SANTA BARBARA – Law enforcement and paramedics faced an overwhelming amount of medical calls over the weekend connected to a massive outdoor street party in Santa Barbara County.
Streets were packed with young adults and university students who took part in the unsanctioned street party in Isla Vista known as Deltopia.
The annual street party, which takes place on Del Playa Drive in the UC Santa Barbara-adjacent community, typically brings out hundreds of people and regularly leads to medical calls, arrests and citations.
On Saturday, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department issued a multi-casualty incident for the event after receiving multiple emergency medical calls and reports of severe trauma.
During the incident, Raquel Zick, public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, said dispatchers were “inundated with medical calls.”
Santa Barbara County Fire Captain Daniel Bertucelli said declaring the multi-casualty incident allowed for first responder and hospitals to prioritize the severity of those injured and transport multiple people to local hospitals with better efficiency.
Isla Vista, a popular off-campus community for UC Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara City College students to live, is a beachfront town with many balconies that overlook the ocean atop dangerous cliffsides. During Saturday’s Deltopia festivities, several balconies were crowded with people, Bertucelli said.
By 7:30 p.m. Saturday, the multi-casualty incident was canceled, Bertucelli said.
The unsanctioned Deltopia party began nearly two decades ago on the beaches of Isla Vista when it was originally referred to as “Floatopia.” Partygoers would gather on the beaches and in rafts and innertubes off the coast as part of the massive celebration.
Several years later, Santa Barbara County officials closed off the beaches ahead of the party to reduce damage and littering on the beaches, stymie the party’s growth and pacify nearby residents who were unhappy with the yearly chaos.
In 2014, riots broke out related to the party and dozens of arrests were made. In recent years, 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.”
This weekend’s Deltopia event was the first full-scale party since 2019 due to limitations on public gatherings related to the coronavirus pandemic and a dramatic decrease of students living in the community as the university shifted toward online coursework.
Between Friday and Saturday, six people were arrested and 40 people received citations. The number of calls for Sunday were expected to return to the normal amount, Zick said.
The party is not condoned by UC Santa Barbara. The university has offered alternative forms of entertainment during the party in an effort to discourage its students from attending.