Land valued at $20M to be returned to heirs of Black couple
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles County supervisors have revealed financial details of a plan to return ownership of prime beachfront property to descendants of a Black couple who built a resort for African Americans but were stripped of the land in the 1920s.
The details are contained in a motion before the board on Tuesday that would complete transfer of the site once known as Bruce’s Beach in the city of Manhattan Beach where the county’s lifeguard training headquarters is now located.
The deal includes an agreement for the property to be leased back to the county for 24 months, with an annual rent of $413,000 plus all operation and maintenance costs, and the county’s right to purchase the land for up to $20 million.
The land was purchased in 1912 by Willa and Charles Bruce, who built the first West Coast resort for Black people at a time when many beaches were segregated.
They suffered racist harassment from white neighbors and in the 1920s the Manhattan Beach City Council took the land through eminent domain. The city did nothing with the property and it was transferred to the state of California in 1948.
In 1995, the state transferred it to the county, with restrictions on further transfers.
Supervisor Janice Hahn launched the complex process of returning the property to heirs of the Bruces in April 2021. A major hurdle was overcome when the state Legislature passed a bill removing the restriction on transfer of the property.
According to the motion, the county last month completed the process of confirming that Marcus and Derrick Bruce, the great-grandsons of Charles and Willa Bruce, are their legal heirs. They have formed a limited liability company to hold the property.
“At long last, the descendants of Willa and Charles Bruce will be able to begin rebuilding the wealth that has been denied to generations of Bruces since their property was seized nearly a century ago,” Hahn said in a statement. “We will never be able to rectify the injustice that was inflicted upon the Bruce family, but this is a start, and it is the right thing to do.”
Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, the motion’s co-author, said the land should never have been taken from the Bruces.
“Now, we are on the precipice of redemption and justice that is long overdue,” Mitchell said.
By JOHN ANTCZAK