Sophie Mann, Daily Mail, January 5, 2023
Some family members and activists said they are disappointed by Tuesday’s announcement that the descendants of a black couple whose Los Angeles beach club was seized by the city in the 1920s – and then returned to their heirs in 2022 – now intend to sell the land back to the county.
Patricia Bruce, a relative of original club owners Charles and Willa Bruce, who said she was not involved in the decision to sell the land, expressed her disappointment.
‘I really don’t think that Charles would have sold it,’ she told the Washington Post.
Direct descendants of Charles and Willa made the decision to sell the 3-acre property back to Los Angeles for a price of $20million after the land was given back to them in 2022.
Earlier this week, Janice Hahn, the chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, announced the Bruce family had made the decision to sell the land back to LA.
‘This fight has always been about what is best for the Bruce family, and they feel what is best for them is selling this property back to the county for nearly $20 million and finally rebuilding the generational wealth they were denied for nearly a century,’ she said.
In a corresponding statement released via the family’s attorney, the Bruce family acknowledged that some may be disappointed with their decision.
‘We know that some envisioned that we might hold this piece of land and attempt to reestablish [our] family’s former enterprise.
‘But we have chosen instead to look to the future,’ they said.
The political battle to return Bruce’s Beach to its rightful owners spanned about two years and required input from legislators across the state of California.
Kavon Ward, a community organizer, and former Manhattan Beach resident, founded the group Justice for Bruce’s Beach.
She told the Post that when the proper approval came through to facilitate the transfer of the land back to the Bruce’s, ‘it was almost as if the stars aligned.’
She added that she did not receive a say in the family’s decision to sell the land and it would not have been her first choice.
‘I’m disappointed,’ she said. ‘I would have liked to see Charles and Willa Bruce’s vision implemented, somehow, some way.’
The plot of land, which is currently used as a training center for lifeguards, is zoned exclusively for public or semipublic use.
If the Bruce family had wished to develop the land commercially, they would have needed to weave their way through the complex web of rezoning, which would have involved years of permits and navigating bureaucracy.
‘We have little interest in being real estate developers, landlords or taxpayers in the City of Manhattan Beach,’ said the family through their attorney.
Bruce Beach is made up of two lots of land with valuable beachfront views in Manhattan Beach, an upscale Los Angeles community that to this day remains less than 1 percent black.
It was first purchased by the Bruces between 1912 and 1920 and was the site where they subsequently built a beach resort for members of the black community, who were barred from using most white beach clubs at the time.
The resort was a success but was one of several owned by black landowners that were seized by Manhattan Beach authorities in the 1920s after white residents complained of their presence.
Following the racial unrest that followed George Floyd’s death in 2020 and the subsequent reigniting of the Black Lives Matter movement, the Manhattan Beach City Council assembled a task force that ultimately recommended the county return the land to the Bruce family.
In 2022, the land was leased back to descendants of the Bruce family, with an option to sell the land back to the county for its market value.
Prior to its resale, the land was owned by brothers Marcus and Derrick Bruce as well as Derrick’s sons, Anthony and Michael.
At the time the deal was struck, Anthony – who currently resides in Florida with his wife Sandra Bruce – said that the initial seizure of the land ‘destroyed’ his great-great-grandparents financially.
‘It destroyed their chance at the American Dream. I wish they could see what has happened today,’ he said.
The July ceremony marked the first time a government entity had even returned wrongfully seized land from a family of African Americans.
During a speech he gave that day, Anthony said, ‘It’s surreal, and it’s almost like being transported to the other side of the known universe.’
‘I want to remain level-headed about the entire thing. I want to make sure I don’t lose focus as to what Charles and Willa’s dream was. The dream was to just have an America where they could thrive and have their American business thrive.’
Without God, we would not be here today. And finally, thank you all. God bless,’ he concluded.