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City That Seized Black Family's Resort Might Give Land Back

California city seized property in the 1920s
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 9, 2021 3:30 PM CDT

(Newser) – A family hopes to hold a major reunion soon, on the oceanfront land in Los Angeles County that was seized from their relatives a century ago. The City of Manhattan Beach and the state are considering returning the land to descendants of the people kicked off it in 1924, the Los Angeles Times reports. "It's not often we can correct these atrocities in America," a California legislator said. "But this is an easy fix." Starting in 1912, Willa and Charles Bruce owned a couple of lots along the beach where they operated a lodge, café, and dance hall. People called it Bruce’s Beach. The resort was the first seaside resort along the West Coast specifically for Black guests. Other Black families established cottages nearby. All endured harassment from the KKK and others until 1924, when the city used eminent domain to seize two dozen properties, giving the need for a park as the reason.

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The family also lost its opportunity to build generational wealth, per the Daily Breeze. A bill now in the legislature would allow the county, which now owns the land and uses it for a lifeguard headquarters, to transfer the parcel to the Bruce family. Los Angeles County probably would then lease the land back from the family. There's support, but public hearings have been contentious, and the city council voted Tuesday not to issue an apology to the family. Some opponents don't see the logic in apologizing for an event a century ago, while others express concern that an apology could spark lawsuits. If the current effort succeeds, it would be the first time that land in the US has been returned to a Black family to atone for a racial wrong. (Read more eminent domain stories.)

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