The Isla Vista Community Services District reflected on the Spring Festival held during Deltopia weekend during its April 12 board meeting, debating the effectiveness of this year’s event.
The Isla Vista Community Services District (IVCSD) held its first Spring Festival this year to offer a safe and fun alternative to the Deltopia street parties that simultaneously took place on Del Playa Drive.
General Manager Jonathan Abboud cited the absence of safety or health issues at the Spring Festival — as well as the historic drop in arrests and citations relative to pre-pandemic Deltopias — as a measure of the event’s success.
“We had a successful Spring Festival event two Saturdays ago now,” Abboud said. “There were no safety issues or health issues reported at our event, so that was different than what happened in the rest of Isla Vista than at our event.”
The festival, which drew at least 1,000 people overall, featured live performances from local bands Dead Set, Stolen Bikes, Hominid, Task Force Freedom and DJ Dongle. IVCSD also set up safety stations across the street for the event stocked with water and snacks.
“There was a period where there were not many people there at the event for the first half, but later in the day is when it really picked up and the headliner band really brought the crowd, and by the end it was fully working the way we intended,” Abboud said.
IVCSD Director Jay Freeman was more critical in his assessment of the event, characterizing turnout as low and raising doubts as to what extent the $90,000 event was effective in reducing participation in traditional Deltopia parties.
“As far as making an impact on the number of people who are densely crowded onto balconies, who are taking part in the house party scene and doing all the drinking on DP, I think when you look at the maximum diversion of people from the street, and there, we had a very small event,” Freeman said.
According to Freeman, a maximum of 150 people participated in the Spring Festival at any one point in time, with long periods of only 50 or fewer present.
Freeman said he also spoke with law enforcement who were patrolling Del Playa or stationed at the Spring Festival during Deltopia to gain insight into the festival’s impact on public safety.
“The Sheriff said that they didn’t know much about the event. They did see some people there; they didn’t see many people. They said the [A.S. The Program Board The Warm Up concert] event that UCSB puts together really helps them a lot,” he said.
In addition, he also questioned the festival’s cost-effectiveness, noting that the IVCSD spent $90,000 and garnered lower participation than projected.
“I do think that we spent a large amount of money with limited impact,” Freeman said.
However, IVCSD Director Ethan Bertrand framed the event as “successful” and congratulated staff for their “remarkable” efforts to organize what he deemed as a critical event in resetting the local expectations and culture around Deltopia.
“A big part of this is thinking about how we can redefine Deltopia in the community. What has been happening for the past decade, plus, we all understand is unsustainable,” Bertrand said. “We are in a position where we do need to chart the future. Charting a different course requires us to take new steps, and I think that’s what we did with this event.”
While Board Director Kirsten Deshler expressed her appreciation of and happiness with the event, she also called for IVCSD to advocate for more direct regulatory action to ensure greater public safety and reduce the nuisances caused by negligent Isla Vista property owners.
“I think it’s great to work with stakeholders, but I want to be a little more direct. I think that we need to engage our supervisors on the fact that they can regulate underage drinking, they can regulate noise,” Deshler said. “They should regulate how property owners treat their properties, and I think we need to be more assertive with it. It’s ridiculous, really.”
Deshler said that the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors should exercise their power to implement a “roof ordinance.”
“If the county can implement a noise ordinance, the county can implement a roof ordinance. I mean, for goodness gosh sakes, people should not be on roofs. I know I’m old, but I was scared to death walking up and down DP,” Deshler said. “It was frightening to see so many people on roofs.”
IVCSD Director Catherine Flaherty said that she views this year’s Spring Festival as part of a longer term vision for Isla Vista, transitioning away from the “reliance on drinking and unhealthy habits” that unfold during Deltopia toward a “celebration of Isla Vista culture.”
In addition, Flaherty expressed her hope that turnout will improve in time with future events, calling this year’s first-ever festival a “first step in building recognition of the event.”
“There’s a lot that I think that we can learn from how our first year went, that can go towards the broader vision of cultural change and cultural celebration and appreciation for our community, because it is so unique, and I think there’s so much to celebrate,” Flaherty said. “We have such a creative, intelligent, well-connected, engaging community, and so I think that that’s something that we can really focus on highlighting.”