New Legislation Returns California Beach to Black Descendants

 Kaiya Otey | Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Unsplash user Kirk Wester

California Gov. Gavin Newsom authorized the return of Bruce’s Beach to descendants of the Black family unlawfully evicted from Manhattan Beach almost a century ago. Senate Bill 796, which authorized the return of property back to its rightful owners, was signed into law before a public audience Sept. 30, according to the Los Angeles Times

“As governor of California, let me do what apparently Manhattan Beach is unwilling to do, and I want to apologize to the Bruce family for the injustice that was done to them a century ago,” Newsom said.

The state legislature unanimously passed the bill that has an urgency clause that allows Los Angeles County to begin transferring the land, according to the Times. Additionally, the state of California is officially acknowledging that the city’s taking of the shorefront land, where the Bruce Family ran a popular beach resort for African Americans, was racially motivated and done under false and unlawful pretenses.

Approximately six descendants of the Bruce family and local activists were in attendance when Newsom signed the bill.

“There are other families waiting for this very day, to have their land returned to them,” Patricia Bruce, a cousin of Willa and Charles Bruce, told the Times

Willa and Charles Bruce purchased the property in the Los Angeles suburb Manhattan Beach in 1912 for $1,225, the Times reported. The beach soon became known as “Bruce’s Beach” and was used primarily as a beach resort for Black families, for other local beaches turned them away based on their race. 

Complete with a bathhouse, dance hall and cafe, the resort attracted other Black families who purchased land and created what they hoped would be a prosperous beachfront resort strip, according to City News Service. 

However, the resort quickly became a victim of the area’s white population, according to Inside Edition. Subjected to attacks from the Ku Klux Klan, the obstacles faced by the Bruce Family were many.

The Bruces were undeterred and continued expanding their resort. Still, under increasing pressure, the city moved to condemn their property and other surrounding parcels in 1924, seizing it through eminent domain under the pretense of planning to build a city park. 

The lodge’s owners received $14,500 in subsequent attempts to sue for racial discrimination, but they did not receive the land back, according to NPR. The city barred the Bruce family from purchasing any new ground in the area after they took their land.

“The law was used to steal this property 100 years ago, and the law today will give it back,” County Supervisor Janice Hahn told the Times

The land is now valued at around $75 million, according to Inside Edition. 

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