Natural Resources Secretary Applauds Move to Return Bruce’s Beach to Rightful Owners

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Manhattan Beach property taken from Black family a century ago, to be returned.

SACRAMENTO — California Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot today applauded the signing of legislation that will enable the return of Bruce’s Beach, a section of Manhattan State Beach, to the Bruce family nearly a hundred years after it was wrongfully taken from them.

“This is one step in redressing a shameful act of racism,” said Crowfoot. “By acknowledging a past wrong, listening and learning from those wronged, and taking substantive action to change the course of history, we are taking a significant step to dismantle the racist legacy of inequitable outdoor access and land ownership.”

Today, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 796, which directs the state to change the use requirements for a portion of land within Manhattan State Beach which in turn will enable Los Angeles County to transfer the property deed.

Analysis from the California Legislature states that Bruce’s Beach was a Black-owned resort that began in 1912 when a woman named Willa Bruce purchased land overlooking the ocean. Bruce ran a popular lodge, café, and dance hall, providing a place of recreation for Black people in Southern California during a time when beaches were segregated and inaccessible to people of color. Here and elsewhere, Black people faced harassment, hostility and violence.

In 1924, the analysis states, Manhattan Beach city officials condemned the neighborhood and seized more than two dozen properties via eminent domain to create a public park. The Bruces and three other Black families sued, citing racial prejudice.

Los Angeles County currently runs a lifeguard center on the site and has expressed interest in returning the property to the Bruce family’s descendants, but cannot do so with the statutory restrictions. SB 796 removes the restrictions.

“At this important moment when our country is grappling with issues regarding race and culture, it is incumbent upon us to take stock of and critically reexamine our past,” said California State Parks Director Armando Quintero. “At State Parks we are also looking at contested place names, monuments, and interpretation at parks to determine what appropriate changes we can make to welcome all people and provide equitable access.”

The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) has identified equitable access to state parks, public lands, and natural, historical, and cultural resources as a priority to advance along with other priorities including enhancing climate resiliency and protecting biodiversity. The “California Outdoors for All Initiative” advances the Governor’s vision for a prosperous and equitable “California for All.”

The commitment is evident in the nearly $1 billion in 2021-22 budget investments for access-related funding prioritizing disadvantaged communities, including: 

  • $402 million in funding for State Parks deferred maintenance and wildfire reconstruction. 
  • $180 million in local grants for parks infrastructure through the Statewide Park Development and Community Revitalization Program.
  • $154 million for urban waterfront parks.
  • $95 million for the Indian Heritage Center. 
  • $75 million in priority parks acquisitions, projects and grants.
  • $40 million in programming funding for outdoor education and transportation through the Outdoor Equitable Access grant program.
  • $24 million in grants for coastal access for kids and disadvantaged communities through the Explore the Coast and Whale Tale programs.
  • $9 million for three pilot programs for expanding parks passes championed by the First Partner.

Additional investment commitments as part of the Urban Greening and Urban Forestry grant funds focus on disadvantaged communities, as well as funds through the Ocean Protection Council toward advancing equity across ocean and coastal policies statewide.

Continuing the state’s leadership to redress historic wrongs, the State Park and Recreation Commission today voted to advance the first park name change in the State of California, renaming Patrick’s Point State Park to Sue-meg State Park in honor of the original name for this area used by the Yurok people.