Multimillion-dollar beach property taken from Black owners in Jim Crow era is cleared to be returned

October 01, 2021

(CNN) A stretch of prime Southern California beachfront real estate can now be returned to the descendants of its rightful Black owners, nearly a century after the parcel was taken by the city of Manhattan Beach.

Known as Bruce's Beach, the resort had offered Black families a place to enjoy the California life and was a labor of love for owners Charles and Willa Bruce. But harassment from White neighbors and the Ku Klux Klan tore away at their dreams. The final blow came in 1924 when the city took the property through eminent domain and paid the couple a fraction of what they asked for. The city wanted the land for a park.

On Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation that will enable the county to return the beachfront property to their descendants. The two lots are worth approximately $75 million in total, officials confirmed to CNN earlier this year. The houses directly next to the property have hefty price tags of around $7 million each.

The new law was authored by Sen. Steve Bradford, who sits on the state's newly formed reparations task force.

"This is what reparations look like," said Bradford, insisting that the county is not giving anything to the Bruce family, yet simply returning their stolen property.

The Bruces purchased the land for $1,225 in 1912, and built several facilities, including a cafe and changing rooms. It was one of the few beaches where Black residents could go because so many other local beaches did not permit Black beachgoers.

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