The plaque detailed the troubled history of Bruce's Beach, a piece of land that was owned in the early 1900s by a Black family.
MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- Manhattan Beach police are searching for the person or people who stole a bronze plaque detailing the racially charged history of Bruce's Beach.
The theft, which was reported to police Monday, is the latest in a string of recent crimes in which thieves have made off with bronze or other metal items in hopes of selling them.
Manhattan Beach city and police officials issued a statement saying the Bruce's Beach plaque, which was installed early last year, "held significant historical and cultural value.''
The plaque detailed the long and troubled history of Bruce's Beach, a pristine piece of land that was owned in the early 1900s by a Black family who developed a small resort catering to Black residents from across the county.
Charles and Willa Bruce purchased the land in 1912 and operated the resort until the city of Manhattan Beach condemned the property under a false pretense of developing a park. Instead, the property sat vacant for years after the Bruces and other Black families were evicted from the area.
It was not until 1960 that a park was built on a portion of the seized land, with city officials fearing the evicted families could take new legal action if the property wasn't used for the purpose for which it was seized.
The exact parcel of land the Bruces owned was transferred to the state, and then to the county in 1995. In 2022, at the urging of county Supervisor Janice Hahn, the county agreed to return the land to the descendants of the Bruce family in an effort to correct what she called an "injustice inflicted upon not just Willa and Charles Bruce but generations of their descendants who almost certainly would have been millionaires.''
In early 2023, the Bruce family reached an agreement to sell the parcel of land back to the county for $20 million.
The city of Manhattan Beach installed the bronze plaque at the site in early 2023, providing a detailed history of the land.
"It's particularly poignant, because we put so much work and effort as a community to get the words just right, and to honor the people that were here," said Manhattan Beach Mayor Joe Franklin.
Thefts of bronze and other metals have grabbed headlines in recent weeks as thieves look to capitalize in rising metal prices. Earlier this month, thieves stole more than 100 name plaques from gravesites at Lincoln Memorial Park cemetery in Carson. A week earlier, metal markers were stolen from graves at Woodlawn Celestial Gardens in Compton.
Over the weekend, a copper statue was stolen from outside Marco Antonio Firebaugh High School in Lynwood.
A pair of Los Angeles City Council members last week announced a series of measures hoping to crack down on thefts of copper wire that have occurred in various locations and knocked out street lights and other infrastructure --including lighting on the Sixth Street Bridge downtown.
"The meaning for me was not another thing happening at Bruce's Beach," said resident Rebecca McCullough. "You know, just the history of this beach has been swept, for the most part, and when it finally came to light and we had this wonderful tribute, and it's gone now."
Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, whose district covers Bruce's Beach, issued a statement, saying in part, "I hope that the plaque's theft is unrelated to the painful history of Bruce's Beach and my decision to return the property to the Bruce family, and more related to the string of recent bronze thefts we have seen."
"They can melt it down, but they're not going to take away the spirit from what those words said," said Franklin.
Police asked anyone with information about the theft to contact Det. Sgt. Taylor Klosowki at 310-802-5123 or contact CrimeStoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477).
City News Service, Inc. contributed to this report.