Completing the Return of Bruce's Beach to the Legal Heirs

Peck’s Manhattan Beach Tract Block 5 (“Block 5”), part of the property commonly known as “Bruce’s Beach,” is currently owned by the County of Los Angeles (“County”) and is the site of the County Lifeguard Administration Building. In the early 1900s, Charles and Willa Bruce owned Lots 8 and 9 of Block 5 (the “Property”) and operated a successful seaside resort there that welcomed Black beachgoers from all over Los Angeles.


In 1924, the Manhattan Beach Board of Trustees voted to condemn Bruce’s Beach through eminent domain under the ostensible purpose of building a park, but it is well documented that this move was a racially motivated attempt to drive out the successful Black business and its patrons. The Bruces’ Property was condemned in 1929, the City
of Manhattan Beach demolished the Bruces’ resort, and the Bruces left Manhattan Beach.


In 1948, the City of Manhattan Beach transferred Block 5, including the Property, to the State of California (“State”). This land remained State property until 1995, when the
State transferred it to the County as part of a larger transfer of eight State beaches to the County. This transfer included statutory conditions that restrict use and ownership of the land. The County Fire Department currently uses this property for its lifeguard operations.


At the request of the County, Senate Bill (“SB”) 796, “Returning Bruce’s Beach to its Rightful Owners,” was introduced to eliminate the statutory restrictions previously placed on Block 5 that prohibited the County from transferring the Property back to the legal heirs of Charles and Willa Bruce.


On April 20, 2021, the County Board of Supervisors (“Board”) voted to support SB 796, and directed County staff to formulate a plan for the return of the Property to the
legal heirs of Charles and Willa Bruce. In response to the Board’s April 20th motion, the Chief Executive Officer released the “Report Back on Returning Bruce’s Beach to its
Rightful Owners” (“Report”) that included a plan to return the Property to the Bruce family.


The Report affirmed that returning the Property is in the public interest and laid out the next steps needed for land assessment, property tax evaluation, continued County
occupancy of the site and/or relocation, and appropriate safeguards to ensure that the Property is transferred to the legal heirs of Charles and Willa Bruce.