Beloved community member and former Santa Monica Police Department employee Arthur Lopez died Tuesday, Jan. 12, shortly after he was hospitalized with COVID-19.

The 57-year-old was described by friends and family as the “heart and soul” of the world-renowned Third Street Promenade; and he is survived by two granddaughters, his son Eric and daughter Eleanor, as well as his wife Tina, who he met only two months after he started working at the Santa Monica Police Department in June 1985.

Lopez was a member of SMPD until he retired in December 2016. He spent the entirety of his 30-plus years working on and around the Promenade, and those who were lucky enough to know him reiterated this week that Lopez was the most positive and friendly people they’d ever met.

“Art was synonymous with the downtown area, literally, because he spent his whole three-plus decade-long career there,” said retired Lt. Steve Heineman. “And it’s important to me to start this up by saying Art is truly one of the nicest and best public servants that I’ve ever known — civilian or sworn… Art was from the community and he always wanted to represent it. He was just a kindhearted man; a good family man who was humble. And it’s not that often you find that to the degree that he had it.”

Heineman added every team needs an Art if it’s going to be successful. “Lopez was great for introing because he stayed the whole time and he knew and was respected by everyone. Whereas sergeants come and go — and that’s a fact — he was the definition of continuity,”

“He was basically the glue, in my opinion, that kept the unit going over the years,” retired SMPD Sgt. Ira Rutan said Wednesday when he emotionally recalled working with Lopez.

Rutan and Lopez started working for SMPD at almost the exact same time. It was long before the Third Street Promenade was in existence. Instead, the police department had structure guards who walked the structures all day, according to Rutan. That was how Lopez got to know a lot of the residents who were down there at the time and, to this day, Rutan is sure there’s still many who will remember interacting with him.

And if you remember the substation that was located downtown, Rutan said, Lopez had a large hand in that as well.

“Art and I, together, built that substation. And we spent hours, combing through the old police station, getting file cabinets and chairs and computer terminals and all sorts of stuff for our new substation that we were going to build there, which we did,” Rutan said. “It’s kind of emotional talking about Art because he was such an amazing, amazing person. He was always positive, very intelligent and friendly; he seemed to know everybody, and he was always a calming influence on everybody. And we’re about the same.. actually I’m way older… But we were close buddies so it’s tough.”

It’s connections like this that made people feel special to know Lopez. And Art, as he was affectionately called, made many connections over the decades, even after he retired as a Public Safety Officer Supervisor.

“Santa Monica was home to Art. It was a city where he was born and raised, and then bestowed the opportunity to give back by working for the city he loved. Art always saw it as a gift, which he did not take lightly,” said SMPD Lt. Rudy Flores. “As a true ambassador of that area, Art garnered the respect and adoration of the downtown merchants… The women and men of the Santa Monica Police Department would like to convey our sincerest condolences to his family. All of us who knew Art personally or who worked with him over his thirty-one years serving this community were truly saddened to learn of his passing. His memory and his commitment to public service is a true testament to his character. Art will be truly missed.”

Heineman agreed with the sentiment.

“He was such a great, great great man, so it’s such a tragic thing to know he’s no longer here. And it’s the first personal tragedy from COVID for me,” he said. “And I feel powerless like so many people others obviously do with this, and Art’s passing only makes me that much more aware of how powerless we are.”

A GoFundMe has been set up to help the Lopez family. On Wednesday, it hit its goal of $10,000. Residents can find more information https://bit.ly/3qBzayW.

Brennon@SMDP.com