San Diego Council Rocking the Floatopia Innertube

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The floating parties, named “floatopia,” off the San Diego coast may have a bleak future. Wednesday June 30, the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services (PSNS) committee voted unanimously to forward a proposal to extend the November 2008 alcohol ban to “bathers within one marine league of the shoreline.” No date has been set for the proposal’s hearing by the San Diego City Council.

The November 2008 election made permanent a previous year-long ban of alcohol consumption 24-hours a day on city beaches without a special event permit under Proposition D. Since this ban prohibits alcohol consumption ON city beaches, beach-goers have taken to the water using innertubes, surfboards and other floatation devices to support their beers and sunbathing. Largely organized by social network sites, like, four “floatopia” parties have been hosted in Mission Beach’s waters, inviting out between 1,500 to 6,000 revelers, mostly of college-age. The next floatopia is set for July 17.

While some commend the party-goers creative way around the law, the San Diego Police Department and Lifeguard Department and other cite environmental, safety and fiscal considerations for shutting down these types of parties.

According to the report heard by the PSNS, not only has alcohol been strongly implicated as “a major factor in drowning,” but also that “over 50 rescues were made and several patients were transported to the hospital, all alcohol related” over the course of the four floatopia events. The increased lifeguard and police services have been estimated to have cost over $20,600 for the last two events. Additionally, clean-up crews must be recruited to collect the 2.4 tons of trash left behind by party-goers- eight times the average weekend amount. The impact on the marine life due to beer cans cast from innertubes has not been calculated, but poses a potentially serious environmental threat.

How do they intend on deflating any future Floatopia?

The report proposes to extend the language in the original ban to define “bathers” as “a person floating, swimming, wading, or bodysurfing, with or without the use of a floatation device, including, but not limited to,… a surfboard, …innertube, life preserver…” Lastly, the amendment proposed to extend the ban of alcohol consumption of bathers to the city’s legal limits- three nautical miles from the coast (3.45 miles).

Some critics believe that such an amendment requires another vote by the electorate, and without one constitutes improper exercise of police powers. The people voted for Proposition D, and therefore should vote on this additional ban. However, the legal analysis offered by the City Attorney’s office, holds that “a vote of the public is not required to implement the proposed ban.” Other critics cite the initial ban as the problem and suggest implementing a tax for beach drinkers. Still others question the actual additional cost accrued by floatopia parties and consider the parties all in good fun.

What does this mean for future floatopias? Though no date is set, if the city council considers this proposal as “an emergency ordinance,” the extended ban would be effective immediately. Otherwise, the July 17 Floatopia may just be San Diego’s last.


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