The heirs of a Black family are being forced to sell their property for as little as 10% of its value – to Los Angeles County.
In the early 1900s, Willa and Charles Bruce were pushed out of a Southern California resort they built, which was beloved by the Los Angeles Black community. At the time, the Ku Klux Klan, along with other white residents of the area, used the corrupt laws to drive the family away. Then, racist city officials condemned their property in 1924 through eminent domain, claiming they needed the lots for a park.
The family’s resort was demolished, and the Bruce family moved away. The park would not be built for decades.
Now in the wake of the George Floyd incident, and the change in America’s perspective on racial justice, the Los Angeles County – in an effort to “right the wrongs of the past,” decided in June to return the Manhattan Beach land to the descendants of the Bruces.
But there were a BUNCH of strings attached to the return, as Media Take Out will point out below.
The biggest issue is that the land – now that it was returned – is no longer zoned for development. If the family wanted to develop the land, they will need millions of dollars to pay for lawyers and lobbyists, hoping to change Los Angeles’ draconian zoning laws.
The Bruce family members, none of whom live in Southern California, decided to take a low ball $20M price for the property. If the land was zoned for development, the land would be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, Media Take Out learned.
Attorney George Fatheree, who represents the family, said “What was stolen from the family was the property, but what the property represented was the ability to create and preserve and group and pass down generational wealth. And by allowing the family now to have certainty in selling this property to the county, taking the proceeds of that sale, and investing it in their own futures — that’s restoring some of what the family lost,” Fatheree said. “I think we all need to respect the family’s decision to know what’s in its best interest.”
Fatheree said the family members were wary of the years-long permitting fight they would need to wage if they wanted to start building.
“At the end of the day, what the family was very focused on was certainty and being able to access the proceeds of the sale,” he said.
State Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), who authored SB 796, said “It’s bittersweet. I’m excited about the fact that the family can reap some monetary benefit from property that should have been in their family for 100 years had it not been stolen, but it’s disappointing that the family came to the conclusion of having to sell the property because they saw no long-term financial benefit,” he said. “I think they just saw the writing on the wall and said, ‘Hey, we might as well sell it right now while the market’s good.'”
The parties have until the end of January to close the sale, according to Fatheree