, a bill that would allow for the return of beachfront property in Manhattan Beach to the Bruce family, has won unanimous support in the California State Senate. It now goes to the state Assembly.
The legislation, approved on a 38-0 vote, would remove state restrictions on Los Angeles
County-owned beachfront property in Manhattan Beach once owned by Willa
and Charles Bruce that limit the county's ability to transfer the
“I want to thank our state senators
who voted for this important legislation and have supported Los Angeles
County’s effort to return the Bruce’s Beach property to the Bruce family
nearly a century after it was stolen from them," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, a leader in the effort to return the property to the Bruce family. "It is my hope that once
this legislation is signed into law, Los Angeles County can set an
historic precedent for how we as a nation should go about beginning to
atone for the sins of our past.”
SB 796 still needs to pass the State
Assembly and be signed into law by Governor Newsom.
If it becomes law, Hahn has vowed to move forward with a county effort to return the property to the surviving descendants of Willa and
Bruce's Beach Background
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. The property was one of the very few beaches where Black residents could go, because
most other Southern California beaches were off-limits to people of color.
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
(Some residents have raised the issue that landowners of both races had their properties taken via
eminent domain during this transaction. However, as Manhattan Beach City
Councilmember Steve Napolitano pointed out during the Manhattan Beach City Council's April 6 meeting
"It’s not about the condemnation; they got paid for it. It’s about the
racial motivation behind it. If it was just about
condemnation, we wouldn’t be here at all." Furthermore, the Bruces were
the only property owners who were running a successful business on their
The city had claimed that it was taking the land to create a park, but the property remained vacant for decades.
In 1948, the beachfront property once owned by the Bruce family was
transferred to the state, with conditions. In 1995, L.A. County accepted
control of Bruce’s Beach and other lands from the state.
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
at new ways to recognize and commemorate Bruce's Beach Park
. The task force was disbanded
after it delivered its 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
" rather than an apology.
Hahn and the L.A. County Board of Supervisors have proposed returning the two original parcels of beachfront property
that the Bruce family
once owned to the descendants of Willa and Charles Bruce. Those
beachfront parcels are immediately west of Bruce's Beach Park and are
currently the site of
the Los Angeles County Lifeguard training headquarters.
family representatives have not yet said what their plans would be for
the property if it were to be returned to them. Hahn has suggested that
she would be open to having the Bruce family lease it back to the county
for the lifeguard headquarters in exchange for fair market rent.
The action comes at a time when reparations
are a hot topic of discussion around the country. The idea of reparations for slavery has been particularly divisive, with one national survey
showing that only one in 10 white respondents supported the idea while half of Black respondents endorsed it.