Local law enforcement, county officials and a small crowd of students met at I.V. Theater last night for a public forum regarding the county’s plans to stop Floatopia.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. will close all beach access points on campus and along Del Playa Drive this Saturday in order to prevent a repeat of last year’s exceptionally large and hugely destructive Floatopia. Moreover, deputies will patrol the water by boat and strictly enforce all alcohol laws.
Chapter 26 of the Santa Barbara County Code states that the county is legally allowed to regulate issues such as public urination, water pollution and public nuisances in county beach areas. Last year’s Floatopia was deemed both a public nuisance and major environmental concern by the county.
I.V. Foot Patrol Lt. Brian Olmstead reiterated the county’s plans, reminding students that access to the beach will be prohibited from all entrances.
“We have the authority through state law and county code to close the beach for all access,” he said. “We don’t take that lightly. We understand that this is a beach community, but we need to look at the public safety side as the major concept. We unfortunately have to assume that this is an alcohol-driven event. The people who enter are subject to citations and arrests if they choose not to comply by our decisions.”
Olmstead said Floatopia 2009 — which attracted 12,000 partygoers and cost the county approximately $20,000 — forced the county to take more extreme and preventative measures this year.
“I.V. is not the best town for such an event, and it doesn’t provide the best infrastructures to do these types of things,” Olmstead said. “It’s really hard to get a safe event. The ability to come up with security, medical, and [a] safety plan is difficult. Unfortunately with what happened last year, we can’t just trust that people are going to organize and clean up.”
Daniel Hernandez of the Parks and Recreation Dept. said that in order to hold such a large event, an organization or individual would have had to sponsor Floatopia and obtain a permit from the county.
“For every major event that the county holds, there is a permit process,” Hernandez said. “We hand out a questionnaire, which gives us the information that we need to issue a permit. We need to make sure that the person sponsoring the event is a responsible party.”
The permit process requires an assessment of the size of the event, amenities, and sanitation provisions for the event. Although efforts were made to obtain a permit, all failed to meet the necessary requirements.
Clay Carlson, Associated Students vice president of internal affairs, said A.S. made intensive efforts to work with students to organize the event and attain a permit.
“We have done mass e-mailing, handed out posters and other handouts to inform and educate people,” Carlson said. “The county wanted to put on the event legally and safely. The event was not just shut down — the county has been extraordinarily transparent.”
Chris Henson, a representative for 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr, said Farr and her committees were also very proactive in reaching out to students who were planning the event in order to assist them with the permit process.
“We want to make this a safe event,” Henson said. “From our standpoint, we tried.”
Henson also noted that the Facebook page was misleading, deeming Floatopia a university-related event. Sgt. Matt Bowman of the UCPD said the university in no way supports the event, and that UCPD will be doing its share to assist the Sheriff’s Dept. on Saturday.