Wave Staff Report
LOS ANGELES — A bill that would remove state restrictions on beachfront property once owned by Black entrepreneurs Willa and Charles Bruce was approved by the state Assembly Sept. 8.
Senate Bill 796, sponsored by state Sen. Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, will allow the county to transfer the property to the surviving descendants of Willa and Charles Bruce.
County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who has led the fight to return the property to the Bruce family, said “I am determined to return this land to the Bruce family, but I can’t do it without this legislation.
Already approved by the state Senate, the bill will return for a reconciliation vote that could take place as early as Sept. 10.
Once the Senate approves the bill it will be set to Gov. Gavin Newsom for his signature.
“I have been so moved by the unanimous support that we have gotten for this effort from our state leaders,” Hahn said “When this bill hits the governor’s desk, I urge him to sign it and I think it would mean so much if he signed it at Bruce’s Beach.”
In 1912, a Black couple named Willa and Charles Bruce purchased beachfront property in Manhattan Beach and built a resort that became known as Bruce’s Beach. It was one of the few places where Black residents could go to enjoy a day at the beach because so many other local beaches did not permit Black beachgoers.
The Bruces and their customers were harassed and threatened by white neighbors including the Ku Klux Klan. Eventually, the Manhattan Beach City Council moved to seize the Bruce’s property as well as surrounding property using eminent domain in 1924, purportedly to build a park.
The city of Manhattan Beach took possession of the property in 1929 and it remained vacant for decades.
The section of the seized property closest to the beach, including the lots owned by Willa and Charles Bruce, was years later transferred to the state and in 1995 transferred to Los Angeles County.
The lots are now the site of the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Training Headquarters.
In April, Hahn announced her intention to return the Bruce’s Beach property to Bruce family descendants