Beach City Students Gather for a Special Valentine’s Celebration

SANTA BARBARA, CA / ACCESSWIRE / February 14, 2020 / On Friday, Feb. 14, about half of the 450 college kids who live at the Beach City housing complex on Cliff Drive will get together for a rousing Valentine’s Day house party complete with food catered by Dave’s Dogs Grill, dessert and dancing to a DJ.

Photo courtesy of St. George and Associates
At last year’s party, 95th-birthday girl Jean Nell is surrounded by flowers, balloons and the friendship of her young neighbors at Beach City.

It sounds at first like a pretty typical Friday night at Beach City, where the managers regularly hold on-site social events for the residents, virtually all of whom attend nearby Santa Barbara City College. The parties are held to give the young tenants – with an average age of 19 – a fun, safe way to stay off the streets.

But this will not be your typical college bash. At this party, the students and others – including city dignitaries such as U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal – will be gathering to celebrate a special fellow resident: Valentine’s Day birthday girl Jean Nell, who’s turning 96 years old.

One of just three non-student residents at Beach City, Nell has lived in her second-story apartment there for 26 years; when developer Ed St. George bought the apartment complex several years ago, to convert it to student housing, he adopted Nell and the couple of other longtime elderly tenants there who had nowhere else to go.

Nell in particular thoroughly embraced her new neighbors, most of whom are young enough to be her great-great-grandchildren. And each year for the past five or so years, they have honored her by coming out in droves on Valentine’s Day to wish her a happy birthday.

“She loves the kids and they love her,” St. George said. “And she is VERY vital. She works at the hospital. She volunteers once a week. She’s always making cookies. She’s got her plants she takes care of…”

“When I inherited her as a tenant, the first thing I told her was, ‘Hey, when we get a first-floor apartment open, we’ll move you down there. We’ll paint it. We’ll get you a new kitchen.’ She said, ‘But then I won’t have my ocean view.’ I said, ‘But I get a little worried about you, on those stairs.’ She said, ‘Don’t you worry about me, Eddie. Besides, the stairs are good exercise for me.’ She’s a sweetheart; she really is.”

‘Hired Grandparents’

The success of blending generations at Beach City moved St. George to do it on purpose at another of his many student housing developments in Santa Barbara. At Campus 880 in Isla Vista, near UC Santa Barbara, an older married couple named Julio and Reina “are literally hired ‘grandparents,'” St. George said. “They live on-site. We pay them to live there. Julio is a maintenance supervisor for UCSB. Reina takes care of the students’ apartments. She picks one or two each day, cleans them up and keeps an eye on the kids. Every Sunday morning, they make the kids a pancake breakfast.”

The Campus 880 students have embraced having them there, St. George said. “Not everyone is so into their parents,” he said, “but they love their grandparents, so it works out really well.”

So well, in fact, that “we just hired another ‘grandparent’ couple for Beach City,” St. George said. “We’re going to be bringing them on in the next two or three months.”

Of course, they’ll be there in addition to Jean Nell, who shows no signs of slowing down on her care for her young neighbors. “She’s so good for them,” St. George said, “and clearly, they keep her young.”

For more on St. George’s student housing developments, visit


Jennifer Goddard Combs

SOURCE: Beach City

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