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Bruce’s Beach: Los Angeles County to buy land seized from Black family

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The great-grandchildren of a black couple whose Southern California beach property was seized by local authorities in 1924 and returned to the family last year, will resell it to Los Angeles County for nearly $20 million, an official said Tuesday.

The Manhattan Beach site was once home to Bruce’s Lodge, a resort established in 1912 by property owners Willa and Charles Bruce as a place where black tourists could go to avoid harassment during a time of rampant discrimination against black people in California and beyond. It was known informally as “Bruce’s Beach”.

Manhattan Beach officials condemned the property in 1924, paying the Bruces $14,500 and saying they needed it for a public park. They ultimately left it undeveloped for over three decades, and the couple lost a legal battle to get it back. The land was later transferred to Los Angeles County and now houses a training center for lifeguards.

But three years ago, nationwide protests against racism and police brutality sparked renewed local interest in the Bruce family’s campaign. And last July, after Los Angeles County and the California state legislature hammered out the legal details, the county returned the property to the couple’s closest living heirs, their great-grandsons. Derrick and Marcus Bruce.

Janice Hahn, who chairs the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, said Tuesday the owners had decided to sell the property to the county for nearly $20 million, a value her office said was determined by a evaluation process.

“This is what reparations looks like and it’s a model that I hope governments across the country will follow,” Ms Hahn said on Twitter.

The county received notice of sale from the family on Dec. 30 and the escrow process will likely be completed in 30 days, Liz Odendahl, a spokeswoman for Ms. Hahn’s office, said in an email Tuesday. evening. Members of the Bruce family could not immediately be reached for comment.

Duane Yellow Feather Shepard, a relative who lives in Los Angeles, said in a phone interview Tuesday night that the family was “very pleased” with the sale price. He said they had wanted to sell the property because it is zoned for public use only.

“They had no choice but to sell it and take whatever they could get out of it, and use it to invest in other ways to build on their family heritage that they lost,” said Mr. Shepard, a chieftain of the Pocasset Wampanoag Tribe of the Pokanoket Nation.

The property consists of two adjoining oceanfront lots. Ms. Bruce bought one in 1912 for $1,225 and the second eight years later for $10, Los Angeles County said, noting that the first lot is approximately 33 feet by 105 feet. Mr. Shepard said the two lots are identical.

A lingering question has been whether officials in Manhattan Beach, a city of about 34,000 that was incorporated in 1912 and is 75% white, would issue a formal apology to the Bruce family.

“I think an apology would be the least they could do,” Anthony Bruce, Willa and Charles Bruce’s great-great-grandson, told The New York Times in 2021.

The couple, who moved to Manhattan Beach from New Mexico, were among the first black people to settle in the area. They established their resort during the Jim Crow era, amid a resurgence of Ku Klux Klan activity across the United States and campaigns of white supremacist terror and lynchings in the South.

Two years ago, the Manhattan Beach City Council voted, 4 to 1, to pass a “statement of recognition and condemnation” that did not include an apology. The city’s mayor at the time, Suzanne Hadley, condemned the racism against the Bruces but said an apology could increase the risk of litigation against the city.

Steve Napolitano, the current mayor, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.



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nytimes

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