The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will decide Tuesday whether to ban alcohol from Isla Vista’s beach.
In an effort to quash Floatopia 2, the board will vote on an urgency ordinance that would outlaw alcohol from the 6500 to 6800 block of the beach. The ordinance, which was finalized Thursday, also prohibits the consumption and possession of alcohol on the main beach access points from Del Playa Drive.
Unlike other county measures, the urgency ordinance requires the support of four out of the five supervisors, as opposed to a simple majority. If it passes, the ban will go into effect immediately and last for a period of six months, at which time the Board of Supervisors will review it.
Lt. Brian Olmstead of the Isla Vista Foot Patrol said the urgency ordinance addresses the wide scale drunkenness that took place at last month’s Floatopia.
“One of the problems with the first Floatopia was the extreme abuse of alcohol,” he said. “This irresponsible use led to numerous injuries and a lot of the trash that was left. What the ordinance does is creates a way to manage alcohol use.”
According to 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr, the ordinance would bring Floatopia into conformance with county expectations for public festivals involving alcohol.
“There is no place in county where you can have big festival like this, especially with alcohol, unless you go through a lot of planning exactly to deal with the impacts so evident in Floatopia,” she said.
Olmstead said a significant problem with Floatopia was that no one group organized the event.
“Usually at events in the parks in I.V. we check to see what kind of plan they have, how many people are expected, so we know who is sponsoring it,” he said. “Part of the reasoning is that with Floatopia it’s an unsponsored event, so people aren’t looking for ways to mitigate alcohol use or illegal use or use by minors.”
Farr agreed that alcohol was the primary factor contributing to the safety concerns and environmental damages of Floatopia.
“We want people to use the beach, like every place in Santa Barbara,” she said. “I’m a very strong defender of public access to beach – there isn’t any reason for people not to go to the beach, be with their friends, lay out, have a raft and all that.”
Clay Carlson, the Associated Students External Vice President for Local Affairs-Elect, said he was upset that the county had not discussed the possibility of a ban earlier, and that students seemed stonewalled from the discussion. Carlson, who helped organize a Floatopia forum last week, said that county representatives had never mentioned an outright ban in previous meetings with the university and student groups.
“The biggest disappointment with this is that students weren’t included in the conversations about it,” Carlson said.
According to Olmstead, the ordinance – which also prohibits drinking in the ocean within 100 yards of the mean high tide line – is not an outright ban on alcohol, since it is technically possible to apply for and obtain a permit through a process similar to the one governing alcohol use in I.V. parks.
“I don’t know exact permit procedure, but it’s not like we’re coming right out and saying there is no chance of having alcohol,” he said.
Carlson, however, said the permit process did not appear finalized and that the county is simply setting up more “hoops” for students to jump through.
“They’re trying to make it as complicated as possible,” he said.
Farr refused to take a stance on the ordinance during an interview Thursday and said she will wait to hear the testimony presented at the meeting.
“The public hearing process is very important to me – to keep an open mind – you never know in the testimony what you’re going to get,” she said. “But I’ve been very concerned about the impact of the first Floatopia.”
Farr added that if the ordinance passes, the Board will review it after six months and determine its effectiveness.
“At some point in time it would have to come back to be renewed or dropped,” she said. “We would do what’s called a ‘look back’ and see – did it achieve the goals we’re hoping it would?”
The urgency ordinance will be brought to the Board of Supervisors at their meeting in the County Administration Building downtown, following a hearing on the Social Host Ordinance at 1 p.m.