He spearheaded the team that swept sidewalks and washed walkways in one of the region’s most popular shopping destinations, but no job was beneath Eddie Greenberg.
He called the Third Street Promenade the “crown jewel” of Santa Monica and cared for it as such, whether he was picking up trash, helping a tourist with directions or striking up a conversation with a homeless person.
Greenberg, a former promenade maintenance supervisor who spent nearly half his life working for the City of Santa Monica, died last week of an apparent heart attack, according to his successor. He was 72.
Greenberg saw the promenade transform from its origins as a commerce-focused thoroughfare for pedestrians into a retail mecca with chain stores, movie theaters and restaurants, not to mention the street performers and throngs of visitors who give the business district its pulse.
The quality of their first impressions rested in part on the shoulders of Greenberg, who had “The Dean of Clean” emblazoned under his name and job title on the dark zip-up overshirt he often wore to work.
“When I think about Eddie, I think about the promenade,” said Jose “Jay” Aguilar Jr., the city’s current head of promenade maintenance. “He loved that promenade. He was there when it opened. He never did want to see it commercialized because he liked the hometown feel. He was very passionate, and he told it how it was. He didn’t sugarcoat it. But that’s what made him him.”
Born in Montreal, Greenberg moved to Santa Monica as a child and grew to love the beachside city. In archived interviews with the Daily Press, he recalled shaking hands with John F. Kennedy as a teenager, working as an organizer with civil rights activist Cesar Chavez and becoming friends with actor Dean Jagger.
Greenberg was hired by the city in 1977, holding a variety of jobs in maintenance and public works. In his longtime position as supervisor of promenade maintenance, he and his team were responsible for cleaning about a million square feet of pedestrian walkways each day.
“Eddie is the best supervisor on any job I’ve ever had,” maintenance worker Linwood “Woody” Fenderson” told the Daily Press in 2006. “If you have any problems, and I mean anything, you can come and talk to him. He’s down to earth and gets down to business, and always with a great attitude. I could have transferred to other departments, got other jobs, but for 10 years, I’ve stayed right here. And it’s because of the environment that Ed creates.”
Greenberg took great pride in his duties on the promenade. He was there to assist after the Northridge earthquake in 1994. He was there to help following the farmers market crash in 2003 that left 10 people dead and dozens more injured. But perhaps most of all, he was there on the regular days.
Greenberg was honored for 30 years of service on June 29, 2007, in a ceremony on the promenade. He retired in 2010 and passed the reins to Aguilar, who learned from his predecessor about the compassion, dedication and tenacity that the position requires.
“If you are climbing up your own mountain of success and you decide it’s too hard and give up, you fail yourself,” Greenberg once told the Daily Press. “If you do that, what are you going to tell your kids? How are you going to inspire them?”
Greenberg is survived by three adopted children, his sister and a few nephews, according to Aguilar.
Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 8, at Glen Haven and Shalom Memorial Park, 13017 Lopez Canyon Rd., in Sylmar. Afterward, family and friends will gather at the Santa Monica Moose Lodge, 1601 Ocean Park Blvd., from 4 to 8 p.m.