Home>Articles>Bruce’s Beach Sold Back To LA County For $20 Million Less Than 7 Months After Handover To Family

Governor Newsom with Anthony Bruce on September 30, 2021 (Photo: gov.ca.gov)

Bruce’s Beach Sold Back To LA County For $20 Million Less Than 7 Months After Handover To Family

Land was given back to Bruce family in July – 98 years after wrongful eminent domain transfer

By Evan Symon, January 4, 2023 2:30 am

Heirs of the Bruce family, who were given back Bruce’s Beach in Manhattan Beach last year following 98 years after a controversial eminent domain decision by the city, sold back the beach to Los Angeles County on Tuesday after less than 7 months of ownership.

The fight over ownership of the Beach dates back to 1912, when the African American Bruce family bought the beachfront property in Manhattan Beach, creating a resort that catered to black residents. Because most beaches at the time were unwelcome to black beachgoers, Bruce’s Beach quickly grew in popularity. However, for the next 12 years, many groups, including the KKK, continually threatened them, leading the Manhattan Beach City Council to take the beach by eminent domain in 1924.

Throughout the decades, control of the beach went between the city the state and the county before finalizing control by LA County in 1995, where it became the home of the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Training Headquarters. However, all of those years of transfers led to increased difficulty in legally transferring the property, with the 1995 transfer requiring that state legislation was needed to transfer the property once again.

In the early 2020’s, following the George Floyd incident and more calls for racial justice, Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn announced her intention of returning the beach back to the Bruce family, getting the support of Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) to introduce it in the Senate in 2021. Both houses in the California legislature approved of SB 796, which allowed the beach to be excluded from public use and let the LA County Board of Supervisors deal with it, with a strong suggestion that it was to be returned to the Bruce family. After Governor Newsom signed the bill last September, one more major hurdle remained – County approval.

After the County agreed to lease the beach for $413,000 a year for the next 24 months, with the option to buy the land at a later date for $20 million, the LA County Board of Supervisors approved of the transfer in a final vote on June 29th. Less than a month later, on July 20th, County and State officials, led by Supervisor Hahn and Governor Newsom, handed back the beach in a ceremony in Manhattan Beach.

“We can’t change the past and we will never be able to make up for the injustice that was done to Willa and Charles Bruce a century ago, but this is a start,” explained Hahn last year. “They told me nothing like this had ever been done before. Such a move is now no longer unprecedented.”

Beach sold back after just over 6 months of Bruce ownership

However, that 24 months lease and $20 million option loomed over the Bruce family since then. While many in real estate were interested in developing the Beach, potentially making the land worth more than $20 million, city zoning regulations stymied any serious talks of development. With few other options due to the terms of the handover agreement, the family agreed to sell back the beach to LA County on Tuesday, with the sale to be completed at a later date.

In a statement on Tuesday, Supervisor Hahn said that “This fight has always been about what is best for the Bruce family, and they feel what is best for them is selling this property back to the County for nearly $20 million and finally rebuilding the generational wealth they were denied for nearly a century.”

Many land and real estate experts countered on Tuesday that the terms and the ultimate sale left the family with almost no options, and that the County was almost always guaranteed the land back.

“In the end it was all just symbolic,” explained Roger Calhoun, a land buyer and seller in California, to the Globe on Tuesday. “A lot of us predicted how this would go down last year, although I personally though that the family would hang onto the land for another year or two to milk an extra half million or so from the County. “The County didn’t give them a lot of choice. They couldn’t rebuild the Bruce resort due to zoning. They couldn’t sell to someone else because of the County’s option to buy. All this was, and has been, is symbolic. The County said they restored an injustice, but all this really was dealing with state and national pressure. They could have saved a lot of steps and just give the family $20 million like a usual wrongful eminent domain case, but by doing it this way, it makes the County look good in public for ‘doing the right thing’.

“I mean, yes, it was wrongfully taken and the family deserved it, just like any family who has land wrongfully taken from them. But LA County exploited it. Some of the lawmakers involved sincerely wanted to make it right, but others, once it clear which way the winds were blowing, used it  to look better. That’s why the family couldn’t do much with the land except sell it back to the County later for market value. Imagine if they got zoning behind them and had the option to sell to someone else. Developers would have paid way more than $20 million for it. But in the end, they couldn’t, so they sold it for $20 million today.”

The sale is expected to be finalized in the coming months.

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6 thoughts on “Bruce’s Beach Sold Back To LA County For $20 Million Less Than 7 Months After Handover To Family

    1. Pretty much… and the County only cared about virtue-signaling, so I guess they’ll consider this a “win-win”… and the taxpayers get hosed once again…

      LA County & City are TOTAL dumpster fires….

      1. LA City, County, State elected and appointed “public servants” are nothing but a bunch of criminals and petty despots.

  1. The truth of all this was another reparations being handed out with taxpayer money. CA has a corrupt gov’t making decisions with taxpayer money for whatever they feel like doing. The whole history part was BS and clearly it shows. 20 mil was the goal no matter what.

  2. How come all the other property owners of the same section of beach who’s property was condemned never had it given back?

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