Bruce Property

California Returns Land “Wrongfully” Taken Ninety-seven Years Ago to Heirs of Original Owners

The Narrative:

California returned land “wrongfully” seized to heirs. In 1924, due solely to racism, the City of Manhattan Beach (CA) seized land from Charles and Willa Bruce, an upstanding, hardworking, God-fearing Black family. The Bruces  operated a “popular” lodge on the property and were paid an “outrageously” low price by the City.

This act was so offensive and racist, that California had to deliver the land (now worth $72 million) to the Bruce’s heirs.

The Facts:

In 1912, the Willa purchased a piece of land for $1,225. On the land she and her husband operated a motel and bar/restaurant/dance hall.

In 1924, the City Of Manhattan Beach condemned and seized, via eminent domain, over twenty-four properties, including Willa’s, to build a park. The park was reportedly never built (Although, as you can see from the above picture, the property sure looks like a park today!) The city paid the Bruce family $14,000 for the property.

Recently, the land (not clear if only Willa’s parcel or all 24+ parcels) was returned to the Bruce heirs. The current value of the returned property is 72 million dollars.

A Few Queries:

  1. Was the taking unfair? Answer: Probably not. At least twenty-four other adjacent parcels were also taken for the building of the park. It looks like the city wanted to build a seaside park but never got around to it.
  2. Was the price paid by the state for the property really “outrageously” low? Answer: Probably not. The payment received for the property was almost 12 times Willa’s original investment (assuming she didn’t take a mortgage) and represents a 22.51% annual rate of return on the original cost of the property. (Note: If a mortgage was taken on the property, Willa’s annual rate of return could have been as high as 118%).
  3. Will the heirs of the owners of the other 23 parcels of property also be able to get a $72 million windfall? Answer: Only if they can make their presence known, really known, via Facebook and Twitter.
  4. Will the Bruce heirs have to return the price originally paid to their ancestors by the state of California with interest? Answer: Hell, no! But if the transaction were to be accurately reversed, the Bruce heirs should receive back the property and the City of Manhattan Beach should receive back the payment made to Willa plus interest. P.S. $14,000 at 7% for ninety-seven years comes to $11,734,975.30. (Does the family below {The Bruce Heirs} look like they are going to give back over 11 Million Dollars?)
  5. Will the Bruce heirs repay the City of Manhattan Beach for ninety-seven years of maintenance and ninety-seven property taxes that were incurred or foregone by the city? Answer: Hell, no!
  6. Will the Bruce heirs have to pay capital gains tax on their 72-million-dollar windfall? Answer: Very good question!!!
  7. Does every California taxpayer know that they each contributed $3.72 to the Bruce heirs?
  8. Was the land returned because the Bruce family (and their heirs) were upstanding, because they were hardworking, because they were God-fearing, or because were Black? Answer: Can’t answer this question or we’ll be cancelled!
  9. How can I get a deal like the Bruce heirs? Answer: Practice, my friend, practice!
Bruce Family Heirs
Alan Bianco
Alan Bianco

I am a retired lawyer living south of the Mason Dixon line. I have always wanted to write on politics and now I do. I write with a twinkle in my eye and in my posts. I hope reading my commentaries makes you think. . . and laugh.