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Bruce’s Beach Bill Clears Another Hurdle, Heads to Senate Floor

May 17, 2021

Manhattan Beach, CA—Today, SB 796, a bill championed by Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn which would allow Los Angeles County to return the Bruce’s Beach property to the descendants of Willa and Charles Bruce, cleared another legislative hurdle in Sacramento.

Chair of the California Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Anthony Portantino, determined that the legislation had no significant state costs and applied Senate Rule 28.8, sending it directly to the Senate Floor for a Second Reading without a hearing in the Appropriations Committee. The legislation had already passed the California Senate’s Committee on Natural Resources and Water last month with unanimous support.

“I never served in Sacramento but from what I am told, this legislation is moving quickly,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “I want to thank Senator Bradford, Senator Portantino, and everyone who has made calls in support of this bill. We are another step closer to returning Bruce’s Beach to its rightful owners.”

In 1912, a young Black couple named Willa and Charles Bruce purchased beachfront property in Manhattan Beach and built a resort that served Black residents. It was one of the few beaches where Black residents could go because so many other local beaches did not permit Black beachgoers. The Bruces and their customers were harassed and threatened by white neighbors including the KKK.  Eventually, the Manhattan Beach City Council moved to seize the property using eminent domain in 1924, purportedly to create a park.  The City took the property in 1929 and it remained vacant for decades.   

The property the Bruce family once owned was years later transferred to the State and in 1995 transferred to Los Angeles County.  It is now the site of the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Training Headquarters. 

Supervisor Hahn announced her intention earlier this year to return the property to the Bruce Family, but found that she needed State legislation before the County could transfer this property. When the property was transferred from the State to the County in 1995, the State imposed restrictions that limit the County’s ability to transfer the property.  SB 796, legislation introduced by State Senator Steve Bradford, would exempt the Bruce’s Beach property from statuary restrictions on the transference and use of that land to enable the County of Los Angeles to transfer the land to the descendants of its rightful owners, the late Willa and Charles Bruce. 

SB 796 next heads to the Senate Floor where it needs a vote of two-thirds to pass before heading to the Assembly.