State likely to return Manhattan Beach land to descendants of Black pioneers

Bruce’s Beach property was seized century ago; measure now awaits Newsom’s signature

The Bruce family built the resort for Black families who were barred from other beaches in the early 1900s. (Getty)
The Bruce family built the resort for Black families who were barred from other beaches in the early 1900s. (Getty)

The return of a Manhattan Beach land parcel to the descendants of Bruce’s Beach founders Willa and Charles Bruce is all but set in stone.

The state Senate on Thursday unanimously approved SB 796 giving Los Angeles County the authority to transfer the parcel to the Bruce family, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

The vote sends the bill to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk for final approval.

The Bruces bought oceanfront land in Manhattan Beach in the early 1900s and opened a resort for Black families, who at the time were barred from nearly all other beaches and resorts in the region.

The beach was a major attraction, but it also made the Bruces frequent targets of threats and harassment.

Manhattan Beach city officials in 1924 condemned the property and others in the neighborhood through eminent domain, claiming it would be made a public park.

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The city did nothing with the properties, but two decades later transferred the former Bruce property to the state. In the 1960s, California finally made the property into a park and later gave it to L.A. County.

Backers of the return effort said it’s the first time in U.S. history that land is to be returned to a Black family to make amends for past discriminatory policies, according to the Daily News.

Bruce family descendant and spokesperson Duane Shepard called it the “start of something really big for our people now.”

State Sen. Steven Bradford, who spearheaded the effort, called the bill an “opportunity for this government to finally do the right thing.”

He said the measure is “a model of what reparations can truly look like.”

[LADN] — Dennis Lynch