The unsanctioned beachfront street party near UC Santa Barbara known as “Deltopia” returned to alarming form over the weekend, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office.
The annual street party, which takes place on Del Playa Drive in Isla Vista, a community adjacent to the university, typically brings out thousands of people and regularly leads to medical calls, arrests and citations.
Previous years have seen a decrease in law enforcement intervention and medical calls thanks to preventative measures taken by both the university and the city of Goleta, but Deltopia ’23 saw a resurgence in arrests and citations.
In total, the Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies issued 151 citations and made 23 arrests over the weekend. That’s a 400% increase in citations and 500% increase in arrests from 2022, during which only 34 citations were issued and four arrests were made.
The crowds were the largest on Saturday, the Sheriff’s Office said, and “significantly higher” than the previous year. Much of that heavy foot traffic came from people who traveled from outside the Isla Vista area, the Sheriff’s Office said.
There was also an increase in emergency medical calls this year versus 2022, a year in which authorities admitted they were “inundated” with medical calls. The bulk of the medical calls came in the form of acute alcohol intoxication, aka alcohol poisoning.
Medical calls became so rampant over the weekend that the Sheriff’s Office volunteer search and rescue team had to be activated to assist fire department crews and paramedics, according to Sheriff’s spokesperson Raquel Zick.
Officials said that most locals adhered to local restrictions to tamp down the unsanctioned street party.
Deltopia began nearly two decades ago on the beaches of Isla Vista when it was originally referred to as “Floatopia, and partygoers would gather on the beaches and in rafts and innertubes off the coast. But several years later, Santa Barbara County officials began cracking down on the event due to littering, damage to public beaches and concerns from neighbors.
UC Santa Barbara does not condone the gathering and has offered alternative forms of entertainment during the party in an effort to discourage its students from attending.
The massive gathering reached its darkest point in 2014 when riots broke out and dozens of the 20,000-plus attendees, both students and out-of-towners, were arrested or cited.
In the years since, authorities have attempted to proactively curb the number of medical calls and arrests made through parking restrictions and educational campaigns to keep the party “local.”
Deltopia was put on pause in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning the 2022 party was the first to take place in Isla Vista in several years. In 2019, the last year before the COVID-19 intermission, 94 citations were issued, 38 people were arrested and 19 people were transported to the hospital by ambulance.
This recent spike is still a far cry from the 2014 flashpoint, in which more than 130 people were arrested and 50 people were hospitalized.
Isla Vista is a popular off-campus community for UC Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara City College students to live with many beachfront properties that overlook the ocean atop dangerous cliff sides. Authorities routinely respond to reports of injuries, and occasional deaths, involving people falling off balconies to the ground below.