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Manhattan Beach Takes Next Step on Bruce's Beach

Sep 02, 2020 10:24AM ● By Jeanne Fratello
The Manhattan Beach City Council has agreed to form a task force to look at new ways to recognize and commemorate the controversial Bruce's Beach park area. The council also announced that legally it was not able to give reparations to the Bruce family, as activist groups have called for.

At Tuesday night's City Council meeting, members agreed that council members Steve Napolitano and Hildy Stern would chair the Bruce's Beach task force. The task force will have nine additional members from Manhattan Beach. Once the application is available online, (application coming soon!) interested residents will have 30 days to apply. 

Potential applicants will need to list their interests and qualifications, as well as their beliefs about the top three priorities that the task force will need to address. City Council will survey the applications and finalize the task force membership one month from now.

The task force's mission will be to focus on "next steps on the recognition of the history of Bruce's Beach." At last night's meeting, the city council removed the following words from the initial proposed mission statement: "...and other issues on equity and race in Manhattan Beach," with the decision that the task force will be solely focused on Bruce's Beach history.

The task force will then have four months to come up with a proposal for a new form of recognition or action. Some items that have been proposed include a plaque or some other commemorative display, scholarships, parks and recreation programs, or other actions to recognize what happened 100 years ago to make a difference in the lives of African Americans today. 

The panel will then submit its final plan to the council. If there is a new plaque or display, it will be funded through the city's Public Art Trust Fund, not through the General Fund budget.

Following the completion of that task, the city will decide if the task force will address additional issues of equity and race in Manhattan Beach.

City Says It Cannot Provide Reparations

The city also closed the door on reparations, with a conclusion from the city attorney that the land once owned by the Bruce family is county land and therefore the family would need to take the issue to the county. Furthermore, the city concluded that it cannot legally award a "gift" of public funding to a private party.

Nevertheless, Manhattan Beach Mayor Richard Montgomery told DigMB, the city is moving in the right direction with regard to recognition of the Bruce family.

"We promised we’d educate people on Bruce's Beach. We did that," he said. "We promised to set up a task force, so now we’re taking the next step. We’ve done a great job of keeping our word and following through. We’ll take it one step at time but this is a first step."

The story of Bruce's Beach dates back to the early 1900s, when Charles and Willa Bruce built a popular beach resort for African Americans in Manhattan Beach. By the end of the 1920s, with pressure from community members who did not want African Americans in the town, Manhattan Beach's Board of Trustees (a precursor to the modern city council) claimed the land under eminent domain and displaced the Bruces and other families who had settled in the area.

It was not until 2006 that the city publicly acknowledged this chapter of its history by naming the area Bruce's Beach, and it was not until this summer that a growing movement began calling on the city to take further action to recognize the Bruces.

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