Bill to Return California Beach to Original Black Owners Gets Final State Senate Approval, Goes to Governor’s Office – East Bay Times

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Los Angeles County will soon be able to return waterfront land in Manhattan Beach to its original black owners, thanks to a one-of-a-kind bill that is on its way to Governor Gavin Newsom.

A state Senate bill to give LA County the power to transfer two plots of land to descendants of Willa and Charles Bruce lifted the last legislative hurdle Thursday evening, September 9. The Senate unanimously passed SB 796 on the eve of the legislative session. end.

“I am delighted to be walking on the water right now,” Duane Shepard, a distant descendant of Bruce and family historian, said Thursday evening. “It’s one of the greatest things in American history right now.”

Thursday was the second time the Senate passed the bill without dissent – the first time was in June – a procedural requirement after the Assembly added non-substantial amendments to it. The assembly unanimously approved the bill on Wednesday.

Newsom must now sign the invoice.

It will take a few days at most for the physical pages of the bill to be processed and sent to the governor, according to the office of Senator Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, who drafted SB 796.

Newsom has not hinted at whether he will sign the bill. A Newsom spokesperson said in an email Thursday evening that the bill will be assessed once it reaches his office.

But SB 796 has received broad bipartisan support at this point.

“SB 796 represents economic and historical justice,” Bradford said, “and is a model of what reparations can really look like. “

Willa and Charles Bruce purchased two oceanfront plots of land in Manhattan Beach in 1912. The couple operated a thriving African-American resort there at a time when blacks had limited access to the ocean. But they, along with those who visited the resort and other African-American residents of Manhattan Beach, were harassed by some white neighbors who did not want blacks in the community, according to historical documents.

  • Willa Bruce, the first owner of Bruce’s Beach, circa 1920 in front of her seaside resort. Bruce’s Beach was the only point of access to the ocean for blacks in Los Angeles at the time. (Courtesy Jan Dennis)

  • Wedding portrait of Charles and Willa Bruce. On March 3, 2007, dozens of people gathered for the Bruce’s Beach name change ceremony in Manhattan Beach. (File photo of Daily Breeze)

  • Willa Bruce, son Harvey Bruce and daughter-in-law Meda sat outside Bruce’s Beach Lodge circa 1920 (File photo from the Daily Breeze blog)

  • Map of the Bruce plots near Bruce’s Beach in Manhattan Beach. (Jeff Goertzen)

  • Senate Bill 796, which would allow LA County to return Manhattan Beach land to its original black owners, was passed a second time in the Senate on Thursday, September 9, 2021, sending it to the governor’s office . In this April 2021 file photo, Kavon Ward, founder of Justice for Bruce’s Beach, speaks at a press conference in Manhattan Beach on Friday, April 9, 2021. The event was held to shed some light on the efforts of LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn to have the LA County begin to right the wrongs of the past and bring justice to the descendants of Charles and Willa Bruce, returning the land of Bruce’s Beach to them. Currently, a county rescue building sits on the grounds. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram / SCNG)

  • This aerial view of Bruce’s Beach in Manhattan Beach shows the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Training Center partly on Plots 8 and 9, once owned by Willa and Charles Bruce, a black couple who were robbed land under a prominent estate proceeding in 1924. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News / SCNG)

  • Bruce’s Beach in Manhattan Beach on Thursday, April 8, 2021 (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News / SCNG)

  • Bruce’s Beach in Manhattan Beach on Thursday, April 8, 2021 (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News / SCNG)

  • Bruce’s Beach in Manhattan Beach on Thursday, April 8, 2021 (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News / SCNG)

  • Bruce’s Beach in Manhattan Beach on Thursday, April 8, 2021 (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News / SCNG)

  • Bruce’s Beach in Manhattan Beach on Thursday, April 8, 2021 (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News / SCNG)

  • Bruce’s Beach in Manhattan Beach on Thursday, April 8, 2021 (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News / SCNG)

  • Bruce’s Beach in Manhattan Beach on Thursday, April 8, 2021 (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News / SCNG)

  • Bruce’s Beach in Manhattan Beach on Thursday, April 8, 2021 (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News / SCNG)

Manhattan Beach management at the time condemned the Bruce’s land, along with that of other landowners, in 1924 and reclaimed it through a prominent estate.

Manhattan Beach still owns the land it got from other owners through a prominent estate. This land sits above the two Bruce plots and decades later became Bruce’s Beach Park.

But the city ceded the Bruce lands to the state in 1948. The state turned those plots and larger stretches of beach over to Los Angeles County in 1995.

Under this transfer, the county, which operates a lifeguard station at the former Bruce’s Beach Lodge, cannot give or sell the land to anyone.

SB 796 will let the county do just that.

“Time and time again different government agencies have used their power to deny wealth and opportunity to many communities of color,” Bradford said Thursday. “This bill represents an opportunity for this government to finally do the right thing: right a wrong committed by Manhattan Beach and assisted by the state and the county in taking possession of this property.”

The effort to return the land to the Bruces began last summer amid nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism. A June 10 celebration was held at Bruce’s Beach Park, also serving to educate attendees about the history of discrimination open space namesakes have faced. A petition demanding reparations then followed.

In April, Bradford, Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, and others gathered to announce the joint state and county effort to return the two plots to Bruce’s descendants.

At the time, these officials said the effort would be the first time in the country’s history that land would be returned to an African-American family in order to make amends for various discriminatory policies, including redlining, which prevented blacks create wealth through land ownership.

“I am happy for the Charles and Willa Bruce family and for our people across the country, indigenous as well as African American,” said Shepard, spokesperson for the Bruce family, on Thursday. “This is going to be the start of something really important for our people now. “

Shepard said he hadn’t moved from his computer for the past two days while watching Assembly and Senate sessions – and waiting for SB 796 to pass.

“I thought they were going to adjourn and resume tomorrow,” he said, “but I didn’t budge until I saw this bill come up.”

Kavon Ward, the founder of Justice for Bruce’s Beach who spearheaded the June 17 celebration last year, was equally thrilled with the passage of the bill.

“I cried all day,” she said in a text message. “I can not believe it.”

But several steps remain to be taken before the Bruce family can take control of the territory.

First, Newsom must sign SB 796.

If he does, the bill would come into force immediately because of an emergency clause.

And then LA County would be responsible for returning the land.

“I am determined to return Bruce’s Beach to the Bruce family, but I cannot do it without this legislation,” Hahn, whose district includes Manhattan Beach, said in a statement Thursday. “I was so moved by the overwhelming support we got for this effort in Sacramento. Finally, this bill is heading to Gov. Newsom’s office. Not only do I urge him to sign it, but I think so too. that it would mean so much if he signed it at Bruce’s Beach.

It is not yet known if Newsom would do so. But he is expected to travel to nearby Long Beach on Monday, September 13, for a campaign rally with President Joe Biden in an attempt to avoid a recall.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, meanwhile, asked officials in July to pursue an action plan to return both plots to Bruce’s descendants.

A report on this plan, prepared by the county CEO’s office and the Anti-Racism, Diversity and Inclusion Initiative, detailed the complex processes involved in transferring land, assessing property value , the determination of the identity of the legal heirs, the limitation of the property tax burden. on the family and determine what to do with the first aid station. More details will come later this year on how to transfer the land once the state allows the county to do so.

State Director of Parks and Recreation Armando Quintero will need to amend the county deed by December 31 to exclude Bruce ownership from the land transfer restrictions that currently exist.

“This is the first time a government has done something like this,” Hahn said in July, “and there were a lot of questions about how it would work.”


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