The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors drove the final nail into Floatopia 2’s coffin yesterday with a unanimous vote to ban alcohol from Isla Vista’s beach.
But while the board ordered the beaches dry, another attempt to curtail Isla Vista’s party scene – the much-debated Social Host Ordinance – failed to garner the support needed to pass and was sent back for revisions once again.
The alcohol ban was a direct response to April’s oversized beach party and its planned sequel this weekend. The urgency ordinance, which bans alcohol on all beaches from the beginning of the 6500 block to the end of the 6800 block, went into affect immediately and will stay in place for another six months, at which time the board will revisit the decision.
“I really hoped that Floatopia 2 wouldn’t happen, that it would fade away,” 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr said, noting that the unsponsored nature of the event makes local control impossible. “But all the responses on Facebook show that the secret is out on Isla Vista. I totally agree we need a community dialogue… but considering the urgency [of the moment], we need this breathing room [of six months] to work through and review the ordinance.”
The proceedings drew a sizeable crowd, and the Board Hearing Room downtown was packed with citizens seeking to comment on the proposed ordinances. Among the crowd were several dozen UCSB students who expressed opposition to both the urgency ordinance and the Social Host Ordinance.
Liz Buda, a fourth-year student and representative on the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District board, voiced her concerns about the urgency ordinance.
“I fear the party will be moved to the cliffs above and there will be an increase in binge drinking [if the ordinance is passed],” Buda said.
She went on to lament the lack of public input and called on the board to shorten the temporary ban from six months to two weeks – a compromise that she said would prevent Floatopia 2 while still allowing for local input.
Other community members including Executive Vice Chancellor Gene Lucas, however, spoke in favor of the ban.
“The combination of large crowds, excessive amounts of alcohol, bluffs and floating on the ocean is a recipe for disaster,” Lucas said, shortly before urging the board to pass the ordinance.
And in the end, it was this fear of disaster that seemingly convinced the supervisors. Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf said that it was ultimately the safety issue that spurred her decision.
“I’ve been going back and forth on this,” Wolf said. “… [But] I literally made up my mind last night when I saw the [statistics showing] the number of people that could have drowned [at the first Floatopia]. I will be voting for it.”
Not with I.V. in Mind
After over a year of heated debate, the board delayed a decision on the controversial Social Host Ordinance once again yesterday. Although the supervisors did not designate when they will tackle the proposal again, the next draft could have a twist – I.V. may be written out of the statue.
The ordinance, which aims to target underage drinking by fining the hosts of loud or disruptive gatherings, was originally scripted as a countywide statue. However, thanks to considerable outcry from members of the I.V. community as well the personal misgivings of several supervisors, the board chose to re-examine the draft and proposed removing I.V. from the ordinance’s purview.
“I propose that if there is a way to exempt I.V. [from the ordinance], we explore that option,” 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal said, after it appeared that the ordinance – which he co-sponsored – would fail to pass. “There is a lot of underage drinking [in Isla Vista] but I’m trying to listen to the students and meet them halfway.”
Well over 25 people participated in the public comment period, with both the opponents and proponents of the ordinance represented fairly evenly. However, the two sides seemed to be arguing completely different issues.
Those in opposition to the ordinance – primarily students and Isla Vista residents – deemed the law unnecessary and excessively vague, and bemoaned that it was drafted with minimal community input. Those in favor, however, saw it as a necessary tool to prevent underage drinking among minors who take advantage of irresponsible parenting.
In the end, it was supervisors Farr, Wolf and Joseph Centeno – who chairs the board and represents the 5th District in North County – that stalled the bill from passing.
“Make no mistake, underage drinking is a serious problem,” Farr said. “The question is, is this the right tool? In its present form, I would say it’s not. … We can’t be ambiguous and we can’t pass something that may have unintended consequences.”
It was clear that all five members of the board supported the idea of penalizing irresponsible parents, but the problems associated with I.V. were too large to overcome. In addition to possibly exempting I.V. from the ordinance’s reach, several supervisors discussed potentially expanding the nuisance ordinance – currently in place just for I.V. – to the entire county.
“Do we need to pass more laws when we already have laws in place,” Wolf said. “We could look at what we have in Isla Vista and make it countywide.”
The ordinance now returns to county staff, where it will be reworked into its fifth draft. The board was unsure when it would be ready for another vote, though one supervisor mentioned August before saying it would be voted on when finished.
Despite the outcome, Associated Students President-elect Charlie Arreola was cautiously optimistic.
“It’s great that we are seeing more feedback, but students need to be proactive so that the concerns stated here will be present in the next draft,” Arreola said.