California Returns Beach Property It Seized From Black Couple Over A Century Ago

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California loves to be the most progressive state. It often does so at the peril of its citizens, both financially and socially, but don’t try to tell the liberals there that. Sometimes, however, they do get something right.

County and state officials just returned property to the descendants of a couple from whom they took the property over a century ago. The couple was Willa and Charles Bruce and they were black. At a formal ceremony, the title to the property that once belonged to their great grandparents was presented to Derrick and Marcus Bruce.

The Bruces owned the oceanfront property in the 1920s and turned it into a resort that catered to the black community. During the Jim Crow era, The Ku Klux Klan, however, caused the property to be designated as a “black beach.” After that, the property was roped off, causing white residents to protest. Ultimately, this led to the property being condemned and seized from the Bruces through eminent domain. The couple was vastly underpaid for the land.

In 2006 the city of Manhattan Beach where the property is located renamed the park that the land was used for Bruce Beach, as a tribute to the couple. But in 2020 a petition was started to do more. Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn proposed a plan to return the property to the Bruce family.

“When I met with our County lawyers last year and said I wanted to return this property to the Bruce family, they said nothing like it had ever been done before. The work ahead of us would be unprecedented.”

“Today, we are sending a message to every government in this nation confronted with this same challenge: this work is no longer unprecedented. We have set the precedent and it is the pursuit of justice.”  

For now, the Bruces intend to lease the property back to the county for $400,000 a year. The county has offered to buy it back for $20 million.

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As they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day. It was wrong to take the Bruce’s land back then and renaming the park really wasn’t much. Did the state of California get this one right?

Stacey Warner

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