Letters

Ownership of Bruce's Beach lots

RE: "Here's how state, LA County hope to return Bruce's Beach land to descendants of original Black owners," The Beach Reporter web page, 4/9/21

With state and county officials announcing efforts to transfer ownership of two publicly owned lots to descendants of the Bruce family, I am bemused, legally bemused. With a career in municipal law, this is especially so. Here’s why.

First, when the City of Manhattan Beach conveyed these two lots to the state in 1949, the deed contained restrictions that the use of the property could only be for a public beach or public park. Such restrictions may “run with the land” and may be enforced by our city or a city resident. So, the county may be legally prohibited from giving these two lots to a private party for private use.

Second, our state Constitution has a ban on “gifts of public funds.” Our state has this essential public finance restriction to assure that taxpayer funds or taxpayer owned land be for public purposes. In a nutshell, that’s the significant legal and policy conundrum for our state, or any state, that wants to provide reparations.

To amend our state Constitution to permit reparations, a ballot measure may be needed, not just a statute. Such a ballot measure could be placed on the ballot by the legislature with a two-thirds vote by both the Senate and Assembly.

The county may want to objectively consider all laws and grant deed restrictions prior to deciding to provide reparations for the two lots. Don’t be surprised if giving publicly-owned land, as reparations, is not possible under state law.

—Mark Burton, Manhattan Beach

Landowners displaced 100 years ago

Re: "Manhattan Beach condemns eminent domain against Bruce’s Beach, other Black property owners in 1920s," The Beach Reporter, 4/8/21:

Your front-page article regarding the [Manhattan Beach] city council’s decision to issue a condemnation rather than an apology for eminent domain proceedings enacted by the city 100 years ago — that displaced the Bruces and other families — presents an inaccurate account of events.

The lie of omission is the willful failure to mention the numerous White landowners who were also deprived of their property during these proceedings. The inconvenient truth is that the vast majority of the parcels taken were held by Whites. Your article goes on to list the names of all the Black landowners impacted but avoids even a passing reference to any of their White neighbors.

For the sake of historical accuracy and inclusion, allow me to present a partial list: B.H. Dyer, R.L. Rice, H.M. Eichelberger, C.W. Stone, George W. Yarrow, Lillie D. Dosta, Emma K. Barnett, Sara I. Ambrose, Marion R. Wyser…and the list goes on. Stop editorializing on the front page and say their names.

—Stephanie Monash, Manhattan Beach

Thanks from Councilmember Franklin

Re: "Manhattan Beach condemns eminent domain against Bruce’s Beach, other Black property owners in 1920s," The Beach Reporter, 4/8/21:

I would like to thank the many residents of Manhattan Beach for their expressions of support of the city council vote for an Acknowledgement Statement for Bruce’s Beach. We now can begin the healing process of reconciling the events of 100 years ago with moving forward. And, as we move forward, let’s remember the past and strive to live today the message of the Bruce Family, “All are welcome.”

Joe Franklin, Manhattan Beach city councilmember

Doing right regarding Bruce's Beach

Re: "Manhattan Beach condemns eminent domain against Bruce’s Beach, other Black property owners in 1920s," The Beach Reporter, 4/8/21:

In negotiations, it’s important to know the strength of ones’ position versus the other side. The Manhattan Beach City Council seems to have not realized that they had no strength in their position. Rather than doing the right thing, issuing an apology and looking for an amenable solution to the Bruce’s Beach issue, they dug their heels in and refused to be partners in doing justice. Fortunately, both LA County and the state legislature will do the right thing, returning the land to the descendants and leaving the council with nothing. We, as citizens of MB, have been embarrassed by the hubris and arrogance of the council and we pay the price for their arrogance.

As Manhattan Beach continues to not look like America, it will never understand 21st Century America – its injustices, its cruelties to minorities and its inequalities.

Rather than a hotel, perhaps the Bruce family descendants will consider building low income housing on their property, as way to bring both diversity and inclusion to this city, and begin the transformation to a city that looks and acts like a better America.

—Dennis Fitzgerald, Manhattan Beach

Looking beyond Manhattan Beach

In today’s world, it is difficult to “out virtue signal” our fellow neighbor, but certainly a narrow, progressive group of residents of Manhattan Beach are working hard to attain haloed status. One simple point: have any of our society angels driven five miles east and considered what $350,000 of “art work” would buy in actually doing something constructive to improve the lives of those who less fortunate than Manhattan Beach homeowners? Our local and global world would be a lot better off if thought and effort were directed toward doing something real rather than self-satisfying, narcissistic needs.

—Jeffrey Bronchick, Hermosa Beach

A personal apology

Re: "Manhattan Beach condemns eminent domain against Bruce’s Beach, other Black property owners in 1920s," The Beach Reporter, 4/8/21:

I have lived in Manhattan Beach for the past 33 years. I am ashamed, embarrassed and disgusted by the failure of our city council to issue an apology to the Bruce Family.

It is beyond dispute that the Bruces and other African Americans were run out of town 100 years ago solely due to the color of their skin. This abhorrent and racist action was undertaken by the city. The city, at the very least, owes the Bruce Family, and indeed all people of color, an unambiguous and full-throated apology. The fact that the current residents were not here 100 years ago is beside the point. It is the city that engaged in unconscionable and repugnant conduct. It is the city that has a moral and ethical duty to apologize.

I commend and thank Mayor Pro Ten Stern for her thoughtful and impassioned comments and her vote to apologize. I commend Councilmember Napolitano for his words as well, and understand the considerations that led him to vote for the tepid acknowledgment. As to our other three councilmembers, I will do what we do in a democracy and join with others to seek to defeat you at the ballot box, as your values are not my values.

Finally, while our council has declined, on behalf of myself and my city, I hereby apologize to the Bruce Family, and commit to making Manhattan Beach a place that welcomes and embraces people of all races and backgrounds.

Lloyd Bookman, Manhattan Beach

Quotation about apologies

Re: The discussion regarding Bruce's Beach, a quote from author Kevin Hancock: "Apologies aren't meant to change the past, they are meant to change the future." 

—April Wayland, Manhattan Beach

History of social injustice 

Re: "Manhattan Beach condemns eminent domain against Bruce’s Beach, other Black property owners in 1920s," The Beach Reporter, 4/8/21:

I agree that the Bruces suffered social injustice that should have never happened. However, so did prior occupants of the land. Indigenous native people occupied Alta California for thousands of years before the Spaniards claimed the land. Mexico then gained independence from Spain and Alta California became a Mexican province. California was then ceded to the U.S. to end the Mexican-American War of 1848.

History has flaws, and cultures and ideals change. If change is now called for, why stop with the Bruce’s? How much land in California should be repatriated to the Indians and Mexico, and what monetary retribution should be given to them? If we are going to make amends and take action, then all people that suffered social injustice and were driven from the land should be included in the cogitation.

—Ed Skebe, Manhattan Beach

Support for Assembly Bill 525

I agree with Isabella Sanchez ("Offshore wind generation," The Beach Reporter, 4/8/21), to urge our legislators to support Assemblymember Chiu's AB 525 for offshore wind power. Climate change is no longer a future issue. The climate crisis is here, is getting worse and getting worse more rapidly.

The good news is California can lead by example as we often do. In terms of grid resilience, wind and solar are complementary sources of power. We also need to install energy storage to capture that energy generated during off-peak times for use during on-peak times.

Electric vehicles and battery storage are two ways to accomplish this. We have done this at our house: solar power on the roof, two electric vehicles in the driveway and a 10 kWhr battery storage system create a micro-grid. When the electric grid has gone down, we still have power. Now imagine a world where this is the norm.

Distributed, renewable energy-powered microgrids across California, America and the world, increasing grid resilience and eliminating climate-destructive fossil fuel power generation. It is a vision we can make reality for the well being of ourselves and future generations. It is a vision built by supporting bills like AB 525. Please contact your legislator today.

—Jim Montgomery, Redondo Beach

Contact Lisa Jacobs lisa.jacobs@TBRnews.com or follow her on Twitter @lisaannjacobs.

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