Sign of the Times
June 26, 2014
By Shane Bruce
Special to the Observer
While most teens are updating their Facebook status, preparing for exams, and concerned about dating, brother/sister team, Rachel and Robert Greenberg are concerned with making Culver City a better place to live.
During a Sunday brunch in June 2013 at Dinah's Family Restaurant, 19 year old Robert Greenberg cast a gaze across the street to the then dilapidated Culver City sign that sits nestled between Sepulveda Blvd. and the 405 Freeway. Robert turned to his sister, 14 year old Rachel Greenberg, and said, "We can do something about this." Both youth agreed that the sign was in need of a facelift. Robert pointed out that their combined talents and abilities in the area of design and structural engineering might actually be the very thing that poor old sign needed.
Rachel and Robert's parents, Renee and Richard Greenberg are the kind of parents that believe in empowering their children's vision, especially when that vision means improving the community in which they live. In July, 2013, the teen's dad encouraged them to present their idea to Culver City Council, and the then Mayor, Jeff Cooper.
Robert reported that their presentation, on the wake of the usual parking ticket fare, as well as other mundane City Council business, actually elicited an eruption of applause and cheers from over one hundred spectators in the Council chambers.
Upon approval from the mayor, Robert, a student at Da Vinci Design, school set about the daunting task of having this idea vetted by various agencies, programs, boards, and committees. "I never realized how much paperwork and collaborative planning goes into getting things done on a civic level." Rachel, a student at Da Vinci Science School, jumped in to help with all of the administrative duties. Her interest in structural engineering helped her ask the right questions to the right people to get the job done.
"At first," Robert reported, "The Public Works, which oversees signs and roads, weren't sure they liked my design idea." Robert added some color to the established white motif. "I had a lot of different ideas, including a sort of translucent colors. I think they thought they were too controversial." So Robert settled on the idea of paying tribute to the Hollywood sign, since Culver City's motto is "Heat of Screenland," with its history of MGM and playing host to the Sony Pictures Entertainment. Robert discussed the possibility of having the sign lit with different colors to signify various holidays instead of the letters being colored themselves.
Robert reported that he had never taken on a project of this magnitude before. "I had to apply for a grant and work between Cal Trans and Culver City Public Works. It really brought out my problem solving skills." Robert went on to say that he was able to use this as his senior school project on shaping the community, and garner support from his teachers. "This helped me grow, both in my profession, and in the real world." In April 2014 the final coat of paint was put on the new Culver City Sign, which now proudly sits in its new and pristine state.
Rachel, a freshman at Da Vinci school of Science, who recently took first place in a regional competition and second place in the Chevron Design Challenge in Engineering, indicated that it was "amazing to collaborate with my brother!" She went on laughing, "We never did anything like this before!" and turning to her brother, said, "I hope Robert will help me with my senior class project!" Robert smiled, saying, "Of course I will!" Robert will begin his freshman year at Cal Poly, Pomona in September, while Rachel with be a sophomore at Da Vinci.
Last night Culver City Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells presented Rachel and Robert Greenberg with certificates of recognition. Richard and Renee Greenberg are proud parents. "My dad was right next to me the whole time! He was supportive through all of it, "Robert laughed, "He was just as enthused as I was!" Renee put her arms around both of her kids, beaming, "We are so proud!"