The Isla Vista Recreation and Park District voted yesterday to send a letter to the Santa Barbara County Parks Commission requesting that the county reexamine its permit guidelines for county-owned parks in Isla Vista.
The IVRPD Board of Directors, after hearing public comment on the issue, decided to request that the county allow them to permit events that include amplified music, organized sporting events, groups larger than 75 people, and certain activities that combine sports and alcohol, such as sloshball – all of which are prohibited by county park-use policies. The board also considered placing a cap on the number of people who could attend certain types of events, to ensure the county that the events remain safe.
“What we’re asking them to do is make an exception,” IVRPD Director Diane Conn said.
The board’s decision was in response to a recent letter from the Santa Barbara County Parks Commission reminding the IVRPD of its usage policies for county-owned parks, which the IVRPD manages in Isla Vista. Both Sea Lookout Park – commonly referred to as Dog Shit Park -Isla Vista Park would be affected by the guidelines.
IVRPD Board Secretary Enid Osborn said sports events in the county-owned parks will probably suffer the most from the new policy.
“Small picnics and small events and small graduation parties will probably be OK,” Osborn said. “Softball, dodgeball, kickball events would be affected.”
While the county’s guidelines have been in place for some time, Osborn said the policies were only brought to the board’s attention in March 2006, at the request of former General Manager Derek Johnson. Osborn said Johnson contacted the county after a Kappa Alpha Theta kickball tournament last November got out of hand.
Several board members questioned the logic of tightening the permit process for the county-owned parks. They also questioned the claim that the regulations were necessary for safety reasons, citing a lack of overall violence and injuries resulting from the four sloshball games, four graduation parties, one dodgeball game, one birthday party and one small concert for which the IVRPD issued permits in Sea Lookout Park in the last year. Osborn said all of these events received no public complaints and received perfect cleanup records.
Conn said she had attended the Kappa Alpha Theta tournament in Sea Lookout Park and saw several people drinking alcohol. Osborn said the sorority had never purchased a permit because they had not originally intended for alcohol to be part of the event.
“They did not want an alcohol permit,” Osborn said. “They wanted to set an example, as a greek organization, for how they could host an event without having alcohol present.”
IVRPD Director Eric Cummings said he did not think it would be fair to tighten regulations on all events because one group had decided not to follow the guidelines.
Joel Rodriguez Flores, a junior global studies major and one of approximately 10 students who came to discuss the county’s policy, said he also thought it would be unfair to penalize all I.V. residents.
“I also don’t know that one bad event should be justification for regulating those other events in the parks,” Rodriguez Flores said.
Rodriguez Flores said he thinks the limited amount of space in the area makes it necessary that community members be able to use park space for recreational activities.
“There aren’t very many venues for students and I.V. residents to have these events in the area, because Isla Vista is already so overcrowded,” Rodriguez Flores said.
Senior global studies and Spanish major Rachael Weight addressed the board and said she also disagrees with the county’s guidelines, as she has never had a problem with any of the events that take place in Sea Lookout Park, which is across the street from her house.
“Sloshball is a part of I.V. culture,” Weight said. “People are having fun. That’s why I live here; that’s why I love it.”
IVRPD Operations Manager Jeff Yolles and Osborn said the county has voiced its willingness to negotiate with the IVRPD to find a policy that works for everyone.
“What the county says is not written in stone, ” Yolles said. “It’s not like anything is final.”
IVRPD Director Bryan Brown said he can understand, to an extent, why the county wants to control what happens in county-owned parks because the county is liable for everything that occurs on its property. He said he thinks I.V. residents need to prove to the county that they can have large events in the parks without violent incidents or accidents.
“We need a change in public persona of I.V. without killing the party, and that would wholeheartedly stop things like this from happening,” Brown said.
Conn said she thinks the IVRPD could try to gradually negotiate the county’s park guidelines by showing county officials that the way the district currently grants permits to Sea Lookout Park is not problematic. She said she thinks the IVRPD should focus on the permit process for small events now, and address permits for larger organized events later.
“I think we could start out just asking for some bare minimum stuff and show that it works, and then say in six months or so, we’d also like to look at these things,” Conn said.
Brown said he also thinks that negotiations with the county will be a gradual process.
“Within a year we should have an agreement between the county and park district that everyone can live with,” Brown said.