California governor signs bill to return beachfront land seized from Black owners back to descendants

September 30, 2021

California’s governor has signed a bill that clears the way for a valuable parcel of beachfront land near Los Angeles to be returned to the descendants of a Black family who had it seized nearly 100 years ago.

The move by Gavin Newsom allows Los Angeles County to return the Bruce’s Beach property in Manhattan Beach, which was taken from Willa and Charles Bruce under eminent domain by the city in 1924.

“I want to apologise to the Bruce family,” said Mr Newsom as he put his signature on the paperwork that will sign the transfer of ownership into law.

The parcel of land, which faces directly onto the Pacific, has been used as a public park and could be worth as much as $75m.

The Bruce family bought the land in 1912 for $1,225 and created a beach resort popular with Black families who wanted to enjoy a trip to the beach.

The resort included a bath house, a cafe and a dance hall, but quickly became a target of racist opposition and even a 1920 attack by the Ku Klux Klan.

The city, under pressure from its white residents, condemned the property, and other Black-owned parcels around it, and seized it with the stated goal of building a park.

The resort was forced out of business and the Bruce family lost their land in 1929, but the land remained undeveloped for decades and was transferred to the state in 1948 and the county in 1995.

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