Bruce’s Beach: Los Angeles County votes to return beach properties taken from black owners during Jim Crow era

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to return the land to the owners’ family, Charles and Willa Bruce.

Known as Bruce’s Beach, the resort had offered black families a place to enjoy California life and was a labor of love for the couple. They bought the land in 1912 for $1,225 and built several facilities, including a cafe and changing rooms.

But harassment from white neighbors and the Ku Klux Klan snatched away their dreams.

The final blow came in 1924 when the city took the property through eminent domain and paid the couple a fraction of what they asked for. The city wanted the land for a park.

The property – now estimated to be worth $20 million – was transferred to Los Angeles County in 1995. Homes immediately adjacent to the property are priced at around $7 million each.

Last year, Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation that would allow the county to return beachfront property to his descendants.

The new law was drafted by Sen. Steve Bradford, who sits on the state’s new reparations task force.

“Here’s what repairs look like,” Bradford said, insisting the county isn’t giving the Bruce family anything, just returning their stolen property.

Tuesday’s vote finalized a proposal put forward by Holly Mitchell, chairwoman of the county board of supervisors, to return the land which is now a park with a lawn and a lifeguard training facility. “We’re not returning this land; we’re returning it to its rightful owners,” Mitchell said, calling it “a historic moment for our county.”

The vote outlined plans to return the beachfront property to the Bruce family. County officials will lease the property from the Bruces on a 24-month lease totaling $413,000 a year to maintain the facility.

“All the terror that is still in our hearts regarding these criminal acts that were perpetrated against innocent people in our family, it is important for people to understand, more than the money that was lost. We lost our family to because of this,” family spokesperson Duane Yellow Feather Shepard told CNN’s Stephanie Elam.

“It’s a step towards justice,” he added.

Kavon Ward, the founder of Justice for Bruce's Beach, is pictured in Manhattan Beach on Tuesday.

County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who worked on the motion with Mitchell, fought back tears as she told council, “This is going to be one of the most important things I’ve ever done.”

The decision is the result of a two-year effort by the grassroots Justice for Bruce’s Beach movement.

Kavon Ward, founder of Justice for Bruce’s Beach, told CNN that Tuesday’s decision was the fulfillment of her dream of seeing the land returned.

“I feel a certain sense of peace. I feel joy. I feel honored that the highest is using me as a vessel to help make this happen, to be the catalyst for this event,” he said. she declared.

CNN’s Stephanie Elam, Anna-Maja Rappard and Camila Moreno-Lizarazo contributed to this report.

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