Manhattan Beach land valued at $20 million to be returned to black couple’s heirs

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County supervisors have revealed financial details of a plan to return ownership of a beachfront property to the descendants of a black couple who built a resort for African Americans but was stripped of the land in the 1920s.

The details are contained in a motion before the board on Tuesday that would complete the transfer of the site once known as Bruce’s Beach to 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 to the county for 24 months, with annual rent of $413,000 plus all operating and maintenance costs, and the county’s right to purchase the land up to at $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 secluded.

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 him to the county, with restrictions on further transfers.

Supervisor Janice Hahn began the complex process of returning the property to the Bruce heirs in April 2021. A major hurdle was overcome when the state legislature passed a bill removing the restriction on property transfer .

According to the petition, the county completed the process last month to confirm that Marcus and Derrick Bruce, the great-grandsons of Charles and Willa Bruce, are their legal heirs. They formed a limited liability company to hold the property.

“Finally, the descendants of Willa and Charles Bruce will be able to begin to rebuild the wealth that has been denied to generations of Bruce since their property was seized nearly a century ago,” Hahn said in a statement. “We will never be able to right the injustice that has been done to the Bruce family, but it’s a start, and it’s the right thing to do.

Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, a co-author of the motion, said the land should never have been taken from the Bruces.

“Now we are on the precipice of redemption and long overdue justice,” Mitchell said.

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