Council Votes to Explore Possible Restitution For Black Entrepreneur’s Descendents

Silas White Had Big Business Plans for the Local Black Community Until the City Used Eminent Domain

By Zach Armstrong

In its Tuesday meeting, Santa Monica City Council unanimously approved a motion to explore possible ways of compensating the descendants of a Black entrepreneur whose hopes were crushed almost 70 years ago when eminent domain seized his property.

Silas White had big ideas in 1957. This was to open a Black beach club at 1811 Ocean Avenue where members could lounge in the main entrance’s bar, enjoy jazz music or take a swim in a crystal-clear pool. Further plans included an arts and entertainment venue where “Black residents could indulge in the ‘social enjoyment, recreation, and entertainment’ that they were denied at ‘white’ beach clubs like Santa Monica’s famous Casa del Mar and Edgewater.”

A year later, before White’s plan could come to life, Santa Monica City officials used eminent domain to take the property. At the time, the City reportedly declared the property blighted and claimed it was needed for a parking lot. According to a staff report, these “urban renewal policies” intensified racial segregation and displaced Black communities. 

Today, the City still owns the property; a portion of which is leased to the world-class Viceroy Hotel which in exchange benefits the City with direct annual revenue. 

“This puts the City of Santa Monica in the unique position to right this historic wrong by further  investigating the seizure of the Ebony Beach Club Land and establishing a process to potentially return the land to the living heirs of those from whom the land was taken and compensate their descendants for wealth lost over the last 60 plus years.” the report read.

“The City has underscored its commitment to racial equity, including the adoption  of a Black Apology in November 2022 and the adopted City priority of advancing equity  and inclusion with a Citywide equity strategic plan well underway.” it continued.  

The recently approved motion, which was put forward by Councilwoman Caroline Torosis, gives the City Manager’s office 90 days to recommend, if any, possible ways to compensate the family of White.

in Hard, News
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