Bruce’s Beach to Be Returned to Black Heirs
California and the County of Los Angeles appear to be on the brink of righting a grave historical injustice. The Legislature has passed a bipartisan bill permitting Los Angeles to return Bruce’s Beach to the descendants of the Black family it was taken from nearly 100 years ago. The governor’s signature is imminent.
The oceanfront property was once a bustling resort owned by a Black couple named Charles and Willa Bruce. It soon became the target of racists and the Ku Klux Klan.
The land was taken from the Bruces by Manhattan Beach authorities in 1924 under the power of eminent domain. City authorities said they needed the land for a park. But a park wouldn’t be built for another 30 years.
Manhattan Beach gave the parcels to the state in 1948 with a “deed” restriction stating that the land “must remain a public use." The parcels were transferred to the county in 1995. Currently, the site is home to the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Training Headquarters. In April, Manhattan Beach approved a “statement of acknowledgement and condemnation” of the city’s past actions.
Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) and Supervisor Janice Hahn have made it their mission to see the property returned to the Bruces’ living heirs.
“I have been so moved by the unanimous support that we have gotten for this effort from our state leaders,” said Hahn. “When this bill hits the Governor’s desk, I urge him to sign it and I think it would mean so much if he signed it at Bruce’s Beach.”
The saga may not be over, however. One Manhattan Beach official notes that Sacramento legislators chose not to address the deed restrictions in the conveyance from the city to the state (or the constitutionality of “dismissing property tax obligations to the future owners/Bruce family or their descendants”). SB 796 attempts to eliminate the deed restrictions in the conveyance from the state to the county but only as to one of the eight beaches given to the county by the state – Manhattan Beach. Litigation could still uphold the transfer for years.
The property in question is believed to be worth some $75 million. The county is expected to lease it from the family.
This article was updated to include further information about Bruce's Beach, including the "statement of acknowledgement and condemnation" approved by the City of Manhattan Beach.