Story Corps
nearly a century ago.

Bruce's Beach, a once thriving resort for Black families owned by Willa and Charles Bruce, was seized by the town of Manhattan Beach in 1924 with the stated goal of building a park.

But historical records compiled in a recent report on the incident, which included a raft of complaints from white neighbors at the time, show the land was condemned because its proprietors and patrons were Black.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to return the land to the Bruces' great grandsons.

"This is a day we weren't sure would ever come, the return of our family's property happened thanks to the hard work of many, many people. It means the world to us, and we know how important this is to people across the country," Anthony Bruce, a spokesman for the family, said in a statement.

"But it is also bittersweet. My great-great-grandparents, Willa and Charles Bruce sacrificed to open a business that gave Black people a place to gather and socialize, and Manhattan Beach took it from them because of the color of their skin," Bruce added.

The county will lease the land from the Bruce family for $413,000 per year for two years, with the option to buy it later for as much as $20 million. The county's fire department currently uses the area as a lifeguard training facility.

"It is never too late to right a wrong," said Supervisor Janice Hahn. "Bruce's Beach was taken nearly a century ago, but it was an injustice inflicted upon not just Willa and Charles Bruce but generations of their descendants who would, almost certainly, be millionaires today if they had been allowed to keep their beachfront property."

The transfer marks the conclusion of an effort to return the land, which was owned by Los Angeles County, to the Bruce family's descendants and make amends for its seizure during the Jim Crow era.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill in September allowing the transfer to move ahead.

"I want to apologize to the Bruce family for the injustice that was done to them," Newsom said at the bill signing, according to NBC Los Angeles. "We haven't always had a proud past."

Previous state law required Los Angeles County to use Bruce's Beach for public recreation and prohibited the county from transferring it, but the new law scraps those restrictions.

State News

  • SoCo Calendar
  • Right Now
  • Weather
  • Earthquakes
  • First News
thumbnail FirstNews logoA weekday early morning podcast that offers a first look at the top local news stories and weather forecast you need to start your day.

Sonoma County news stories featuring the latest in breaking news, county government, elections, environment, cultural happenings, and updates on your communities, from Petaluma to Cloverdale, and from Sonoma to Bodega Bay, and everyplace in between.

Subscribe to the Sonoma County First News podcast through our website, the NorCal Mobile App, NPR Podcasts, NPR One, iTunes/Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. 

Read More

Northern California
Public Media Newsletter

Get the latest updates on programs and events.