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Bruce Family To Sell Beach Back To LA County For $20 Million — Months After Return Of Oceanfront Land Seized Nearly 100 Years Ago

A woman with dark-tone skin holds a paint brush near a canvas on an easel at a grassy beach near the ocean. The paint depicts a Black couple in formal dress with the water behind them.
Artist Shelley Bruce paints a painting of the Bruce family during a ceremony transferring the ownership of Bruce's Beach to the descendants of the Black family who had the land seized from them through eminent domain in 1927. The family will not exercise a clause selling the land to L.A. County for nearly $20 million.
(Patrick T. Fallon
/
AFP via Getty Images)
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L.A. County officials said Tuesday that the Bruce family will sell Bruce's Beach to the county for nearly $20 million — a decision that came months after the valuable property was returned to descendants of the original owners nearly a century after it was seized.

Supervisor Janice Hahn, in a statement, said the nearly $20 million was the "estimated value of the property."

A Brief History

The plot is located in Manhattan Beach between 26th and 27th Streets. In the early 1900s, a prominent Black family owned the property and provided Bruce's Beach guests with towels, changing rooms, snacks and even bathing suits for rent. It was a popular spot where Black Angelenos could enjoy the ocean front.

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Then city officials seized it from owners Willa and Charles Bruce through eminent domain in 1924. At the time, the city claimed they needed the property to build a park but the land sat undeveloped for decades. After three years of fighting it, in 1927 the Bruce family was forced out.


Read more: How Bruce's Beach Was Stolen From The Black Family That Owned It — And How They Got It Back


Reparations

Hahn, whose district includes the South Bay, advocated for the beach to be returned to the Bruce family beginning in 2020. Liz Odendahl, a spokesperson for Hahn’s office, said the supervisor sees this action as a form of reparations and would like to see it replicated.

“She hopes that Bruce’s Beach is a model,” said Odendahl. “Undoubtedly there are other stories, just like Bruce's Beach, where land was improperly taken from Black families, and governments can return that property to the descendants of those who were wronged.”

Odendahl added that it was “certainly possible” that Bruce’s Beach could serve as a model for land return to Native Americans as well.

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About The Handoff Last Summer

At a handoff ceremony last summer, Chief Duane Yellow Feather Shepard, a descendant of the Bruce family, called the decades-long fight not just a victory for the family, but for all those who are "oppressed in this country."

"It took all of us here, and all of us out there, standing toe to toe with racism and beating it down. Power to the right people," he said.

At the time of the ceremony, the Bruce family planned to lease the property back to the county but indicated a future sale was possible.

The $20 Million Clause

The transfer agreement reached included a two-year lease agreement at a rate of $413,000 each year. That agreement also included a potential sale of the property back to the county "within a certain timeframe... for a purchase price not to exceed $20 million."

"The purchase price has been confirmed by appraisals to be equivalent to or less than fair market value," the agreement said.

The city of Manhattan Beach still owns a park associated with Bruce’s Beach, but that land was not owned by the Bruce family, and so is not part of the sale.

George Fatheree, an attorney representing the Bruce family, has not yet responded to a request for comment.

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