Manhattan Beach, CA — Today, the members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to take the first steps toward returning the Bruce’s Beach property to the descendants of Willa and Charles Bruce.
“This was an injustice inflicted upon not just Willa and Charles Bruce– but generations of their descendants who almost certainly would have been millionaires if they had been able to keep this property and their successful business,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn who has led the effort in the County to return the property. “We will never be able to erase the harm that was done to the Bruces, but today my colleagues voted to do what is in our power to get justice for this family and return the property that was stolen from them nearly a century ago.”
“I am honored to join Supervisor Hahn in this important first step that will allow the County to return this property to its rightful owners, the Bruce Family,” said Supervisor Holly Mitchell who coauthored both motions today. “The Bruce Family is only one example of countless others where systemic racism took away access to the American Dream for Black families and families of color. In our mission to be an equitable and inclusive LA County, when faced with the opportunity to correct historic injustices, we took action to do so.”
In 1912, a young Black couple named Willa and Charles Bruce purchased beachfront property in Manhattan Beach and built a resort that served Black residents. It was one of the few beaches where Black residents could go because so many other local beaches did not permit Black beachgoers. The Bruce’s and their customers were harassed and threatened by white neighbors including the KKK. Eventually, the Manhattan Beach City Council moved to seize the property using eminent domain in 1924, purportedly to create a park. The City took the property in 1929 and it remained vacant for decades.
Part of the property taken by the City, including the two parcels of beachfront property (totaling 7,000 square feet) that the Bruce family once owned, was years later transferred to the State and in 1995 that property was transferred to Los Angeles County. It is now the site of the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Training Headquarters. Earlier this year, Supervisor Hahn announced her intention to return that property to the descendants of Willa and Charles Bruce.
Today, the Board voted unanimously to support two items regarding Bruce’s Beach, both authored by Supervisor Hahn and co-authored by Supervisor Holly Mitchell:
Item 8: Returning Bruce’s Beach to its Rightful Owners– Instructs the County CEO’s Office to report back in 60 days with a plan for how to return the property to the Bruce family including a timeline, options for how to address property tax issues after the transfer, and plans for the County to either lease the property from the Bruce family or relocate the County Lifeguard facility currently at the property.
Item 9: Los Angeles County Sponsor (SB) 796– Would make Los Angeles County an official sponsor of CA Senate Bill 796 introduced last week by Senator Steven Bradford. The legislation is necessary because when the State transferred the property to the County in 1995, the deal restricted the County’s ability to transfer the property. SB 796 would lift these restrictions and allow the County to transfer the property to the Bruce family.
Hahn hopes this work will be a model for other governments to follow.
“With this we have the opportunity not only to right a wrong that happened in our own backyards, but also to be an example of to the rest of the nation on how governments can begin to act now to correct historic injustices,” said Hahn.