Should Manhattan Beach issue an apology for Bruce's Beach
? That is the question that looms large before the Manhattan Beach City Council as it prepares for its April 6 meeting.
On the table is a wide-ranging apology proposed by the Bruce's
Beach Task Force, as well as alternate versions proposed by
councilmembers Steve Napolitano and Hildy Stern; and an "acknowledgement
and condemnation" by Joe Franklin.
The apology is the one holdover item from the council's discussion of Bruce's Beach at its last meeting on March 16. At that meeting, the council voted to approve three recommendations from Bruce's Beach Task Force and then disbanded the task force
. As the meeting dragged out past the five-hour mark, council members agreed to postpone the contentious issue of whether to issue an apology to the Bruce family.
In the meantime, that issue has continued to fan flames of dissent within Manhattan
Beach, and has drawn both regional commentary
The alternatives before the council include one from Napolitano, one of the task force co-chairs, who has proposed an "Alternative Resolution of Apology;" and one from Stern, the other task force co-chair, who has proposed a different "Alternative Resolution of Apology." Meanwhile, Franklin has proposed a "Statement of Acknowledgment and Condemnation."
Task Force Cites Precedent by Other Cities
The Bruce's Beach task force's version of an apology would declare that the city of Manhattan Beach "apologizes for and condemns" the role that the city played in a variety of racially motivated and discriminatory actions.
It also apologizes for the "resulting culture of exclusion that discouraged other Black
families of color from making their home in Manhattan Beach."
The document also calls for "redress" in the form of having the city council "review and revise policies, procedures, ordinances, values,
goals, and missions through an anti-racism lens in an effort to promote racial
equity, and end discrimination and harassment toward any person or group
based on race or ethnicity."
Additionally, it asks for the full adoption of the Bruce's Beach Task Force recommendations. The city council has approved three of the five recommendations (authorizing artwork, creating a new plaque, and allowing the history subcommittee to continue its work). The city council has not yet voted on the fourth recommendation, adoption of an apology; and it rejected the fifth recommendation, continuing the work of the task force with a community forum.
Napolitano's Alternative Resolution
Councilmember Napolitano's proposed version begins with a summary of historical findings from the Bruce's Beach task force report; provides a formal apology for the role that the city played in those policies of the past and for the city's "overdue recognition" of these events; and promises a commitment by the city to reject racism, hate,
intolerance and exclusion.
The resolution concludes with "We remain committed to these principles as a community, in deeds as well as words. We
don’t seek to condemn or divide, rather, we seek understanding and healing. An apology
can’t change the events of one hundred years ago, nor are today’s residents responsible
for the past actions of others. However, we offer this apology as a foundational act for
Manhattan Beach’s next one hundred years and the actions we will take together to Stand
Up against prejudice and hate, and for respect and inclusion."
"My version of an apology is not to assign guilt or blame but to
acknowledge and empathize a wrong that was done by the city, as a public
agency, nearly 100 years ago," Napolitano told MB News. "It also acknowledges that today's
Manhattan Beach is not the Manhattan Beach of nearly
100 years ago and that we're a loving, welcoming community, not a
racist one. It addresses the City's role in that wrong, it isn't
demanding or asking any current resident to apologize, nor would there
be any such expectation. It's really quite simple and
Napolitano added. "It's been thoroughly reviewed by the city attorney who
has stated that it raises no issues of liability as it includes only
facts already known in the public record for events that are long past
and beyond any statute of limitations."
Stern's Alternative Resolution
Councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem Stern's version also recaps the history as reported by the Bruce's Beach task force. It would have the city council:
Apologize for history that included racially motivated policies;
- Pledge to actively participate in confronting, and standing up against, racism, hate, intolerance and exclusion in our community;
Pledge to promote racial equality and inclusion in city leadership, staffing, contracting, training, policy making and ordinances;
- Pledge to continue to seek opportunities for education and advise on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.
The resolution ends with a statement similar to the one offered in Napolitano's version: "An apology can’t
change the events of one hundred years ago, nor are today’s residents responsible for the past
actions of others. However, we offer this apology as a foundational act for Manhattan Beach’s
next one hundred years and the actions we will take together to Stand Up against prejudice and
hate, and to foster a community where all are welcome and treated with respect, fairness, trust
Stern told MB News that her proposed resolution aims to provide a balance between the task force's resolution and Napolitano's version.
"I believe that in order for an apology to be meaningful it need not
only recognize the wrong and show regret for it but also point the way
to a future that shows we have learned from that history," said Stern. "I have
included a section that shows our continued dedication
to being an inclusive city in the future, similar to the intention of
the task force members in their redress section that is more than just
restating a pledge that we have previously adopted."
Stern added: "Our city attorney is comfortable that there is little to no risk of liability from that proposed resolution."
Franklin's "Statement of Acknowledgement and Condemnation"
Councilmember Franklin's "Statement of Acknowledgement and Condemnation" recaps the history of Bruce's Beach, including the "racially motivated condemnation proceedings undertaken by the city," with the acknowledgment that
"All owners were
paid fair market value or higher for their properties as determined by the Los
Angeles County Superior Court."
Then it states that the city of Manhattan Beach "formally acknowledges and condemns" the city's eminent domain action to dispossess the Bruces and other Black and white property owners of their property.
It continues, "The Manhattan Beach of today is not the Manhattan Beach of one hundred years ago. The
community and population of the City of Manhattan Beach are loving, tolerant and
welcoming to all. We reject racism, hate, intolerance and exclusion.
"Today’s residents are not responsible for the actions of others 100 years ago. However,
we offer this Acknowledgement and Condemnation as a foundational act for Manhattan
Beach’s next one hundred years and the actions we will take together, to the best of our
abilities, in deeds and in words, to reject prejudice and hate and promote respect and
Franklin reiterated to MB News that the resolution was a acknowledgment and condemnation, not an apology.
As for liability, he said, "All of the proposed resolutions and statements have been thoroughly
reviewed by the city attorney who stated there were various degrees of
risk of liability with each version. The least risky action was to adopt
no resolution or statement. My version ranked just below that as being
the least risky."
Bruce's Beach Background
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 Bruce family as well as other families who had settled in the area.
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 the
summer of 2020 that a movement began growing for the city to take further action to recognize the Bruces.
After a summer of racial unrest and controversy surrounding the history of Bruce's Beach, the Manhattan Beach city council agreed to form the task force
at new ways to recognize and commemorate Bruce's Beach
park. The task force members were selected in late October and given four months to prepare their report.