Skip to main content

MB News

New Bruce's Beach Plaque Will Go In, Without Garden, For Now

Jan 23, 2023 09:44PM ● By Jeanne Fratello
The Manhattan Beach City Council has voted to move ahead with the installation of a long-planned new plaque at Bruce's Beach Park facing Highland Ave. A garden and future art project will come later.

The council made the decision to move ahead with the plaque last week, after members evaluated potential designs for a "meditation garden" that will surround the plaque. 

Members agreed to wait on finalizing the garden design to make sure it fits in with the future (not yet designed or approved) art project, but to move ahead "as soon as possible" with the plaque installation.

The plaque has been completed and has been waiting in city storage.

The bottom of the plaque reads, "Dedicated 2022." An original plan had been to install it on June 19, 2022 (the "Juneteenth" holiday), but various delays kept pushing the project back. 

To ensure that there are no further delays, the city is not planning to change the date on the plaque, a city spokesperson told MB News on Monday.

The new plaque will replace an earlier plaque that stood in that location. The new plaque language, which was approved by the City Council in March, explains more of the Bruce's Beach history.

There will be a stand next to the plaque with a QR code linking to the full Bruce's Beach history report on the city website.

The city's plaque (at Bruce's Beach Park on Highland Ave.) is not to be confused with a second, different plaque created by Los Angeles County. The county's plaque has already been installed on the Strand in front of the lifeguard training facility property that was once owned by the Bruce family.

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


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, six 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.

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