Manhattan Beach Resident Launches Drive for Bruce's Beach ApologyOct 05, 2021 05:46PM ● By Jeanne Fratello
A Manhattan Beach resident has created an online signature drive for residents to offer an apology to the Bruce family for the taking of their land in the 1920s.
Manhattan Beach resident Seth Davis said that he was motivated to start collecting signatures in favor of an apology when he heard the words of California Governor Gavin Newsom last week in Manhattan Beach. ("As governor of California, let me do what apparently Manhattan Beach is unwilling to do: I want to apologize to the Bruce family," said Newsom at Thursday's signing of SB 796, a bill allowing county-owned beachfront property be returned to the Bruce family.)
"Manhattan Beach hasn’t refused to apologize; our City Council has refused to apologize," said Davis. "In doing so, they are digging in to a narrative that has been damaging to Manhattan Beach and will only get worse. The headline of the City Council’s act was not 'Manhattan Beach Acknowledges and Condemns;' it was "Manhattan Beach Refuses to Apologize.' That narrative is being dug in."
The property 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.
While the city's Bruce's Beach Task Force earlier this year recommended that the city make an apology to the Bruce family for the taking of their land, some councilmembers balked at the idea, saying both that it was not necessary and could potentially lead to litigation.
Davis, a sportswriter and broadcaster, told DigMB: "I come at this issue as someone who is wearing a lot of different hats, but foremost as someone who’s worked in the media for 30 years. This story is not only not going anywhere; it’s gathering momentum. Manhattan Beach is being cast in this plot as Lord Voldemort. We are the villains in this story. It would be so easy for us to flip that narrative. We could be the town that recognizes injustice and want to be at the forefront of correcting it, or we could be the town that won’t apologize."
Davis likened the situation to when Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder infamously declared that he would never change the name of the team. Snyder was quoted as saying, "We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”
"From the moment he did that, the story exploded," said Davis. "The story went from, 'Why don’t you change the name?' to 'Why aren’t you changing the name?' He will go down forever in history as the guy who went down kicking and screaming - when it was evident that’s where this was headed."
Davis' signature drive states: "We, the undersigned citizens of Manhattan Beach, wish to extend an apology to the Bruce family for this town’s decision in the late 1920’s to seize land from Willa and Charles Bruce and destroy the business they built. We acknowledge that this was a racist act, and we support Los Angeles County’s decision to return this land to the Bruces' descendants, who are the rightful owners. While we are unable to reverse the sins of the past, we believe it is important to acknowledge this regrettable fact of our history. We want Manhattan Beach to be an open, tolerant and inclusive town, and we hope this small gesture will help heal the wounds of the past and allow us to build a better future for everyone."
How Will Manhattan Beach Recognize Bruce's Beach?
The Bruce's Beach situation has already drawn great interest as the issue of reparations is being widely discussed around the country. But the seemingly simple question of whether the city should apologize has become almost an issue unto itself.
(Notably, the cities of Glendale, CA; Spartanburg, South Carolina; and Tampa, Florida (see page 1032 of this link for the actual resolution) have all issued resolutions apologizing for discriminatory racial practices of the past.)
The apology issue has prompted heated online discussions and divisions within Manhattan Beach. In March, an anonymous group of community members opposed to an apology took out a two-page ad in a local paper, accusing the city of "creating a racist problem where there is none." In June, a different group of residents formed an organization called MB United, vowing to stand for racial and social justice and decrying those who post anonymous screeds.
Meanwhile, the contrast of L.A. County's willingness to return the land, coupled with the city's refusal to apologize, has drawn national scrutiny to Manhattan Beach .
(Manhattan Beach's current mayor, Hildy Stern was in favor of an apology and was the lone vote opposed to taking the "acknowledgement and condemnation" route back in April.)
As the apology issue continues to stir up emotions in the city, the next task before the City Council is to decide on the most appropriate way to memorialize the history of Bruce's Beach.
The Bruce's Beach History Advisory Board is continuing to hammer out language that would appear on a plaque or plaques. When it first presented its proposed language to include on the plaque in July, the City Council sent the language back for further review, prompting the resignation of one history panel member.
The Bruce's Beach Advisory Board will meet again to review proposed revisions on Wednesday, October 6, at 10:00 a.m.