Council’s decision aims to end ‘Floatopia’ parties
By JOE BRITTON
City News ServiceThe City Council voted unanimously Monday to close a loophole in San Diego’s beach alcohol ban that allowed revelers to imbibe while floating on rafts and other devices just offshore.
The move brings an immediate end to the so-called “Floatopia” parties that have drawn thousands to Mission Bay.
Lifeguards argue the booze-soaked parties put lives in danger and have led to dozens of water rescues.
“This isn’t just the San Diego City Council saying no, no, no to things,” said Councilwoman Marti Emerald. “This is the San Diego City Council trying to keep people alive at our beaches.”
The parties, which are announced through online social media sites like Facebook, have attracted between 1,500 and 6,000 people.
The ordinance amends San Diego’s existing prohibition on alcohol at the beach to also include “bathers.” The change makes it unlawful to consume alcohol while floating on inner tubes, rafts, surfboards, air mattress and other flotation devices within one marine league, or about three nautical miles, from the shoreline.
The City Council’s vote included an emergency declaration so that the ordinance will take effect immediately.
Sailboats, motorboats and rowboats are exempted from the ban.
Gordon Nall, with the group FreePB.org, said the floating parties were a direct consequence of the passage of Proposition D, which San Diego voters approved in 2008 banning alcohol at all city beaches and coastal parks.
“More bans will just push the problem elsewhere as this beach ban has so brilliantly demonstrated with ‘Floatopia,’” Nall testified.
Amending Proposition D to include the floating parties without another public vote would be illegal and invite litigation, he argued.
“If you want to change it, that’s fine, it goes back to the voters, simple as that,” Nall said. “To think otherwise is to invite lawsuits.”
The City Attorney’s Office opined that the change was allowed and did not require a public vote.
Supporters argued that in addition to the potential for drowning, partygoers leave behind a lot of trash.
“Specifically, we are troubled by the high amounts of marine debris produced by these events and secondly the impacts to water quality as a result,” said Kelly Cramer, with environmental group San Diego Coastkeeper.