The Associated Students Office of the External Vice President for Local Affairs announced the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office will suspend the restorative justice program in Isla Vista from 6 a.m. Saturday, April 6, to 6 a.m. Sunday, April 7, over Deltopia weekend.

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The announcement was made in a March 1 Instagram post on Associated Students (A.S.) Office of the External Vice President for Local Affairs’ (EVPLA) official Instagram page. 

Deltopia is an annual, unsanctioned street festival held on the first weekend of spring quarter that drew in an estimated crowd of 15,000 last year after returning in full force. The annual event incited the County Festival Music Ordinance — prohibiting loud, amplified music from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. — and general police and first responder precautions ahead of the weekend as of recent years. 

“The suspension of the program during the Deltopia weekend will result in ALL citations distributed during the duration of Saturday, April 6th being official citations associated with potential fiscal and criminal repercussions for students and community members partaking in the event. Coupled with anticipated heightened police presence, this measure has raised significant concerns for our office,” the post read.

I.V. Foot Patrol (IVFP) established the restorative justice program in 2019 as a community-oriented approach to punishment for “low-level and victimless crimes.” IVFP Lieutenant Garrett TeSlaa cited the department’s “beliefs” in the operations of the weekend as reasons to temporarily suspend the program. 

“The thing with restorative justice is that to be eligible for the program, you’d have to meet a couple of criteria. And the two that are the most important are you have to be compliant and you have to be cooperative with law enforcement,” TeSlaa said.

“Our belief is that the event is so unlawful and is so dangerous and is such an attack on medical resources throughout the county, participation in the event is by itself inherently uncooperative with law enforcement and public safety agencies like the fire department.”

The post also aimed to inform students about new changes to the social ordinance that bars people from hosting parties with over 250 attendees as opposed to the previous limit of 500. Additionally, the updates allow law enforcement to shut down parties involving paid tickets and the sale of alcohol, as well as people climbing rooftops, fences and bluffs.

The EVPLA Office expressed apprehension about the program’s suspension adding to over-policing in I.V. and the overall impact on students and residents of all identities and backgrounds.

“The EVPLA office is committed to ensuring UCSB students and Isla Vista residents, regardless of background or identity, feel comfortable, safe, and valued, within our community. Given the history of Deltopia and its intersection with the history of policing in Isla Vista, our office is especially concerned with the suspension of the Restorative Justice program,” the post read.

TeSlaa clarified that the suspension of the restorative justice program is not a police attempt to shut down festivities but is rather an effort to “control” the increasing number of citations, arrests and medical emergencies that occur during Deltopia weekend.

“I understand we can be the fun police sometimes. But that’s really part of the process. And so when people aren’t incentivized to follow the law, and they openly carry alcohol, they openly are minors in possession because they know that all they need to do is go to a two hour class and all is good. There’s no incentive to follow the law there,” TeSlaa said.

According to TeSlaa, Deltopia is a “unique” thing, so IVFP and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office have decided to take significant steps for the sake of public safety.

“It’s an exponential problem over a regular Friday or a regular Saturday. And we feel we need to adjust appropriately because this is not a normal event, so it’s not a normal Saturday night,” TeSlaa said.

The EVPLA Office reinforced its dedication to providing a “proactive and community-based approach to safety,” citing University of California in Isla Vista (UCIV) — an EVPLA educational program about community safety — as a resource for students to turn to during Week 1 of spring quarter and on the day of Deltopia.

“UCIV also provides food, water, and healthcare for the community. UCIV is meant to ensure all residents and UCSB Students of all backgrounds feel protected and at peace in Isla Vista,” the post read. 

The EVPLA Office is holding a town hall meeting on March 6 at Embarcadero Hall with panelists including TeSlaa, UC Police Department Chief of Police Alex Yao, chair of the Police Accountability Board Geoffrey Raymond, Jackie Kurta from Gauchos for Recovery and more, in order to receive community input regarding this year’s Deltopia.

“The EVPLA Office acknowledges the historical complexities surrounding Deltopia and is dedicated to equipping UCSB students and Isla Vista residents needed to foster a safe environment. We want to advocate for a community-based safety approach focusing on education and awareness rather than punitive-enforcement measures,” the post read.

A version of this article appeared on p. 3 of the March 7, 2024, print edition of the Daily Nexus.

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Anushka Ghosh Dastidar
Anushka Ghosh Dastidar (she/her) is the Community Outreach News Editor for the 2023-24 school year. Previously, Ghosh Dastidar was the Assistant News Editor for the 2022-2023 school year. She can be reached at anushkagd@dailynexus.com or news@dailynexus.com.