Activist Video Archive

Preserving progressive, multicultural voices of Los Angeles area activists and philanthropists.

Preserving progressive, multicultural voices of Los Angeles area activists and philanthropists.

Nancy Greenstein

Part One

Part Two

Nancy Greenstein grew up in Mineola, New York. Graduating from Boston University with a degree in elementary education, her first classroom was in a two room day school on the Navajo Reservation in Beclabito, New Mexico. After moving to Southern California, Nancy returned to graduate school receiving a Masters of Social Work with a specialty in community organizing from UCLA. Twenty five years later she returned to school at UCLA receiving a Doctorate in Education.

After receiving her MSW Nancy worked with Los Angeles based nonprofits serving Native American families in the areas of education, health, job training and community organizing. She is committed to advocating on behalf of progressive causes and building community capacity to advocate for change. Early on she joined the ACLU, becoming an activist and board member of the Southern California Affiliate including serving as its president. She remains passionate about protecting civil liberties and continues to serve on the Affiliate Board and its varied committees.

After moving to an apartment in Santa Monica in the late 1970’s she became involved in the affordable housing and rent control movements through Santa Monicans’ for Renters Rights, SMRR. She worked on their local political campaigns and served on the steering committee which she co-chaired for 14 years. In Santa Monica, Nancy’s community involvement also included serving as the Chair of the Charter Review Commission, the Chair of the Pier Restoration Corporation and as the City’s representative to the West Los Angeles Vector District Board.

Nancy began working for the City of West Hollywood shortly after its incorporation, first, as a deputy to Councilmember John Heilman and then as the Public Safety Administrator. She provided oversight, policy direction and program management of the city’s contract with the Sheriff’s Department, neighborhood/community safety services, disaster preparedness planning and fire services, Fire District projects in addition to staffing boards and commissions. She developed nationally recognized Community Policing programs that became a “template” for Sheriff’s services with contract cities and a model for community engagement. She developed and implemented the Clean and Safe City program combining city departments, county agencies, and fire and law enforcement, to identify and resolve local problems. When first incorporated, West Hollywood residents viewed the Sheriff’s Department as an occupying force particularly in the treatment of the large LGBT community. Nancy was tasked with developing a community policing model that would bring all segments of the community together to help each other be safe. These programs won a number of awards including the prestigious Webber Seavey Award from the International Chiefs of Police Association.

In West Hollywood she had the fortune to organize in a new city developing models focused on community participation and problem solving. Nancy is most comfortable behind the scenes and her organizing style is low key providing opportunities for community members to take leadership and credit. Nancy enjoys connecting people enabling colleagues to benefit from her experience and subject knowledge.

Nancy took a position at UCLA as the Director of Police/Community Services in 1997. There she engaged in a variety of issues/programs that impacted the greater campus community, such as sexual assault, mental health, hate crimes and victimization. Responsible for building bridges between the Police Department and campus community, she also managed crime prevention and community policing programs, and student programs including the Community Service Officers and the national award winning Emergency Medical Services program. Her work with victims of sexual assault was acknowledged with the national Jeanne Clery Campus Safety Award.

In 2002, Nancy was drafted to run for the Santa Monica College Board. She believes in the importance of community colleges whether for transfer, career and technical education, updating skills, lifelong learning, and/or health and wellbeing. She was an originator of the Public Policy Institute at SMC that offers an AA and certificate in public policy while providing educational programs to the community at large. At SMC and UCLA she worked closely with students. Some found her by happenstance; others through a project or were advised to check in with her. She always has time for students and whether mentored for a short time or establishing a more lasting relationship she makes a positive difference in their lives. Nancy continues her work with students as a board member with the Social Justice Learning Institute serving high school age youth and their communities; and with Students4Students, a shelter program for homeless students.


“Everything that is tearing us down today will become a memory, and this memory will be shared as an anecdote or a story or a poem or a play or a warning. It will be shared with another human being, who will then understand that he is not alone in his sadness. This is why we show up for others and tell our tales and listen to others. The great congregation meets daily, and you are someone’s angel today.”

-Tennessee Williams/Interview with James Grissom

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