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Bruce’s Beach Is Going Back To The Family’s Descendants, After Newsom Signs Bill And Apologizes On Behalf Of California

A photo of Gov. Newsom and others standing at a table he signed a bill giving back Bruce's Beach back to the family.
A smiling Gov. Gavin Newsom holds up the newly signed SB796 surrounded by applause from the crowd including Senator Steven Bradford, Supervisor Janice Hahn, and members of the Bruce family.
(Courtesy of the Office of Janice Hahn)
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A bill signed by Governor Gavin Newsom Thursday brings the Bruce family one step closer to owning the plot of land in Manhattan Beach that once belonged to their ancestors: Willa and Charles Bruce.

Senate Bill 796, authored by Steve Bradford (D), gives Los Angeles County the legal authority to transfer the property to the descendents.

The Bruce’s owned and operated a coastal resort that was popular with Black beachgoers, and an oasis for recreation during the Jim Crow era. From 1912 to 1924, a thriving community was built around it.

After an ongoing harassment campaign led by local Ku Klux Klan members failed to push the resort and surrounding community from the area, the Manhattan Beach city council took the land in 1924 through eminent domain.

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The land was sold to the state in 1948. And though seized under the guise of a public project, nothing was done with the land for three decades.

Calls for justice from local organizers recently got the attention of Supervisor Janice Hahn who pledged to return the land on behalf of the county.

“The law was used to steal this property 100 years ago,” said an emotional Hahn in a press conference before the bill’s signing. “And today, the law will give it back.”

In the same press conference, State Senator Steven Bradford called out Manhattan Beach for failing to publicly apologize for the city council’s actions in the 1920’s.

“Let’s be clear,” said Bradford. “The county is not giving anything back to the Bruce Family. We are returning what was stolen.”

Governor Newsom signed the bill into law on location at Bruce’s Beach and offered his own apology.

“As governor of California, let me do what Manhattan Beach is apparently unwilling to do,” said Newsom. “I want to apologize. I say that as a proud Californian but also being mindful that we haven’t always had a proud past.”

Hahn’s next step is to introduce a motion to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to certify the legal heirs of Willa and Charles Bruce, according to Hahn’s office. After that, the county will begin talks with the heirs to decide how exactly the land transfer will take shape.

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