LA County to pay Black family $20M for wrongly seized beach

Race in America

People gather to play volleyball outdoors on the beach during Covid-19 in Manhattan Beach, California, December 12, 2020. – According to California health officials, ICU bed capacity in the Southern California region has dropped to 5.3% as more restrictive orders are imposed to prevent hospitals from being overrun. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) — Los Angeles County will spend $20 million to purchase a prime beachfront property from the heirs of an African-American couple who were given the land back a century after local officials unjustly stripped it from them.

The Bruce family has informed county officials that they have decided to sell Bruce’s Beach to the county for the estimated value of the Manhattan Beach property, Janice Hahn, chairperson of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, said in a tweet on Tuesday.

“This fight has always been about what is best for the family, and they feel what is best for them is selling this property and finally rebuilding the generational wealth they were denied for nearly a century,” Hahn wrote.

In July, county officials transferred the deed to the 7,000 square feet (650 square meters) property to the great-grandsons of Willa and Charles Bruce, who owned the land before officials claimed eminent domain over it in 1924. Read full story

The movement to return the land to the family was part of a wave of reparative justice that has gained traction in parts of the United States to make amends for decades of exploitation of Black Americans by predatory developers, exacerbated by segregation and a lack of access to the legal system.

Before it was taken by the county, the property had been a rare resort where Black people could gather and enjoy the beach in segregated and discriminatory Los Angeles County of the early 20th century.

Activists and politicians determined the real motivation for eminent domain was racism, and passed a state law in 2021 to approve returning the land to the family’s heirs.

The land now houses a lifeguard training facility. When it was returned, the Bruce family had agreed to lease it to the county for $413,000 per year, while the county retained the right to buy it.

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