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Bruce Family to Sell Bruce's Beach Property Back to County for $20 Million

Jan 03, 2023 03:53PM ● By Jeanne Fratello

L.A. County officials present official documents to members of the Bruce family at a ceremony in Manhattan Beach on July 20, 2022.

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors announced on Tuesday that the Bruce family has decided to sell the Bruce's Beach property back to the county for $20 million.

The prospective sale follows the county's return of the land to the Bruce family last year.

In June 2022, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors had unanimously approved a transfer agreement to return the former Bruce's Beach beachfront resort property to the descendants of the Bruce family. The county then transferred the land back to the Bruce family in July 2022, with the option to sell back to the county at the $20 million price tag.

"This fight has always been about what is best for the family, and they feel what is best for them is selling this property and finally rebuilding the generational wealth they were denied for nearly a century," said L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn in a statement following Tuesdays' announcement. "This is what reparations look like and it is a model that I hope governments across the country will follow."

The property in question is what is known as Lots 8 and 9 of Peck’s Manhattan Beach Tract, an estimated 7,000-square-foot property that had been appraised at a value of approximately $21 million. These lots are currently being used by the L.A. County Fire Department as a lifeguard training facility. The 2022 agreement had authorized the county to lease back the property from the Bruce Family LLC for $413,000 each year. The lease agreement included an option for the county to purchase back the land for $20 million.

The property - the former site of the Bruce's Beach resort - is separate from Bruce's Beach Park, the open space directly to the east of the lifeguard headquarters that is owned by the city of Manhattan Beach.

Where Did that $75 Million Estimate Come From?

Manhattan Beach News has seen repeated references to the property being worth an estimated $75 million. It is unclear where that estimate would have come from, as the $20 million valuation appears to be directly on target.

Again, the property is the 7,000-square-foot beachfront lot that is currently being used as lifeguard training headquarters.


"A fairly recent, directly comparable sale occurred on the Strand about two years ago, in November 2020, just one block away," said Dave Fratello, broker at Edge Real Estate Agency and blogger at Manhattan Beach Confidential. "There, an older home on a 6,900 square foot lot at 2722 The Strand sold for $17.750 million. The two lots comprising the former Bruce family property are about the same total size. Market values have risen since then."

What About the Plaques? 

Given that there are two separate properties referred to as Bruce's Beach, there has been understandable confusion about the ownership and the sale. 

The beachfront property is the property that had belonged to the Bruce family. It is currently the site of the lifeguard training facility. 

The park known as Bruce's Beach Park is to the east of the Bruce's Beach beachfront property. The park is owned by the city of Manhattan Beach.

There is currently a plaque marking the official beachfront site of the Bruce's Beach resort on the Strand in Manhattan Beach. That plaque was created by and established by L.A. County. 

L.A. County Supervisor with the new Bruce's Beach plaque on the Strand in Manhattan Beach. Photo via Janice Hahn.

Meanwhile, a plaque at Bruce's Beach Park (the property east of the Bruce's Beach beachfront location, and owned by the city of Manhattan Beach) has been removed in anticipation of a new plaque with a more thorough description of the Bruce's Beach history (see image directly below).


The plaque has been completed and is now waiting in the city yard while the city finishes design plans for a new meditation garden to be installed at Bruce's Beach Park (facing Highland Ave.).

Manhattan Beach and Bruce's Beach History

Since 2020, the city of Manhattan Beach has engaged in an emotional debate over how - or how much - to recognize Willa and Charles Bruce, pioneering Black business owners who created a thriving resort for Black beach-goers in Manhattan Beach in the 1920s. 

(Historical images of Charles and Willa Bruce, of beachgoers at Bruce's Beach resort, and of the former Bruce's Beach resort site. Photos via Bruce's Beach Task Force subcommittee.)

By the mid-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, condemning the lots and displacing the Bruce family as well as other families who had settled in the area. (Of the 30 lots condemned, five were owned by five Black families and had been developed with cottages, homes, or, in the Bruces’ case, a two-story building for their business; and the remaining 25 lots were owned by White property owners that had no structures built upon them and were uninhabited.)

The land was acquired by the state of California in 1948, and was transferred to L.A. County in 1995. The beachfront property the Bruce family once owned is now the site of the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Training Headquarters. 

The effort led by Los Angeles County leaders to return the land to the Bruce family reached a significant milestone in September 2021 when California Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 796, a bill permitting the return of the county-owned beachfront property to the Bruce family, into law. L.A. County officials handed over the deed to the property to the descendants of the Bruce family in July 2022. The county also created a plaque on the Strand that details the history of the beachfront property.

Meanwhile, within Manhattan Beach, it was not until 2006 that the city 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 (park) location. In the summer of 2020, a movement began growing for the city to take further action to recognize the Bruces.

Despite creating a Bruce's Beach Task Force and adopting a history report created by the task force, the Manhattan Beach City Council struggled for nearly a year with finding compromise on the wording, location, and style for a new marker honoring Bruce's Beach and the Bruce family.

The City Council approved the plaque language on March 10, 2022 and the plaque design on April 19, 2022.

Also in March 2022, the City Council reaffirmed its policy disallowing special event permits at Bruce's Beach Park, going against a recommendation of the city's Parks and Rec Commission. Councilmembers voted 4-1 to uphold the current special events policy that excludes Bruce's Beach as well as Larsson Parkette and 8th Street Parkette from the permitting process.

Although a "Juneteenth" celebration in 2021 had brought large crowds to Bruce's Beach, Juneteenth 2022 was a relatively quiet day at Bruce's Beach Park, with just a scattering of families enjoying picnics and with city-contracted security staff on hand.

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