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Calif. may return beachfront land taken from black family in eminent domain seizure 100 years ago


Too little, too late?

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Los Angeles County is considering whether to compensate a black family who had beachfront property seized by the local government nearly a century ago.

What are the details?

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said she is weighing options to compensate the family of Willa and Charles Bruce, who were among the city's first black landowners, the Hill reported.

In 1924, the city of Manhattan Beach forced the Bruce family from its beachfront land through eminent domain under the pretense of creating a city park.

The Bruces and their family lived at the Manhattan Beach location and operated a resort for black Americans during a time when beaches were segregated by race. At the time, the family purchased the land for less than $2,000 — land that could now be worth up to $75 million.

KABC-TV reported that the county is now looking at options to compensate the Bruce family's descendants.

Los Angeles County owns the the property, where its lifeguard headquarters and training center is currently located.

Hahn told the station, "I'm considering, first of all, giving the property back to the Bruce family. I think that would be the one act that would really be justice for that family. I wanted the County of Los Angeles to be a part of righting this terrible wrong."

She added, "We are now in this country finally meeting this moment. And there are a lot of talks about reparations, financial restitutions being made to African Americans in this country."

What else?

Anthony Bruce, one of the family's last living descendants, added, "It was a wrong against the Bruce family. I think we would be wealthy Americans still living there in California. ... Manhattan Beach, probably."

The Hill reported, "Hahn says the county is also considering paying reparations or leasing the property from the family so the lifeguard center can stay at the location."

"The Manhattan Beach city task force is also recommending the city council issue a formal apology and create a commemorative plaque to acknowledge the Bruce family," the report adds.

Kavon Ward, a local Manhattan Beach resident, has been active in trying to raise awareness of the Bruce family's issue.

"They need to pay for the stripping of generational wealth," Ward said. "This family could have been wealthy, they could have passed on wealth to other family members. Manhattan Beach could have been more culturally diverse. ... There would have been more black people here."

Ward added, "This task force and members of Manhattan Beach are living in this sort of bubble of white supremacy and white fragility and I feel like it's time to penetrate that bubble. It's time for this bubble to be popped."

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