Bruces Beach Property To Be Sold Back To LA County: Bruce’s Beach was confiscated from its Black owners by a Southern California municipality about a century ago based on race. After a long battle, the owners’ descendants reclaimed the land, and now they want to sell it to Los Angeles County for over $20 million.
It was much celebrated last summer as Bruce’s Beach was returned to the Bruce family, descended from Willa and Charles Bruce. According to the county, the upcoming sale would help compensate the Bruce family for the money illegally taken from them in 1924.
Bruce’s Beach Will Open A New Chapter
As the plan was announced on Tuesday, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Janice Hahn said, “This fight has always been about what’s best for the family.” The family believes that giving the land back to the County for roughly $20 million is in the family’s best interest.
According to Hahn, “finally recreating the generational riches they were denied for nearly a century” is one of the sales goals for the Bruce family. As NPR’s Joe Hernandez reported last year, Manhattan Beach condemned Bruce’s Beach in 1924, closing down what had quickly become a popular resort for Black families and one of the only places where they were assured access to a beach.
The area was eventually given to the state and Los Angeles County. In 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom of California signed a bill allowing the beach to be returned to the Bruce family. “I want to apologize to the Bruce family for the injustice that was done to them,” Newsom reportedly said at the time, as reported by NBC Los Angeles.
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We don’t have a perfect history. An agreement was reached for LA County to lease the beachfront property from the Bruces for $413,000 per year as part of the process that returned the beach to the Bruces. The option to purchase the land for up to $20 million was also provided.
It is unclear what will happen to the coastal land. Due to a previous California statute, the county could not sell the land and could only use the beach for recreational purposes. But the same restrictions are not included in the law that paved the way for the Bruce family to retake possession of the property.
The Black Resort’s Success Riled White Neighbors
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in reopening Bruce’s Beach. Investigations into documents from the Jim Crow era have revealed that the resort’s closure and the seizure of its beachfront property were directly related to the Bruces’ race.
Willa Bruce, whose husband was a cook on a railroad line connecting California and Utah, was primarily responsible for the success of the resort she created in the summer of 1912 under the name Bruce Beach Front.
According to a 2021 report by a task group created by the city of Manhattan Beach, Willa Bruce was reported at the time as saying, “Wherever we have sought to buy land for a beach resort, we have been refused, but I own this land, and I am going to keep it.”
According to documents referenced by the task committee, however, local white landowners “resented the resort’s rising popularity and success” and “feared an invasion by Black people” because of Bruce’s company.
The resort fell victim to their attempts, but only after a while. After the area was condemned through eminent domain proceedings that began in 1924, the city placed a historical marker at the site: “This two-block neighborhood was home to several minority families.”
The city dismantled the resort’s structures after seizing it, but the promised park was never constructed there. According to the state law’s phrasing in 2021, the city council voted to prevent any new resorts from building to keep the Bruces from moving their business.
Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors stated in response to the impending sale, saying that the return of the land “will continue to serve as an example of what is possible across the globe when you have the political will and leadership to correct the injustices of the past.”
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For almost 4 years, Jason Martin has been a freelance writer for newspapers, journals, blogs, books, and online material. He covers the most recent news as well as many other topics.