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California Beach Returns to Original Black Owners

Updated: Sep 5, 2022

Los Angeles County officials have presented the deeds to prime California oceanfront property to the heirs of a Black couple who built a beach resort for African Americans but were harassed and finally stripped of the land nearly a century ago.


California beach

The event marked the final step in a complex effort to right the long-ago wrong suffered by Charles and Willa Bruce, entrepreneurs whose resort on the shore of the now-upscale city of Manhattan Beach was known as Bruce's Beach, reports CBS News.


Against the backdrop of waves washing onto the sunny Manhattan Beach shoreline, county Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan handed the land transfer deeds to Anthony Bruce, a great-great-grandson of the Bruces.


State Sen. Steven Bradford, who authored the bill, said it will not reverse the injustice. "But it represents a bold step in the right direction," he said. "It represents a template for other states to follow."


The land was purchased by the Bruces in 1912. They suffered racist harassment from white neighbors, and in the 1920s, the Manhattan Beach City Council condemned the property and took the land through eminent domain. The city, however, did nothing with the property, and it was transferred to the state of California in 1948.


In 1995, the state transferred it to Los Angeles County, with restrictions against further transfers. Happily, and finally, Janice Hahn, a member of the county Board of Supervisors, learned about the property's history and launched the complex process of returning the property to the heirs of the Bruces.


Hahn, with the help of lawyers, eventually persuaded the county to determine that Marcus and Derrick Bruce, the great-grandsons of Charles and Willa Bruce, were their legal heirs.


The great-grandsons formed a company to hold the property, and LA County announced an agreement for the property to be leased back to the county for 24 months, with an annual rent of $413,000 plus all operation and maintenance costs, and the county's right to purchase the land for up to $20 million.

 

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