California had returned land seized from Willa and Charles Bruce in 1920 to their heirs last year as part of its reparations policy.
Bruce’s Beach, an oceanfront property in Southern California that was taken from Black owners in the Jim Crow era and returned to their descendants last year, will be sold back to Los Angeles County for nearly $20 million, county officials said Tuesday.
Family members of the original landowners, Willa and Charles Bruce, have informed the county of their decision to sell Bruce’s Beach, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Janice Hahn said in a statement. It’s unclear when the sale will be completed.
“The seizure of Bruce’s Beach nearly a century ago was an injustice inflicted upon not just Willa and Charles Bruce but generations of their descendants who almost certainly would have been millionaires,” Hahn said in the statement.
The Bruce family received the official deed last year, 98 years after the property was taken by the city of Manhattan Beach and after efforts from relatives, activists and local officials.
Willa and Charles Bruce purchased the land in 1912 for $1,225 and built several facilities, including a cafe and changing rooms. The resort became a popular tourist attraction that offered Black families a place to enjoy the California life, but the family faced intimidation and racial threats from White neighbors and the Ku Klux Klan.
In 1924, Manhattan Beach took the property citing eminent domain and paid the couple a fraction of what they asked for. The Bruces left and died just five years later.
Bruce’s Beach is now a park with a lawn and lifeguard training facility.
In 1995, the property was transferred to Los Angeles County and in recent years, county officials began taking steps to return the land to the family. Those efforts led to California Gov. Gavin Newsom signing a 2021 legislation to allow for the return of the property to Bruce’s descendants.
Last year, the official deed marking the transfer of the land was given to the family.
Hahn said she fought hard to return the property to the Bruce family because she “wanted to right this wrong,” and supports their decision.
“This is what reparations look like and it is a model I hope governments across the country will follow,” Hahn said in the statement.