MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif .– California Governor Gavin Newsom signed law Thursday allowing the transfer of ownership of prime beachfront property to the heirs of a couple who built a resort for blacks in the early 20th century, but owned by locals of the country Officials were robbed.
The bill, which was passed unanimously by state lawmakers this month, was necessary to begin the complex legal process to transfer ownership of the former Bruce’s Beach in the city of Manhattan Beach, which is owned by Los Angeles County found.
“Getting here was far from easy,” said Kavon Ward, a black resident who learned the property’s history and founded Justice for Bruce’s Beach.
With half a dozen of the couple’s descendants, Newsom apologized for the way the land was taken before signing the bill during a ceremony on the estate. He suggested the move could be the start of broader reparations.
“That can be catalytic,” he said. “What we’re doing here today can be done and replicated differently everywhere.”
District chairwoman Janice Hahn, who led a government push to transfer the land, said the heirs would almost certainly be millionaires now if the property had not been taken.
“The law was used to steal this property 100 years ago, and today’s law will return it,” said Hahn.
The property on the south coast of Santa Monica Bay includes two lots purchased in 1912 by Willa and Charles Bruce, who built the first west coast resort for blacks when they were being held from many beaches due to racial segregation. It included a lodge, a café, a dance hall and changing tents.
White neighbors molested the Bruces and there was an attempt to burn the resort down. Manhattan Beach City Council used a significant domain to rob the Bruces of land that was supposed to be used as a park in the 1920s.
However, the land lay idle for years and was transferred to the state in 1948. In 1995 it was transferred to Los Angeles County for beach operations. It came with restrictions that limited the ability to sell or transfer property that could only be lifted by a new state law.
The district’s lifeguard training building is now there, along a scenic beach walk called The Strand, which is lined with luxury homes overlooking the beach. In Manhattan Beach, an upscale coastal suburb of Los Angeles, 84% of the 35,000 residents are white and 0.8% black, according to the city’s website.
That year, the city council formally condemned the efforts of their early 20th century predecessors to evict the Bruces and several other black families.
The county, meanwhile, has outlined steps needed to move the transfer forward, including assessing the value of the packages and trying to find ways to reduce the heirs’ tax burden.
The county also needs to review the Bruces’ legal heirs and possibly find a new location for the lifeguard headquarters. One possibility would be for the heirs to lease the land back to the district for further use.
Associate press writer John Antczak contributed to this report.
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