LA County officially surrenders deed for Bruce's Beach land to descendants of original Black owners

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Thursday, July 21, 2022
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Los Angeles County officials formally presented the deed to a portion of Manhattan Beach property to the descendants of a Black family who had the land taken away nearly a century ago.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles County officials formally presented the deed to a portion of Manhattan Beach property to the descendants of a Black family who had the land taken away nearly a century ago.

"It is my honor to be here and present a certified copy to the family," said L.A. County registrar-recorder and county clerk Dean Logan during Wednesday's ceremony.

Eyewitness News was in attendance for the moment Logan handed the official deed the descendants of the Bruce family.

READ ALSO | Manhattan Beach confronting racist past symbolized by battle over 'Bruce's Beach'

"Thank you so much," said Anthony Bruce, a great-great grandson of Willa and Charles Bruce, was among the family members on hand for Wednesday's ceremony. "Without God, we would not be here today. And finally, most importantly, thank you all. God bless.''

Willa and Charles Bruce bought the land in 1912 and built a resort catering to Black residents.

The Bruces became a target, however, and were harassed by their white neighbors and the Ku Klux Klan.

"My family declared that this was sacred land, and I was going to do everything I could to get it back," said Chief Duane "Yellowfeather" Shepard, another member of the Bruce family at Wednesday's ceremony.

Eventually, the city of Manhattan Beach seized the property in 1924 using eminent domain and claimed it was to build a park.

Supervisor Janice Hahn started the process to return the property to the Bruce family two years ago.

"Today, we are sending a message to every government in this nation confronted with this same challenge. This work is no longer unprecedented," she said.

The section of the property closest to the beach, including the lots owned by the Bruce family, was owned by the state and it took a new law, Senate Bill 796, which was sponsored by California State Senator Steven Bradford, to transfer it to the family.

"SB 796 and this transfer of land will not reverse an injustice that took place almost 100 years ago, but it represents an old step in the right direction," he said Wednesday.

Under the agreement, the county will lease a lifeguard station that's currently on the property from the Bruce family for about $400,000 a year.

The agreement also includes a provision that would allow the Bruces to later sell the property to the county for $20 million.