Beach City: Student Housing with Heart and Solar

Beach City: Student Housing with Heart and Solar
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With the installation of the largest array of solar panels in Santa Barbara, Beach City on Cliff Drive is about to become the city’s greenest site – and, officially, a dream come true for Ed St. George.

Located at 801, 811, 821 and 831 Cliff Drive, Beach City is a development of furnished, high-end yet affordable bed units. For the past several years, St. George, a prominent local developer, has made it his mission to convert the property into a bedrock of sustainability, for the future and for the direct benefit of its 450 residents – who, save a few remaining longtime elderly tenants, all are students at Santa Barbara City College.

The solar panel installation is beginning to roll out and is slated for completion in June. It will be the final piece of a massive, $2 million sustainability project at Beach City that has included:

completely retrofitting all units with low-flow plumbing fixtures.
converting all lights to LED.
installing all new energy-efficient appliances.
changing all windows and sliding glass doors to dual-glaze.
installing vinyl, low-heat-emitting roofs that stay cooler in summer and warmer in winter.
relandscaping the grounds to be more sustainable and, soon, to include a state-of-the-art coop for chickens that will eat food scraps, supply eggs and provide natural fertilizer.
installing a low-flow drip irrigation system that cuts water use by 50 percent.

The solar installation “is the final phase,” St. George said – “finally.”

“We’ve been watching the solar industry closely for four years, waiting for the technology to evolve sufficiently,” he said, “and we’ve been working with Brady Electric, and this year is when they told us, ‘This is it.’ These panels are so much more efficient than anything that’s ever come out, with a guaranteed 25-to-30-year life span that will last even longer than that.”

The solar project alone has cost $1 million, but when asked about the costs of creating such an elite infrastructure for community college students, St. George deflected with a chuckle and a brief pause. “Yeah,” he said. “It’s a very long-term investment.”

About Ed St. George
When it comes to Beach City, St. George is not doing this for the money. A highly successful residential developer for 35 years in his native, beloved Santa Barbara, St. George also is the father of two children (ages 14 and 11) who is motivated more these days to invest in the future of his kids, his community and his planet than in financial rewards.

At Beach City, he said, “we take being landlords to these kids very, very, very seriously.”

“This is a huge responsibility that we’ve taken on,” said St. George, who visits the complex virtually every day he’s in town. “We train our people about signs of depression, drug use, aggression. … When these kids go to college they’re so vulnerable, they’re so insecure. They’re heavily influenced by older kids. We need to be there for them.”

Beach City is a mecca, with its elite accommodations, helpful managers and warm community vibe that includes regular social events – all involving food, St. George said, laughing. “We have hot dog parties, tacos, pool parties. … It’s seriously such a cool place.”

And soon even cooler. “Once we get the solar panels up,” St. George said, “I really will feel like we’ve done something big here.”

Meanwhile, he’ll just have to take everyone’s words for it.

“I’ll be out to dinner and have current or past tenants come up,” St. George said, “and they’ll say this is the best experience they’ve ever had. … That’s the jackpot. That right there is the triple-7s on the machine.”

For more information on Beach City, visit For more on St. George’s development company, which focuses on student housing in Santa Barbara, visit

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