Heirs to a black couple who acquired beachfront properties in 1924 to sell the area back to LA County for $20 million
Los Angeles County is set to buy back a prime beachfront property from the descendants of the black couple whose land was forcibly taken from them a century ago for $20 million.
In a July ceremony, Willa and Charles Bruce’s descendants were presented with the certificate at Bruce’s Beach, about 20 miles south of LA.
His great-great-grandparents, Willa and Charles Bruce, bought the Manhattan Beach property in 1912, only to have it improperly confiscated by the city in 1924 after a racist pressure campaign.
Direct descendants of Willa and Charles have now made the decision to sell the land back to the county for nearly $20 million.
Willa and Charles Bruce brought the estate in 1912 in the early 20th century after moving from New Mexico with their son Harvey
A Bruce’s Beach plaque stands on the property, which once belonged to Charles and Willa Bruce before it was confiscated by the government
Los Angeles County Board of Trustees Chairwoman Janice Hahn said in a statement Tuesday, “This fight has always been about what’s best for the Bruce family, and they believe that’s what’s best for them , selling that property to the county for nearly $20 million and eventually rebuilding the generational wealth that was denied them for nearly a century.
A Hahn spokesman said the Bruce family did not plan to issue a statement regarding the sale.
Bruce Beach consists of two lots with precious beach views in Manhattan Beach, an upscale Los Angeles community that to date is less than 1 percent black.
It was first purchased by the Bruces between 1912 and 1920 and was the site on which they subsequently built a beach resort for members of the black community, who were then barred from using most white beach clubs.
The resort was a success, but was one of several black landowners seized by Manhattan Beach authorities in the 1920s after white residents complained about their presence.
Derrick (left) and Anthony (right) Bruce discuss their ancestors’ belief in the importance of reclaiming Bruce’s Beach
In July 2022, the Bruce family gathered to celebrate the delivery of the land deed to the descendants of its rightful owners
Artist Shelley Bruce paints a painting of the Bruce family during a ceremony transferring ownership of Bruce’s Beach to Willa and Charles Bruce’s descendants
Willa and Charles Bruce’s great-great-grandson, Anthony Bruce, is all smiles when Governor Gavin Newsom signs SB 796, legislation allowing the return of Manhattan Beach land to descendants of its original owners
In the wake of the 2020 race riots that followed the death of George Floyd and the subsequent revival of the Black Lives Matter movement, the Manhattan Beach City Council assembled a task force that eventually recommended that the county return the land to the Bruce family.
In 2022 the land was leased back to descendants of the Bruce family with an option to sell the land back to the county at market value.
Prior to resale, the land was owned by brothers Marcus and Derrick Bruce and Derrick’s sons Anthony and Michael.
When the deal went through, Anthony – who currently lives in Florida with his wife Sandra Bruce – said the initial seizure of the land financially “devastated” his great-great-grandparents.
“It ruined their chance at the American Dream. I wish they could see what happened today,” he said.
The July ceremony marked the first time a government agency returned illegally confiscated land from a family of African Americans.
During a speech he gave that day, Anthony said: “It’s surreal and almost like being transported to the other side of the known universe.’
“I want to be level-headed about the whole thing. I want to make sure I don’t lose focus, which was Charles and Willa’s dream. The dream was just to have an America where they could thrive and their American business could thrive.’
Without God we would not be here today. And finally, thank you all. God bless him,’ he finished.
Aerial view of Bruce’s Beach at golden hour. Some have questioned whether the $20 million sale price is a lowball offer from Los Angeles County
Anthony Bruce (right) with LA County Board of Trustees Chairwoman Janice Hahn (left) who on Tuesday announced the family’s plans to sell the property back to the county
In her Tuesday statement, Hahn said she hoped the return of the land would serve as a precedent for other parts of the government to do the same.
“This is what reparations looks like and I hope governments across the country will follow that model,” she said.
An important note about the family’s sale of the property is that a recently passed law by the California Senate would exempt the family from most taxes related to the sale of the property.
In July, Anthony Bruce said the foreclosure of the property “ruined their chance (of Willa and Charles Bruce) of the American Dream. I wish they could see what happened today.”
Some complained about the news that the family decided to sell the land back to the county, saying they were disappointed with the decision.
R&B singer Irv Sullivan tweeted that he was disappointed that the Bruces “sold Bruce’s Beach back to LA so early.”
A Twitter account named Beagrrrl wrote: “The Bruce family is selling their Bruce’s Beach estate back to LA County for $20 million. Seems low but what do I know?’
According to Redfin data, the median price for a home in Manhattan Beach in the fall of 2022 was $2.6 million.
Important dates in the fight for Bruce’s Beach
1912 – Willa and Charles Bruce, who moved to California from New Mexico, buy a beachfront property in Manhattan Beach. She had bought the first of two lots on the beach between 26th and 27th Streets for $1,225. They open a resort.
1924 – The Manhattan Beach City Council orders the sale of the Bruces through Eminent Domain. They say they have to build a park. The Bruces fight back in court but lose. The city paid them $14,500 and they left their beach and lost their business.
1950s – The area stood vacant for decades, but the city council was beginning to realize that questions could be asked unless the park the land was supposedly being taken for wasn’t built. They establish City Park, later renamed Beachfront, then Bayview Terrace Park. In 1974 it was named after a sister city in Mexico, Parque Culiacan.
2006 – Amid a growing interest in the area’s history, the City Council voted 3-2 to rename the beach after the Bruce family – largely over an objection from Councilman Mitch Ward, the city’s first black elected official.
2017 – Kavon Ward moves to the area and hears the story of Bruce’s Beach. She begins campaigning for it to be returned to its original owners.
2018 – There is a Bruce family reunion on the beach, attended by about 150 people.
2021 – California Gov. Gavin Newsom signs Act SB 796, a law restoring Manhattan Beach land to the descendants of its original owners.
June 28, 2022 Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors votes unanimously to formally return land to Bruce family
January 3, 2022 – It is announced that the Bruce’s heirs will sell the land back to Los Angeles County for nearly $20 million
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11597087/Heirs-black-couple-beach-property-taken-1924-sell-area-LA-County-20M.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Heirs to a black couple who acquired beachfront properties in 1924 to sell the area back to LA County for $20 million