The legislation 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
It has already earned approval from the California State Senate. If it wins approval of the full Assembly, and is signed by the governor, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has mapped out a plan
by which it has vowed to return the property to the Bruce family.
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
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 establishing a plaque in that location, and it was not
summer of 2020 that a movement began growing for the city to take further action
to recognize the Bruces.
There have been two separate paths of attempted action; one, at the county and state level with SB 796 and the proposed return of the land to the Bruces; and two, at the city level, where the city of Manhattan Beach is continuing to discuss how best to recognize its history.
History Advisory Committee has been working on language for two
proposed plaques; one to replace the existing plaque at Bruce's Beach
Park, and one to be placed on the Strand at the location of the Bruce's
original property, which is now owned by the county and is home to the
L.A. County Lifeguard Headquarters. The panel proposed specific
language for the Strand plaque
and for the Bruce's Beach Park plaque