Los Angeles Seaside Resort Property Seized By Eminent DomainTo Be Returned to Descendants of Black Family
Over a century ago, local Los Angeles city leaders seized a Black couple’s seaside resort via eminent domain-for all the wrong reasons. Now, the California county is making it right and returning the property to the descendants of the original owners.
The beachfront property, encompassing two parcels, was purchased in 1912 by Willa and Charles Bruce. The Bruces built the first West Coast resort for Black people, at a time when segregation barred them from many beaches. The resort included a lodge, café, dance hall and dressing tents with bathing suits for rent. Initially it was known as Bruce’s Lodge.
The Bruces, however, were not allowed to live and work in peace. Both white neighbors and the Ku Klux Klan harassed the Bruces and their customers, and there was even an attempt to burn the resort down. Finally, in the 1920’s, the Manhattan Beach City Council used eminent domain to take the land away from the Bruces, claiming it had plans to build a park there.
That “park” was never built. Instead, the property went unused for years, until it was finally transferred to the State of California in 1948. In 1995, the property was transferred to Los Angeles County for beach operations and maintenance. The most recent transfer came with restrictive covenants that limit the ability to sell or transfer the property. Today, a county lifeguard training headquarters building sits on the property, along some of the most prized coastline in Southern California.
Recently, Los Angeles County announced plans to return the prime beachfront property to the Bruces’ descendants. Los Angeles County is the nation's most populated county, and the decision comes at a time of intense discussion about race at the local, state and federal levels over reparations.
At a meeting of the current City Council, members formally acknowledged and condemned city leaders’ efforts in the early 20th century to displace the Bruces and several other Black families-but stopped short of formally apologizing. A return of the land could include an option for the Bruce descendants to lease the land back to the county for continued use.
Manhattan Beach is pretty posh these days. A city of about 35,000 people on the south shore of Santa Monica Bay, it has a picturesque pier that juts into swells prized by surfers. Luxury residences have replaced many of the beach houses along an oceanfront walk called The Strand.
The value of the property has not been assessed, but we’re sure it’s pretty high. As always, we will keep you posted as to this and all other eminent domain news. Stay tuned!