Los Angeles County Votes to Return Beachfront Land to Rightful Black Family

Yesterday, a unanimous vote by the LA County Board of Supervisors returned oceanfront land back to its rightful owners.

A plaque marking Bruce's Beach on June 29, 2022, in Manhattan Beach, California. Credit: Getty Images
A plaque marking Bruce's Beach on June 29, 2022, in Manhattan Beach, California. Credit: Getty Images

LA County voted yesterday to restore ownership of a Manhattan Beach property to the family of a Black couple who had the land taken from them in 1924.

Charles and Willa Bruce purchased the land in 1912 for $1,225, constructing several facilities and using the space as a beachfront haven for Black families to congregate away from the racism of Jim Crow-era California.

Harassment from white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and other bigoted community members was an ongoing issue, CNN reported. When the Bruce family still wouldn’t leave, the city condemned the land and seized several properties through eminent domain; it claimed that the land was needed to build a park.

“It is well documented that this move was a racially motivated attempt to drive out the successful Black business and its patrons,” the LA County Board of Supervisors said in a motion to finalize the land restoration.

The Bruces’ great-great-grandson, Anthony Bruce, 39, described Tuesday’s vote as “the relief we’ve been waiting for.” He said, “On one hand, it’s the answer to our prayers … But on the other hand, it’s a reminder of the terrible and tragic events that took place before this happened.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Bruce family will rent the property to the county for $413,000 a year. The family retains the right to sell the land to the county at a later time for $20 million.

The LA Times also reported that a grassroots organization is advocating for similar reparations for five other Black families in Canyon, Coloma, Hayward, Palm Springs, and Santa Monica. Indigenous communities are also fighting for the return of their ancestral lands of tribal property. In March, California Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed a plan that would give $100 million to Indigenous tribes so they could purchase and preserve their ancestral lands.