IVRPD voted to pass an amendment to the District Alcohol Ordinance that will create a permit system for the consumption of alcohol in all the parks in I.V. Purchase of a permit will be required in order for anyone to drink on park property. The cost for permits and the organization of the system is still under debate and will be decided at the next meeting.
The amendment was proposed by the Isla Vista Alcohol and Other Drug Council, a committee made up of community members and public health officials.
The policy is an attempt to solve the problem of “chronic inebriates” taking over parks, not an attack on any of the other residents of I.V., said IVRPD Chair Bryan Brown, who emphasized the amendment as a matter of public health.
“We’re trying to get public mental health facilities into I.V. where chronic inebriates can get into the system a bit to interact with people that could help them,” Brown said. “This is the solution to the problem of people coming here to drink themselves to death; it’s not directed at the students.”
IVRPD General Manager Derek Johnson said the policy is part of a “global solution” in the parks.
“The district has struggled with alcohol in the parks for some time,” Johnson said. “It started in Children’s Park, where people were sick and tired of drunks drinking on public playgrounds. The board created an ordinance, and the problem just shifted to other parks.”
Instead of continuing to move the homeless to different parts of the community, IVRPD is working with the Isla Vista Alcohol and Other Drug Council to reach out to people with substance abuse issues.
Peter Dean, Isla Vista Alcohol and Other Drug Council member and Alcohol, Drug & Mental Health Services representative, said the policy is a positive influence on the homeless community.
“We wanted to develop and maintain presence and be proactive,” Dean said. “We have a three-person outreach team to work with the homeless and mentally ill. We’ve had some success already with a guy many of you know, Leprechaun. He is housed and pretty sober and clothed.”
The Isla Vista Alcohol and Other Drug Council is also planning to implement a “restorative policing” program, which would be a collaboration of law enforcement and the public and mental health departments. The program is intended to promote effective treatment of people with substance abuse problems, rather than punitive measures.
Many of those present at the meeting said they thought the amendment is an implicit alcohol ban. SBCC computer graphics major and I.V. resident Stephen Nichols said the policy is an attempt to prohibit alcohol.
“Prohibition. It’s an idea that’s unworkable and undemocratic,” Nichols said. “I believe that the welfare of a couple dozen inebriates trampling on the rights of 10,000 other people would never pass as a ballot initiative. The parks need to be shared. Sometimes good intentions and high ideals are not what it takes.”
UCSB junior global studies major Jeremy Way echoed Nichols’ sentiments.
“I’m from Utah, which is pretty renowned for its repressive drinking laws, and these laws don’t curb drinking,” Way said. “I see a lot of similarities in the decision-making here. I think what you’re trying to do is ultimately positive, but your methods are slightly skewed.”
Isla Vista Alcohol and Other Drug Council member Kim Prendergast said the policy is not restrictive to responsible drinking.
“This is not a ban, if it were a ban, I wouldn’t support it,” Prendergast said. “This ordinance would allow anyone in this room to drink in the park. We’re hoping to attain responsible drinking in shared spaces in our community.”
Members of the board discussed several possible permit systems. Board member Fernando Ramirez said he shared many of the concerns of those in attendance at the meeting.
“I’m very concerned about enforcement,” Ramirez said. “Some people are going to go to the park for a picnic with a bottle of wine and we need mechanisms in place to protect those people.”
Board member Diane Conn said the initial fine for breaking the park ordinance should be a relatively small price to pay for drinking in the parks after the policy is in place.
“There’s going to be a learning curve,” Conn said. “I’d like to see the first ticket be $50 because there are going to be a lot of people inadvertently ticketed. The second ticket can be $100 and the next $150.”