Skip to main content

MB News

Los Angeles County Takes First Steps on Bruce's Beach Return

Apr 20, 2021 06:49PM ● By Mb News Staff
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday voted to take the first steps toward returning the Bruce's Beach property to the descendants of Willa and Charles Bruce.

The property that the Bruce family once owned - once a thriving resort for Black beach-goers who were not allowed on other beaches - is now the site of the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Training Headquarters. The land was taken by the city of Manhattan Beach in the late 1920s through eminent domain. It was acquired by the state of California in 1948, and was transferred to L.A. County in 1995.

Hahn, along with other county and state leaders, on April 9 announced their intention to sponsor legislation (SB 796), to exempt the Bruce's Beach property from statutory restrictions on the transference and use of the land, to enable Los Angeles County to transfer the land to the descendants of the Bruce family.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved two motions to move the process forward on the county level.

"This was an injustice inflicted upon not just Willa and Charles Bruce– but generations of their descendants who almost certainly would have been millionaires if they had been able to keep this property and their successful business," said Supervisor Janice Hahn in a statement issued on Tuesday, April 20. "We will never be able to erase the harm that was done to the Bruces, but today my colleagues voted to do what is in our power to get justice for this family and return the property that was stolen from them nearly a century ago.”

L.A. County Supervisor Holly Mitchell coauthored both motions. “The Bruce family is only one example of countless others where systemic racism took away access to the American Dream for Black families and families of color. In our mission to be an equitable and inclusive L.A. County, when faced with the opportunity to correct historic injustices, we took action to do so," said Mitchell in a statement.

Board of Supervisor Actions

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted unanimously to support two items regarding Bruce's Beach, both authored by Supervisor Hahn and co-authored by Supervisor Holly Mitchell:

Item 8: Returning Bruce's Beach to its Rightful Owners-- Instructs the County CEO's Office to report back in 60 days with a plan for how to return the property to the Bruce family including a timeline, options for how to address property tax issues after the transfer, and plans for the County to either lease the property from the Bruce family or relocate the County Lifeguard facility currently at the property.

Item 9: Los Angeles County Sponsor (SB) 796-- Would make Los Angeles County an official sponsor of CA Senate Bill 796 introduced last week by Senator Steven Bradford. The legislation is necessary because when the State transferred the property to the County in 1995, the deal restricted the County's ability to transfer the property. SB 796 would lift these restrictions and allow the County to transfer the property to the Bruce family.

“With this we have the opportunity not only to right a wrong that happened in our own backyards, but also to be an example of to the rest of the nation on how governments can begin to act now to correct historic injustices,” said Hahn in a statement.

Bruce's Beach Has Become Flashpoint for Controversy

The story of Bruce's Beach dates back to the early 1900s, when Charles and Willa Bruce built a popular Black beach resort in Manhattan Beach. By the end of the 1920s, with pressure from community members who did not want Black beachgoers in 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.

It was not until 2006 that the city of Manhattan Beach publicly acknowledged this chapter of its history by naming the area east of the beachfront property Bruce's Beach Park, 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 a task force to look at new ways to recognize and commemorate  Bruce's Beach Park. The task force was disbanded after they gave their report in March (with the exception of the history subcommittee, which is still waiting to access certain documents that have been delayed).

The Bruce's Beach task force had called for an official resolution of apology from the city of Manhattan Beach. After much discussion over several options, the city voted in early April for a "resolution of acknowledgement and condemnation."

However, the property that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is discussing is the two parcels of beachfront property (totaling 7,000 square feet) that the Bruce family once owned. That parcel is immediately west of Manhattan Beach's Bruce's Beach Park and is currently the site of the Los Angeles County Lifeguard training headquarters.

Subscribe to MB News Emails * Don't Miss a Thing, Sign Up Today!

* indicates required
Email Format

Subscribe to MB News Emails * Don't Miss a Thing, Sign Up Today!

* indicates required
Email Format