LA County one step closer to possible return of Bruce's Beach; Great-great-grandson thanks supporters

Imagine it’s the early 1900s. Bruce’s Beach was a thriving resort for Black residents along the strand. 

In the 1920s, the beachfront property was taken from the Bruch family by the City of Manhattan Beach using eminent domain. In 1995, it was transferred to the state and then to Los Angeles County. 

On Thursday, Governor Gavin Newsom made it legally possible to transfer it yet again. This time, by signing a measure giving authority to the county, it can go back to the Bruce family.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Gov. Newsom signs bill advancing LA County's return of Bruce's Beach

Before grabbing the pen to sign the document near the beach Newsom said, "As Governor of California let me do what Manhattan Beach apparently doesn’t want to do and I want to apologize to the Bruce family."

Governor Newsom apologizing to the descendants of Charles and Willa Bruce who in 1912 spent $1,200 –  a lot of money back then – and as State Senator Steven Bradford says, "created a beach resort, a dance hall, a tavern and a lodging place for folks to recreate."

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It was one of only two Black resorts in the early 1900s in Southern California. The other in Santa Monica, but this one where a County Lifeguard Station now sits was taken from the Bruce family in the 1920s by eminent domain under the guise of building a park. Activist Kavon Ward started an awareness campaign. 

She says, "I took it to lawyers, I took it to policymakers... I took it to the streets. I organized the community. We marched. We protested."

The protests come as LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn took a different route after discovering Bruce’s property was, as she says, "...stolen from them and that now that it’s part of the County of Los Angeles I actually had something to do with wanting to give it back."

She needed a state law to allow the county to return Bruce’s property to the family. State Senator Steven Bradford authored that law and Gov. Newsom signed it Thursday after making his apology.

But, why won’t the Manhattan Beach City Council apologize to the family and other black families that had property nearby? Former Manhattan Beach Mayor Mitch Ward, who was responsible for getting a plaque honoring Bruce’s Beach back in the early 2000s, says "Some individuals believe that it’s not their responsibility to do that because it happened 100 years ago."

Current Manhattan Beach Mayor Hildy Stern has issued an apology, but adds, "my colleagues would not accept the apology. They did agree to issue an acknowledgment and I felt that was not adequate enough.. didn’t go far enough to extend ourselves to the Bruce family."

And, then there is the great-great-grandson of the Bruces’ Anthony Bruce. He read a prayer and said, "I want to thank everyone who is here today."

Friday begins phase two of the process. Supervisor Janice Hahn will introduce a motion directing the County to prepare to accept the amended deed from the state and begin a process to identify the legal heirs of Willa and Charles Bruce.

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