Bruce Beach Property To Be Sold Back To LA County: Los Angeles County will be paid nearly $20 million for beachfront land taken from a Black couple in Southern California through eminent domain a century ago and returned to their heirs last year, according to officials.
Bruce’s Beach, a section of Manhattan Beach, was previously known as Bruce’s Beach. Janice Hahn, head of the county Board of Supervisors, and state senator Steven Bradford, who led local and state government efforts to redress the injustice, announced the heirs’ intention to sell that area.
The Bruce family believes that selling the property back to the County for close to $20 million will be in their best interests, and Hahn stated as much in a written statement.
“This fight has always been about what is best for the Bruce family, and they feel what is best for them is selling this property back to the County,” Hahn said.
“This is what reparations look like, and I hope other governments around the country will adopt it as a model.” The heirs’ choice to sell the land to the county was backed by Bradford, the author of the state legislation that made it possible for the land to be returned because the current zoning laws would make it impossible for them to develop it in an economically advantageous way.
Willa and Charles Bruce, businesspeople who had immigrated to California from all over the country and owned two pieces of coastal land nearby, bought the ground in Manhattan Beach in 1912.
On the southern shore of Santa Monica Bay, they constructed and opened Bruce’s Beach as a little resort for Black inhabitants. According to a 2021 “60 Minutes” report, Bruce’s Beach was one of the first seaside properties in the area that was owned and utilized by Black people.
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A historian whose work centered on the history of Black Americans in California beach communities told “60 Minutes” at the time that “there was an opportunity for a leisure business to provide services to African Americans who wanted to come to the beach.”
Because there was an African American shop nearby that could provide them with a drink or a place to change their clothing, Jefferson stated, “They would be less harassed in this location.”
The Manhattan Beach City Council condemned the property and took it through eminent domain in the 1920s after the Bruces experienced discriminatory abuse from white neighbors. The property was given to the state of California and later to Los Angeles County after the city did nothing with it.
The county constructed its headquarters for lifeguard training on the property, which also has a small parking lot. Hahn discovered the property’s history and began the complex process of returning it, which included establishing that the Bruces’ two great-grandsons were their legitimate heirs.
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The transfer deal, which was finalized last June, stipulated that the property would be leased back to the county for 24 months at a rate of $413,000 per year plus all operating and maintenance expenses, with the option of selling it back to the county for an estimated $20 million.
Towards the end of July, a ceremony was held on the property, now the L.A. County Lifeguard Training Center site, where Los Angeles County authorities presented the Bruce family with the deed for the Bruce’s Beach property. According to CBS Los Angeles, it was the first time the government had appropriated funds for land that had been stolen from a Black family.
In this week’s statement, Hahn argued that generations of the Bruce family’s successors, who very definitely would have been wealthy, were also wronged by the almost century-old confiscation of Bruce’s Beach.
The Manhattan Beach City Council formally reinstated the property’s former name, Bruce’s Beach, in 2006. Mayor Mitch Ward, the city’s first and only Black mayor, spearheaded the renaming initiative. Then, a sign declaring the location as “Bruce’s Beach” was placed there.
According to CBS Los Angeles, the City of Manhattan Beach is currently attempting to build and install an updated plaque that will give a factually correct narrative of the history of Bruce’s Beach and be located at the top of the park.
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