By Janice Hayes Kyser
MANHATTAN BEACH — A member of the Bruce’s Beach Task Force, a group of residents tasked with researching and presenting the history of the oceanfront property that was taken from a successful Black family nearly 100 years ago, has resigned claiming the city does not want to accept the facts.
In an email to city of Manhattan Beach leadership, Dr. Isla Garraway, associate professor and director of research for the Department of Urology at UCLA, wrote: “Uncovering and acknowledging the truth of what happened was our charge. We did that in the history report, and the City Council was on the right side of history when it voted to accept this report.
“Now the Council must lead the Manhattan Beach community in accepting the facts meticulously documented in the report and reflected in the proposed plaque language. I resigned because when the City Council began refuting the facts derived from the report that it had previously accepted, it was clear that I could no longer play an effective role,” Garraway added.
“I will be rooting for our citizens and elected leaders to find the courage, empathy and resolve needed to honor the legacy of the Bruces, and to help ensure that what happened to the first Black families to take up residence in Manhattan Beach will never be repeated. It is time to accept the plaque language proposed by the History Advisory Board and move on to show the world how inclusive our city can be.”
Garraway declined to comment on the matter beyond her written statement.
Duane Shepard, a descendent and spokesperson for the Bruce family, said he understands why Garraway resigned, but he is sorry to see her go.
“She was the captain of the entire team, the voice of reason,” Shepard said. “The city does not want to accept the facts; they are trying to whitewash history. They do not want the public to know the truth.
“This is a failure of leadership,” he added. “A disgrace. Plain and simple.”
In a written statement responding to The Wave’s inquiry about Garraway’s departure, Manhattan Beach Mayor Pro Tem Hildy Stein wrote: “It was with sincere regret that I read Isla Garraway’s email resigning from the History Advisory Board. Isla, like all the other members of the original Bruce’s Beach Task Force, volunteered readily and with dedication to respectfully advance the mission of the task force. Her continued willingness to serve on the history subcommittee and then the History Advisory Board, along with the other members of the [board], was remarkable.
“Isla made an impactful contribution to the important work of researching and documenting the factual history of Bruce’s Beach. I greatly appreciate Isla and am truly sorry she has stepped down.”
Meanwhile, Senate Bill 796, the legislation that would clear the way for Los Angeles County, which leases the land from Manhattan Beach, to return the parcel to the Bruce family, is making its way through the state Legislature.
It has already been approved by a committee in the Assembly, but requires a vote from the full body before going back to the Senate for approval. Gov. Gavin Newsom has said he would sign the bill into law.
In the interim, Shepard says the Bruce family is cautiously optimistic that justice will be done.
“Getting the land back is just the first step,” Shepard said. “We really hope the bill passes and is signed into law, but either way we plan to do whatever it takes to be repaid for the generational wealth we lost when they robbed us of what is rightfully ours.”
Shepard says the family has hired attorneys to pursue restitution, punitive damages for human rights violations and what he characterizes as a long overdue apology from Manhattan Beach officials for taking the property from his ancestors.
The prime oceanfront property is now valued at $75 million.