Deltopia in full-throttle with record-level citations, massive crowds

The 13th annual unsanctioned street festival saw over 20,000 attendees, record-level citations and overwhelmed medical emergency services by early Saturday morning

April 10, 2024 at 10:31 am by Lizzy Rager

The 13th annual unsanctioned street festival saw over 20,000 attendees, record-level citations and overwhelmed medical emergency services by early Saturday morning

Approximately 20,000-25,000 people flooded the streets of Isla Vista on Saturday, April 6, for the 13th annual Deltopia — Isla Vista’s unsanctioned street festival to mark the beginning of the spring quarter.

The streets were flooded on Deltopia as occupancy levels peaked at 20,000-25,000, the same levels as the Deltopia in 2014. Emma Wang / Daily Nexus

The Isla Vista festival tradition started as “Floatopia,” a large beach event from roughly 2008 to 2009. Deltopia emerged in 2010 as a response to the county shutting down Isla Vista beaches. The 2014 Deltopia experienced riots with dozens of injuries, 130 arrests, and over 192 citations. In 2020 and 2021, there was no Deltopia festival due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, alongside attendance rising by approximately 10,000 from 2023, citations, arrests and medical emergency calls grew in tandem, according to Isla Vista Foot Patrol (IVFP) Lieutenant Garrett TeSlaa. This Deltopia marks the most citations issued in the history of the festival, about 35% more than the 190 citations issued in the 2014 Deltopia.

Officers from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office (SBSO), UC Police Department, Santa Maria Police Department and the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) policed the streets in droves, a presence that some community members felt was “overreaching.”

“They would walk in formation like they were soldiers up and down our street. It was a little scary, honestly,” third-year environmental studies major Alex Tatuaca said.

County festival rules changed how party hosts prepared for the festival and the jurisdiction of law enforcement to shut down parties. The newest Santa Barbara County social host ordinance mandated only 250 people may attend a party and that paid parties are illegal. The outdoor festival ordinance —  wherein from Friday, April 6 to Sunday, April 9, loud music is restricted between 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. —  was also in full effect after 13 parties were shut down on Saturday.

Though he doesn’t have a comprehensive plan, TeSlaa said SBSO is “certainly not going to have a smaller police presence” for Deltopia 2025 given this year’s outcome.

Del Playa was the most densly populated street during Deltopia weekend. Photo courtesy Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office

Arrests and citations steeply increase since 2023

Over Deltopia weekend, SBSO and partner agencies issued 256 citations and made 32 arrests — all misdemeanors — according to SBSO. This Deltopia marks the most citations issued in the history of the festival, about 35% more than the 190 citations issued in the 2014 Deltopia. Most arrests consisted of disorderly conduct, 19 of the total.

Citations increased nearly 40% from 2023, when 151 citations were issued. ABC agents issued 52 citations, and SBSO issued 192. Sheriff deputies primarily issued citations for open-container and minor in possession of alcohol charges.

“Citations were up because there were more cops but people were out drinking in a manner that was far more aggressive than then last year,” TeSlaa said.

California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control officers issued 52 of the 256 total citations.  Wesley Haver / Daily Nexus

No misdemeanor citations are eligible this year for the IVFP’s Restorative Justice (RJ) Program, which was suspended from 6 a.m. on Saturday, April 6 to 6 a.m. on Sunday, April 7. Last year, 13 of the 151 issued citations were eligible.

The program was established in 2019 as a community-level approach where UCSB students and I.V. residents could waive nonviolent misdemeanor citations by taking a class and completing community service hours. The Associated Students External Vice President for Local Affairs office issued an unsuccessful petition a week before Deltopia to reverse the suspension of the RJ Program.

The crowds were largest on Saturday and concentrated at oceanside Del Playa Drive residences. SBSO Public Information Officer Raquel Zick said residents mostly complied with the social host ordinance and the outdoor festival ordinance, but officers issued 13 citations for “illegal parties,” resulting in their subsequent shutdown. One party was shut down for charging for entry.

“Parties were smaller. They were closer to 250 or under. We didn't see the thousands of people at a party like we saw last year,” TeSlaa said.

Several party hosts used the app POSH for attendees to reserve their spots ahead of the festival. Some party houses, like the Biko Garage, utilized a wristband system to track entry. 

Despite efforts like the suspension of the RJ Program and the new social ordinance rules aimed to lower occupancy levels, out-of-towners from nearby universities, cities and out-of-country flocked to the festival.

13 parties were shutdown over the weekend for noncompliance with social host ordinance rules. Wesley Haver / Daily Nexus

Local emergency services at capacity by Saturday morning

Emergency services were overwhelmed and ran out of ambulances by 9 a.m. on Saturday, according to Santa Barbara County Fire Department Public Information Officer Scott Safechuck. Emergency response medical calls totaled 106 and emergency services made 35 transports to local hospitals. Most of the calls were for acute alcohol intoxication.

In 2023, emergency services responded to 60 medical calls, 33 requiring hospitalization.

At a medical tent on Trigo Road, EMTs assessed 56 patients, of which 41 were released without transport to a local hospital. TeSlaa noted the tent was primarily filled with college-aged women suffering from a combination of overdose or alcohol overdose. When ambulances were no longer available, sheriff deputies used pickup trucks and police cars to transport individuals to the tent or a local hospital.

“It got so bad people were collapsing in the streets,” TeSlaa said. “If we had not had that [tent] we would have been closer to doubling, if not tripling, the transports to the hospitals this year.”

UC Police Department officers survey the streets as a festival-goer is being carried away on a stretcher to get medical services. Wesley Haver / Daily Nexus

The sheriff's deputies are following up on two separate reports of sexual assault. These investigations are ongoing.

“We often don't highlight the fact that there's very real, long-term, lifelong consequences to an event like this in many ways for many people and the impacts that that's gonna have,” TeSlaa said.

One unidentified adult male attempted to harm himself by running off a bluff edge but was thwarted by sheriff deputies.

“My deputies who were there risked their own lives to prevent this person from taking theirs,” TeSlaa said. “And it's one of the most admirable things I've ever seen in 20 years of policing that I've been involved in.”

To draw festival-goers away from Del Playa Drive and increase overall safety, the Isla Vista Community Services District hosted an alternative event — the Spring Festival — at Little Acorn Park. A University of California in Isla Vista tent stationed at the park distributed water, snacks, Narcan, fentanyl test strips and sanitary wipes to over 2,800 individuals, according to an Instagram post. Allegedly one dose of Narcan was administered, according to TeSlaa.

Isla Vista Community Services District drew in crowds away from Del Playa with its Spring Festival. Wesley Haver / Daily Nexus

All streets south of Trigo Road were closed to vehicle traffic. California Highway Patrol stopped and screened 310 of 850 passing cars at a Storke Road checkpoint coming out of Isla Vista, beginning at 6 p.m. Three citations were issued for unlicensed drivers and one for driving without a license.

One stopped car backed up and rear-ended another car at the checkpoint. The driver was arrested for driving under the influence.

“The word of mouth is being spread by students to their friends,” TeSlaa said. “That this is the place to be.”

A constant flow of people walked toward other parties or left town. Emma Wang / Daily Nexus

This article was corrected on April 10, 2024, to reflect that the 2024 Deltopia is the 13th rendition of the street festival, the first Deltopia was in-fact in 2010 rather than 2014, explained the 2014 Deltopia riots and clarified its distinction from Deltopia predecessor, Floatopia.
A version of this article appeared on p. 1 of the April 11, 2024, print edition of the Daily Nexus.


Lizzy Rager
Lizzy Rager (she/her) is the Assistant News Editor for the 2024-25 school year. She can be reached at