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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Halloween used to mark the night of fabled local parties. What happened?

Thomas Brostrom-Rich
A fire truck and automobiles light up Del Playa drive on Friday, October 13th in Isla Vista, Calif. Students kicked off the Halloween season filling the streets of Isla Vista weeks before the day arrives.

Music from live bands, DJ sets, and cheers from hundreds of college students can be heard from up and down University of California, Santa Barbara’s notorious party location, Del Playa Drive, on almost every weekend of the school year. 

The one exception? The weekend leading up to Halloween.

Halloween weekend and Halloween night in Isla Vista used to be one of the biggest events of the year with at times up to 30,000 students traveling from universities all over California just to celebrate the holiday at UCSB.

Over the years, the presence of officers has increased in Isla Vista and specific regulations have been put in place during Halloween weekend due to its chaotic history.

“One of the main differences [for Halloween weekend] is that there is a festival noise ordinance in place,” Public Information Officer Raquel Zick said. “During the Isla Vista operational weekend, we increased our staffing to meet the needs of the Isla Vista community.” 

The festival ordinance is in place from Oct. 26 through Nov. 4 between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m. and prohibits any live or recorded music that can be heard from outside a place of residence.

Rules such as this weren’t always in place. In the 1980s, UCSB’s parties began to attract the masses. In 1986, a rumor started that Playboy magazine named the University the top party school in the nation, prompting thousands more students to come to UCSB to party on Halloween night.

“My first three [Halloweens spent at UCSB] were crazy,” said Steve Tseng, a UCSB Alumnus who graduated in 1987 . “I saw so many fights and people were so drunk. I thought the guys treated women really poorly and it was like that the whole weekend.”

Unlike the riots of the 1970s at UCSB on Halloween night, the parties in the 1980s and 1990s grew out of hand due to thousands of students from various outside colleges trashing UCSB’s college town and wreaking havoc on the pre-existing community of Isla Vista.

“What happened was students from every college you could think of would show up,” Tseng said. “They really just abused IV.”

In addition to Playboy’s alleged shoutout to the University in 1986, Halloween weekend that year was the first time the open container ordinance was enforced, prompting more authoritative oversight on Del Playa Drive than ever before. That year, there were over 12 reported cases of rape, one reported stabbing, two deaths from cliff falls, and one woman reportedly shot in the chest.

“It was so out of control because people who didn’t go to UCSB didn’t care that nobody would ever see them again,” Tseng said. “People got hurt and it was just crazy. I felt really unsafe at times.”

Over the years, various tactics have been used to control the holiday at UCSB such as the 1987 “Don’t Come to IV” campaign and the implementation of the 1993 “Five Year Plan” to limit chaos on Halloween weekend. Currently, there are a plethora of restrictions and tactics used by local authorities to ensure that the holiday is safe for Isla Vista residents, and so far they have done just that.

“[Halloween] is not banned,” Zick concluded. “This isn’t the sheriff’s office coming up with laws and enacting them; that’s not the way this works. We have regulations in place that were set forth by community members to help with some of the issues that have historically occurred during the Halloween weekend in Isla Vista.”

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