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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

LA County Will Accept Revised Bruce Beach Deed

Bruce Beach ownership is drawing closer to the family whose ancestors founded the Black Seaside resort.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday, December 22, to have the state accept the amended land deed for Bruce Beach so that he can legally transfer the property to the Bruce family.

Senate Bill 796 made the ensuing switch-off possible, effective shortly after it was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in September. This gave the State Department of Parks and Recreation time until December 31 to amend the property deed and remove restrictions already imposed on Bruce Beach.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is set to accept an amended land deed from the state on Tuesday, December 22, 2021 that would allow the body to transfer Bruce’s Beach to Bruce descendants. In this 2021 file photo, Governor Gavin Newsom signs SB 796, a bill to return Manhattan Beach land to its original black owners, descendants of the Bruce family, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021 in Manhattan Beach Is. The plot of land is currently being used as a county lifeguard station. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

The amended deed would allow the county to transfer, sell, or build upon the land. When the state granted land to the county in 1995, those moves were restricted, allowing only public recreation and beach access.

Bruce Beach Lodge—two parcels of about 7,000 square feet at 2600 The Strand in Manhattan Beach—was a 20th-century seaside resort for African Americans at a time when black people had limited access to the coast.

Villa and Charles Bruce, who was black, bought two parcels in 1912 for $1,225 and turned the land into an affluent resort.

But in 1929, city leaders successfully used eminent domain to annex the land for racially motivated reasons. The owners of the lodge received $14,500 for the parcel, which is now worth millions of dollars.

The deed of approval, on the agreed calendar for Tuesday’s meeting, will almost certainly pass – as board members have consistently supported efforts to return Bruce Beach to Villa and Charles’ descendants. The Consent Calendar is a set of items that are considered controversial, which allows observers to vote on all of them at once.

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Upon acceptance of the changed deed, the county may pass the land to the descendants of the Bruce, who are the rightful heirs to the land.

While the move may sound bureaucratic, supervisor Janice Hahn said in a statement Friday that it is an important part of the plan.

Hahn led the county’s effort to return the land.

“LA County has owned this land for the past few decades, but the state had restricted our ability to move it,” Hahn said. “By removing those restrictions from this amended deed, we can finally move forward with returning this property to the Bruce family; we are one step closer to making history.”

Meanwhile, according to Hahn’s office, the county is still evaluating the value of the land, and will begin verification of heirs who have come forward after December 31. That assessment will take 30 days, Hahn’s employees said.

Once the heirs are confirmed, the county can enter into official negotiations with the Bruce family, said Liz Odendahl, a Hahn spokeswoman, so it shouldn’t be long before the county signs the deed to Bruce descendants.

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