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Manhattan Beach mayor apologizes to Bruce's Beach families, unveils new city monument

Colleen Shalby and Rosanna Xia, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES — After nearly three years of controversy and intense debate, Manhattan Beach on Saturday held a ceremony of its own to acknowledge its racist history at Bruce’s Beach — and to mark what city leaders are calling a new chapter of healing.

More than 100 residents, city staff and government officials gathered to reflect on the fact that the city once ran an entire community of Black beachgoers out of town. Standing before a new monument that spelled out this historical injustice, Mayor Steve Napolitano asked the crowd to join him in a moment of silence.

“It has been a long road — too long — to get here,” said Napolitano, who personally apologized to all the Black families whose properties had been seized by the city a century ago — and who called on the rest of the City Council to do the same. “We’re here today to unveil a new plaque, to reconcile our history, confront some uncomfortable truths, and recognize how far we’ve come — while acknowledging how far we still need to go.”

While Los Angeles County led the unprecedented charge on returning the county-owned portions of the land back to the Bruce family, the local response on what to do with the rest of the land — which had been turned into a park overlooking the sea — has been subject to immense criticism.

Much of the city’s efforts have focused on how to replace a commemorative plaque that had glossed over how and why the land had been taken. City leaders have also dedicated $350,000 for a commemorative art installation that will be the biggest art project ever commissioned in Manhattan Beach.

But deliberations over what the new plaque should say have been charged. Critics say the new text still whitewashes the history of Bruce’s Beach, and many questioned whether creating a new monument actually amounts to justice.


“This feels like far too little, far too late,” said George Fatheree, a prominent real estate transaction lawyer who represented the Bruce family pro bono.

“Where was the city three years ago when the county started the process of returning the land to the Bruce family? What about the property taken from the other Black families which is still owned by the city of Manhattan Beach?” he said. “This feels like a performative gesture rather than an earnest attempt at restitution and reconciliation.”

The history of Bruce’s Beach resurfaced in 2020, when a call for justice prompted city, county and state officials to take a closer look at what occurred there.

Charles and Willa Bruce had made their way to California in 1912, years after white developers claimed the ancestral homelands of the Tongva people and established what is known today as Manhattan Beach.


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