Bruce Family to Sell Beach Back to Los Angeles County for $20 Million

Sale comes after 2021 LA County Board of Supervisors vote to return of beach back to family’s closest living descendants

By Dolores Quintana

The descendants and heirs of Willa and Charles Bruce, the Black landowners in Manhattan Beach whose land stolen was by the city through fraudulent use of the eminent domain and used for city purposes have decided to sell the property back to Los Angeles County. 

As per the agreement with Los Angeles County, The Bruce family heirs will sell the land back to the County of Los Angeles for $20 million as reported by NPR.com.

A grassroots campaign, Where Is My Land, sparked the legislative effort to give the land back to the Bruce’s descendants and another group, Justice For Bruce’s Beach was also formed to facilitate the effort to reclaim the land. Where Is My Land’s website showed the difference between the price that Willa and Charles Bruce paid for the property in 1912, $1,225, and the land’s current estimated worth, $70 million. It is part of a movement that seeks to redress the racist wrongs of the United States past and give the families who lost their wealth and property reparations and return stolen land. 

The Bruce’s Beach webpage, on the Los Angeles County website, tells the story of the family and their stolen land. “In 1912 and 1920, Willa Bruce purchased two lots of land along the Strand in Manhattan Beach. Like many other Americans of African descent, the Bruce family had moved West as part of the Great Migration, seeking opportunities to participate in the promise of the California and American Dream. Shortly after purchasing the land, Charles and Willa Bruce turned the location into a seaside resort called Bruce’s Lodge that welcomed Black beachgoers from all over Los Angeles and beyond. It became colloquially known as “Bruce’s Beach.”

As the resort gained popularity and attracted Black beachgoers, many white residents of the surrounding predominantly white community reacted with hostility and racism.

At the same time, other Black families purchased land plots nearby Bruce’s Beach. Some built vacation homes, establishing the beginning of a modest and diverse community in Manhattan Beach.”

The site goes on to recount the story of how the land was stolen and racist laws were put in place to keep the Bruces or other black families from purchasing more land, “In 1924, prompted by a petition from local white real estate agents and other citizens, the Manhattan Beach City Council voted to condemn the Bruce’s resort site and the surrounding land through eminent domain to build a park. It is well documented that the real reason behind the eminent domain process was racially motivated with the intention of bringing an end to the successful Black business and to thwart other African Americans from settling in or developing businesses in Manhattan Beach.

City ordinances were also passed prohibiting dressing or undressing in vehicles on the street, public places or in tents, and parking restrictions were implemented to harass and prohibit African American visitation to the Bruce’s Beach shoreline area.

At the time that the Council voted to condemn the land, it also put new laws on the books that prohibited resort-type businesses in that area, effectively prohibiting the Bruce and other Black families from purchasing any additional beachfront property for a resort. In 1929, the court validated the City of Manhattan Beach’s claim to their property through eminent domain and finalized the financial settlement for the land.”

The City of Manhattan Beach immediately demolished the resort and the Bruce family moved out of town but, despite all their claims that the dispossession was necessary to build a public park, no park was built on the property until thirty years later.

In April of 2021, Los Angeles County Supervisors Holly Mitchell and Janice Hahn announced that they intended to return the property to the Bruce family’s closest living descendants and the LA County Supervisors Board approved the motion. On July 20, 2022, the L.A County Board of Supervisors officially returned Bruce’s Beach to the legal heirs of Charles and Willa Bruce.

The California Legislature passed SB 796 which allowed the LA County Supervisors to transfer the land back to Bruce’s heirs which was a bill introduced by State Senator Steven Bradford. SB 796 was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom at Bruce’s Beach in September of 2021 and he said, “As we move to remedy this nearly century-old injustice, California takes another step furthering our commitment to making the California Dream a reality for communities that were shamefully shut out by a history of racist exclusion,” said Governor Newsom. “We know our work is just beginning to make amends for our past, and California will not shy from confronting the structural racism and bias that people of color face to this day. I thank the Bruce family, Senator Bradford, the Los Angeles County Supervisors and all those who fought to keep the legacy of this place alive and deliver this long overdue justice.” and apologized to the Bruce family. 

The story of Bruce’s Beach bears some similarity to the case in which the City of Santa Monica has used land deeded by Arcadia Bandini de Stearns Baker, a wealthy Latina socialite, philanthropist and landowner as a public parking lot and playground. Bandini de Stearns Baker meant the land to be used as a resort for American veterans to be able to heal and rest and it would seem that her wishes for the deeded land have been disregarded by the city. Santa Monica City Councilmembers Christine Parra, Oscar de la Torre and Phil Brock initiated a motion to have a legal counsel explore if the deed was fully and legally executed and therefore enforceable. 

During the Santa Monica City Council meeting when the motion was being discussed, veteran Rob Reynolds said, “She donated land in West Los Angeles and she donated land in Santa Monica to be a home for veterans and a place to help them heal when they come back from combat. It’s really sad that [her purpose] has gone away over the years.”

in News
Related Posts

Registration Now Open for Summer at New Roads

April 12, 2024

April 12, 2024

New Roads School is accepting registration for its summer program, a vibrant selection of classes and camps curated to meet...

CodeREV Inspires Kids to Code

April 12, 2024

April 12, 2024

Budding coders, robotics engineers, game developers, animators and STEM campers are invited to join CodeREV this summer for a memorable...

YMCA Santa Monica: When School Is Out, Camp Is In

April 12, 2024

April 12, 2024

As the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District nears its end,  YMCA Santa Monica is setting up for its popular Summer...

Top 4 Party Boat Rentals in San Diego

April 12, 2024

April 12, 2024

Here’s a rundown of the top 4 party boat rentals that will elevate any event to an unforgettable experience: Alana...

Council Advances Plans for 120+ Affordable Apartments

April 12, 2024

April 12, 2024

The Development Aims to Serve Individuals and Families Earning Between 30 to 80% of the Area Median Income The City...

Venice Shorts: Media Trucks Scour Canals After Saturday’s Violent Assaults

April 12, 2024

April 12, 2024

Just How Safe Is Venice? By Nick Antonicello Car vandalism, tool theft, break-ins, property theft, pick-pocketing at the beach, rampant...

Accents Owner Steven Hanna Reflects on Decades Long Legacy

April 12, 2024

April 12, 2024

For 37 years, Accents Jewelry has transcended mere commerce, evolving into a vibrant community, a crucible of creativity, and a...

Earth Day Celebration Coming to Village Green

April 12, 2024

April 12, 2024

Attendees Can Indulge in a Variety of Culinary Delights, Including Savory or Sweet Crêpes From la Crepe du Jardin, Shane’s...

Nationwide Retail Theft Scheme Leads to Five-Year Prison Sentence for Santa Monica Man

April 11, 2024

April 11, 2024

The Man Led a Group That Hoodwinked Department Stores Across 23 States By Zach Armstrong A Santa Monica man was...

Lyft Driver Charged with Sexual Assault Following Investigation

April 11, 2024

April 11, 2024

The Incident Occured in September By Zach Armstrong A Lyft driver who allegedly sexually assaulted a woman last year has...

“New Girl” Actor Sells Palisades Abode for $3.1M

April 10, 2024

April 10, 2024

He and His Wife Undertook a Renovation of the Unique, Two-Story Abode, Transforming It Into a Picturesque Beachfront Dwelling Actor...

Homeless Man Threatens Lifeguard With Rod, Shuts Down PCH Traffic While Perched on Cliff

April 10, 2024

April 10, 2024

The Incident Halted Traffic for Over an Hour By Zach Armstrong A homeless man was arrested by authorities on Monday after...

Two Women Assaulted and Injured Near Venice Canals, LAPD Initiates Investigation

April 10, 2024

April 10, 2024

The Venice Community Will See an Increase in Patrols Along With Black and White Police Vehicles By Zach Armstrong An...

Now Enrolling: St. Matthew’s Summer Enrichment Program

April 10, 2024

April 10, 2024

Discover the magic of St. Matthew’s Parish School through their Summer Enrichment Program, offering a timeless summer camp experience infused...

Report: State Farm’s California Policy Shakeup to Hit Palisades the Hardest

April 10, 2024

April 10, 2024

Customers Affected Will Receive Notifications Starting July 3 for Property Holders and August 20 for Commercial Apartment Holders The San...