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Meet and Greet

By Jorge Casuso

June 26, 2009 -- Vincent Green has been on the job for only a couple of days, and he’s already been offered tips and several life stories. The money, which he turned down, was a reward for watching a shopper’s bags while she went to feed the meter. The life stories are a token of trust from strangers happy to have someone listen.

Those may not be part of the job description, but they come with being one of the new ambassadors walking Downtown – directing visitors, providing information, reporting maintenance issues and generally keeping an eye out on the street.

“I’ve been asking them how I can help,” said Green, dressed in the ambassador uniform, an information sheet in hand and a walkie-talkie clipped to his pants. “At first they think I’m trying to sell them something.”


Ambassador Vincent Green

The ambassadors – who hit the streets this month – aren’t just waiting for someone to approach them. All it took to stop an aggressive panhandler was a disapproving stare from Green. And when an ambassador sees a visitor consulting one of the Downtown maps posted on the street, they offer help.

“Some people don’t know who we are, so we approach them,” said Alex Acuna, another of the ambassadors.

So far, the biggest issue they’ve had to address is smoking. The Third Street Promenade is a no-smoking zone, although many visitors are unaware of the ban.
“Most of the smokers are tourists,” said Acuna. “They put it away when we tell them. The store employees don’t put it out, they finish it.”

Ambassadors Alex Acuna and Susan Reardon

The ambassadors – who are on the street from 10 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. – went through training sessions with various departments at the City, Police Department and Big Blue Bus. They also went through the Convention and Visitors Bureau’s “I Am Santa Monica” program to familiarize themselves with the area.

Funded with $1.2 million a year generated by the new assessment district, the ambassador program is “a step in the right direction towards creating a more inviting Downtown,” said Kathleen Rawson, executive director of the Bayside District Corporation, which runs Downtown.

Allan Golad, BDC board member and chair of the operations committee, agrees.

“We believe the Ambassador program is really special and will make a cleaner, safer and more welcoming Downtown Santa Monica,” he said.

“This has been an amazing feat more than four years in the making, and we hope the community will embrace these dedicated individuals and appreciate their presence as much as we do,” Rawson said.




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