Charles and Willa Bruce spent $1,225 to acquire the land in 1912 and used the property to allow Black beachgoers a place to swim. They also had a cafe and changing rooms added to the property, CNN reported. The lovely property became a breeding ground for white resentment, with Klan members posting “no trespassing“ signs, slashing the tires of Black beachgoers, and even burning down a neighboring home in an attempt to set the Bruces’ family property ablaze.
The family would not be driven away from their land, though, Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn told CNN and other reporters. So the city declared eminent domain in 1924, stripping the Bruce family of their home for about $14,125—a fraction of what the family asked. City officials did so under the guise of needing the space for a park, but the area was left vacant for more than 30 years, NBC News reported. It now includes a park and lifeguard station, which the Bruce family intends to rent to the city instead of moving back to the area.
“I believe if Anthony Bruce or anybody else in the Bruce family comes back here, we’re going to see the same exact thing,” Anthony Bruce told NBC News journalist Harry Smith. “I don’t think it’s changed, Harry. I think it’s still here, and that’s why we’re not rushing to set up shop again.”
Both Hahn and Newsom recognized that returning the land to the Bruce family will not remedy the structural racism that allowed the land to be seized in the first place. “We know our work is just beginning to make amends for our past, and California will not shy from confronting the structural racism and bias that people of color face to this day,” Newsom said in his release.
Hahn added: “The work is far from done. Now that LA County officially has the authority to transfer this property, my goal these next several months will be to transfer this property in a way that not only works for the Bruce family, but is a model that other local governments can follow. Returning Bruce’s Beach can and should set a precedent for this nation, and I know that all eyes will be on Los Angeles County as this work gets underway.”