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The Man who Made the Santa Monica Promenade Shine Dies

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Jorge Casuso

October 7, 2015 -- Eddie Greenberg, who more than anyone is responsible for making Santa Monica's Promenade shine, from its sidewalks to its light poles, died last week. He was 72.

Soft-spoken and self-effacing, Greenberg rubbed shoulders with celebrities but always managed to remain grounded to what he loved most – the street whose maintenance crew he supervised since 1984, before it became the Promenade that would draw some 10 million visitors a year.

“It's a huge passing. He was just such a fixture,” said Kathleen Rawson, executive director of Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM), which oversees the Downtown, including the Promenade.

“He was an extraordinarily dedicated City employee who had such incredible pride and love for both the place where he worked and the people who worked with him,” Rawson said. “He was a big part of our Third Street Promenade.”

“On his days off, he would sit at the Coffee Bean and watch the Promenade,” recalled Andrew Thomas, Downtown's former operations manager, who worked closely with Greenberg. “To him that was his home. It's hard to think of someone who loved the Promenade more.”

“He was always in good spirits and kind,” said Marivi Valcourt, Downtown's former marketing manager. “He was a good soul on the Promenade.”

Greenberg, who moved to Santa Monica from his native Montreal when he was seven years old, joined the City's maintenance team in 1977 after working with the late Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers Union. When he marked his 30th anniversary in 2007, top City officials gathered to celebrate the milestone.

“The Third Street Promenade is known around the world, and one of the reasons is this man, and the work they (the members of Greenberg’s crew) do,” former police chief Tim Jackman said on the occasion.

Greenberg took great pride in his work, becoming effusive when he described a job well done by the crews he supervised. Asked by the Lookout when he retired to describe his fondest memory, Greenberg replied:

"The memory that comes to mind is on a beautiful morning when the scrubbing machines have done their job, and the ultraviolet rays of the sun are shining on the street and it gives me that glowing image of the city of the hill."

A history buff who kept a picture of Lincoln on the wall of his office in one of Downtown's parking garages, Greenberg was known to quote some of his favorite presidents – Lincoln, Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy.

One of his most cherished presidential quotes was one personally directed at him by Bill Clinton. During a 2002 visit to the Promenade, the former president noted that the parking structure’s bathroom was cleaner than Disneyland’s and complimented its pine scent. It was Greenberg, a dedicated environmentalist,who had pushed for the eco-friendly cleaning product.

Clinton was only one of the numerous celebrities -- including Charles Bronson, Bobby Kennedy, Jr., Kobe Bryant, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Muhammad Ali – that Greenberg rubbed shoulders with, all of whom seemed to feel comfortable with the humble leader of a cleaning crew who liked to quote philosophers and presidents.

"It (the job) helped a lot of people and I met some great people,” Greenberg told The Lookout when he retired in 2010. “Can you imagine little ol' me having a conversation with Charlie Bronson?”

Greenberg, who lived with his cat, Winston, named after Winston Churchill, left a lasting mark on the teenagers he helped get off the streets, the homeless who found in the Promenade the closest thing to home and the local shop owners who spent half their waking hours on the street he kept clean.

“I feel I've finished this job,” Greenberg said when he retired, “like I've been to the mountaintop.”

A special commemoration will be held Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Santa Monica Moose Lodge, 1600 Ocean Park Boulevard.

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