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Bruce’s Beach, an oceanfront property in Southern California seized from Willa and Charles Bruce in 1924 by county officials during the Jim Crow era, will be sold back to Los Angeles County for $20 million- less than a year after it was returned.
“The seizure of Bruce’s Beach nearly a century ago was an injustice inflicted upon not just Willa and Charles Bruce but generations of their descendants who almost certainly would have been millionaires,” Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Janice Hahn said in a statement.
The Bruce’s purchased land in Manhattan Beach, California, to create a “sanctuary” for Black residents to enjoy the beach amid racial segregation in the early 1900s. Black people were prohibited from accessing the majority of the beaches in the state. The owners and patrons of the property were terrorized by white members of the community and even the Ku Klux Klan. Still, the couple stood firm until the property was taken from the family in 1924 by the city council, which said they needed the land to build a park. Willa and Charles then sued but only received $14,000 for the land, reported to be worth approximately tens of millions of dollars.
Last Summer, Los Angeles County and the California state legislature worked out the legal issues and returned the property to the couple’s closest living heirs, their great-grandsons Derrick and Marcus Bruce.
Hahn researched the property’s history, embarking on the complex process of returning the property. Terms of the transfer agreement completed last June called for the property to be leased back to the county for 24 months, with an annual rent of $413,000 plus all operation and maintenance costs and a possible sale back to the county for nearly $20 million, the estimated value, per KTLA.