Mary Cummins, Real Estate Appraiser, Animal Advocates, Los Angeles, California

Mary Cummins, Real Estate Appraiser, Animal Advocates, Los Angeles, California
Mary Cummins, Real Estate Appraiser, Animal Advocates, Los Angeles, California

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Bruce's Beach, Willa & Charles Bruce beach property in Manhattan Beach, California being returned, Appraisal, value, by Mary Cummins

Bruce's Beach, Bruce Beach, Willa Bruce, Charles Bruce, park, racism, black, african american, mary cummins, real estate appraiser, real estate, los angeles, california, kkk, whites, racist
Bruce's Beach, Bruce Beach, Willa Bruce, Charles Bruce, park, racism, black, african american, mary cummins, real estate appraiser, real estate, los angeles, california, kkk, whites, racist

In 1912 Willa Bruce bought her first of two lots in what is now Manhattan Beach. The lot was 33' x 100' located at what is now 2600 (2608) The Strand, Manhattan Beach, California. (Scroll down to see information about the property). She stated in 1912 that she paid $1,225 for the lot. Mrs. Bruce opened her beach stand selling food and renting bathing suits so people could enjoy themselves at the beach and swim in the ocean. At the time black people were not welcome at local beaches and did not own land there. Her beach stand became known as Bruce's Beach

The park which is currently named Bruce's Beach is not where Bruce's Beach used to be located. Bruce's Beach was located on The Strand on the beach. The park is located a few blocks away from the beach. Based on what's I've seen so far the two lots are about 33' x 100' or about 6,666 sf. combined. The lots are directly where the Los Angeles Lifeguard station is located. 

Below are some newspaper clippings in chronological ordered. I transcribed a few of them starting with one from 1912.

"COLORED PEOPLE'S RESORT MEETS WITH OPPOSITION. REDONDO BEACH. June 24. The establishment of a small summer resort for negroes at North Manhattan has created great agitation among the white property owners of adjoining land. The new summer resort which at present consists of a small portable cottage with a stand in front where soda pop and lunches are sold, and two dressing tents with shower baths and a supply of fifty bathing suits, was opened last Monday by the dusky proprietor and patronized by many colored people from Los Angeles. Yesterday when a good-sized Sun day crowd of pleasure seekers had gathered and donned their bathing suits to disport in the ocean, they were confronted by two deputy Constables who warned them against crossing the strip of land in front of Mrs. Bruce's property to reach the ocean. For a distance of over half a mile from Peck's pier to Twenty-fourth street, a strip of ocean frontage is owned by George H. Peck, who also owns several hundred acres of land in Manhattan in addition where Mrs Bruce's property is situated. This strip has been staked off and "no trespassing" signs put up and consequently the bathers yesterday could not get to the beach without walking beyond Peck's strip of ocean frontage. This small inconvenience, however, did not deter the bathers, on pleasure bent, from walking the half mile around Peck's land and spending the day swimming and jumping the breakers. All along the beach in front of the prohibitd strip which was patroled by the constables, the light hearted "cullud" people frolicked in the breakers or lay on the warm samd enjoying the sea breezes. 

Mrs. Bruce, a stout negress whose home is at No. 1024 Santa Fe avenue says most emphatically that she is there to stay, and that she will continue to rent her bathing suits to people of her race. She owns a lot on Manhattan avenue 33xl00 feet for which she paid $1225, a high price compared to the cost of near by lots. She says she purchased the property from Henry Willard, a real state dealer of Los Angeles. The entire next block in the Manhattan addition between Twenty- sixth and Twenty-seventh streets has been leased to Milton T. Lewis, a colored real estate dealer, by Willard. Lewis proposes to rent space for tents on this block to negroes who desire to come to the beach. 

The situation, as described by Mrs. Bruce, has a pathetic side, for she avers negroes cannot have bathing privileges at any of the bath-houses along the coast, and all they desire is a little resort of their own to which, they might go and enjoy the ocean. "Wherever we have tried to buy land for a beach resort we have been refused, but I own this land and I am going to keep it." She and her associates feel that it is unjust that they should not be allowed to "have a little breathing space" at the seaside where they might have a holiday. Her husband is a chef on a dining-car that runs between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. Property-owners of the Caucasian, race who have property surrounding the new resort deplore the state of affairs, but will try to find a remedy, if the negroes try to stay." June 27, 1912 Part I, Los Angeles Times. 

June 19, 1919 Juneteenth picnic at Bruce's Beach.

Bruce's Beach, Bruce Beach, Willa Bruce, Charles Bruce, park, racism, black, african american, mary cummins, real estate appraiser, real estate, los angeles, california, kkk, whites, racist
Bruce's Beach, Bruce Beach, Willa Bruce, Charles Bruce, park, racism, black, african american, mary cummins, real estate appraiser, real estate, los angeles, california, kkk, whites, racist

Bruce's Beach, Bruce Beach, Willa Bruce, Charles Bruce, park, racism, black, african american, mary cummins, real estate appraiser, real estate, los angeles, california, kkk, whites, racist
Bruce's Beach, Bruce Beach, Willa Bruce, Charles Bruce, park, racism, black, african american, mary cummins, real estate appraiser, real estate, los angeles, california, kkk, whites, racist

1924 the City of Manhattan Beach voted to condemn Bruce's Beach to build a park. Condemnation proceedings began against the Bruces. This article below states it was racism and hatred against the Bruces and black people. I transcribed the article below the image of the article. The land ended up being vacant for 30 years and no park was built until many years later. They should have won the lawsuit but lost because of judicial corruption against black people. Must have been depressing to be a lawyer representing black people back in the day. Even today it's depressing trying to stand up for your rights in places with judicial corruption like good ole boy Texas and the South. 

December 26, 1924, California Eagle

Bruce's Beach, Bruce Beach, Willa Bruce, Charles Bruce, park, racism, black, african american, mary cummins, real estate appraiser, real estate, los angeles, california, kkk, whites, racist
Bruce's Beach, Bruce Beach, Willa Bruce, Charles Bruce, park, racism, black, african american, mary cummins, real estate appraiser, real estate, los angeles, california, kkk, whites, racist

"Bruce's Beach Fights Condemnation. Mr and Mrs Chas. A Bruce and their son, owners of Bruces Beach, are facing an action in the Superior Court filed by the City of Manhattan in which that city, seeks to condemn all the property owned by colored people at Manhattan Beach, under the pretext that it is to be named for a public park.

Bruces Beach. as it is commonly called is one of the best known resorts patronized by our people in the State of California, and many outings and parties have been held there during the past fourteen years the Bruces have maintained it. 

The Bruces have won an enviable reputation by reason of the upright and Chi??? conduct, and even their enemies at Manhattan Beach who are fostering the papers to confiscate this property under the guise of 'condemnation' proceedings, admit that their conduct has been exemplary and the management of the place of the highest order. 

Atty. Willis O. Tyler has been engaged to prosecute the defense of the Bruces and is preparing an answer to the Condemnation Proceedings in which he will set out the fact that racial prejudice is the real question to be tried and that there is no necessity for the condemnation of the Bruce' property for park purposes. In fact, says Atty. Tyler, there is much vacant-property on both the north  and south side of the property which could have been obtained and the fact that the city seeks to restrict its proposed park to the property owned by colored people duly is palpable attempt to use the condemnation proceedings as a ruse to carry out the race prejudice which has taken this particular form of objection to members of our group having the right to enjoy bathing in the Pacific ocean." 

Turns out the city condemned 30 lots total for the park, see the link below I just found. Five were owned by blacks and 25 were owned by whites. Some had shacks and some were vacant. Allegedly the amount of money paid for the land was more than market value at the time. This caused citizens to be upset that the city spent so much money over paying for the land for a park. The 1929 condemnation payments were for about $100 to $2,900 per lot. The Bruces received about $14,500 for the two lots of land in the condemnation process though their lots were improved. One person received $1,300 and another received $2,900 for one lot in the same block 5. These lots also faced the ocean and were right next to the Bruce's lot. Based on this settlement it appears the Bruces were paid over market for their land. It appears they were paid more than many of the white people. Still, they didn't want to sell and the city didn't build the park. It was an abuse of the condemnation process to run out the Bruces. I feel the white neighbors pressured the city to condemn the land for a park just to push the Bruces out of the area due to racism.

I found some land values from for PECK'S MANHATTAN BEACH TRACT. 1905 the land was offered for $350 to $800. At the same time someone else was offering them for $550 to $1,100. 1908 block 2 lot 11 sold for $10. 1907 lot 1 block 12 sold for $10. Based on what I'm seeing the Bruce's over paid for the property when they first bought it. I assume they were happy that someone would sell them the land as most wouldn't sell to black people at that time. Allegedly Peck sold two blocks to black people via a black real estate agent. The agent and Peck clearly ripped them off for profit. Peck also ripped off white people as it was a less desirable area. This area was farther from the pier and other development. That's why it was vacant for so long. That's probably why Peck allowed black people to buy it. Thank god things have improved though we are still far away from any real equality. The Bruce's paid $10 for their second lot in 1920. 

I decided to do a historical evaluation of the land as of 1929 when the Bruce's were paid for the land. Lots were still asking $375 from George H. Peck. That's the same price he was asking in 1905. He didn't get it in 1905 and doubt he got asking in 1929. In 1926 the city of Manhattan Beach bought 36 lots on The Strand in a more desirable area north of the Bruce's lots for $75 a front foot from Peck. The Bruce's lots were 33' wide each so that would be $4,950. The Bruce's lots were in a much less desirable area farther from the pier and development. Even then the citizens of Manhattan Beach said the city paid too much for Peck's land. It appears Peck had a good "relationship" with the city for them to pay such a premium for his lots over others. 1929 ocean view lots on the sand in Manhattan Beach for $595 asking max. 

I stumbled upon other news items concerning the Manhattan Beach parks in 1929. The city was going to turn those sites into parks. They stated they couldn't afford to maintain the parks so they asked Los Angeles County to lease and maintain them as a county park. California had just offered $3,000,000 funding for cities, counties to buy land for parks from private parties. The county agreed to take over George H Peck's 1/2 long strip of The Strand June 1929. I think this may have been the strip of land Bruce's patrons were not allowed to cross over so they had to walk 1/2 mile up and around that strip to get to the ocean. That may be a different strip but it's the same sand strip in front of The Strand boardwalk which we now call "The Strand." Based on everything I've seen the Bruces were paid over market value for their land in 1929. Still, they didn't want to sell.  

This land used to be somewhat worthless as it was sand dunes. It was kind of like swamp land back in the day. The land speculators made a ton of money selling the land. Of course Peck liked selling them the land as he made out like a bandit. He over charged many people. Manhattan Beach eventually ended up hauling away the sand dunes and selling the sand to be used in construction elsewhere years later. There is only one sand dune left in Manhattan today.

Willie "Willa" Bruce died September 5, 1934 in Los Angeles, California. "BEACH OWNER PASSES Mrs. Willie Ann Bruce, proprietor of Bruces beach, passed away after a long illness - September 5 Funeral services were held from the First AME church, Eighth and Towne, with Rev. J. B. Isaacs officiating. She is survived by a son, daughter and grandson, all of Los Angeles."

Based on records she had five children but only one survived, her son Harvey Anthony Bruce who died in 1954. Harvey had two sons, Harvey and Bernard who are both dead. I assume they have children. 

Governor Gavin Newson signed Senate Bill SB 796 in 2021 allowing the State of California to allow Los Angeles County to give the land to the Bruce family. 

Information about the land and value

Based on everything I've read the two lots are 33' x 100' each. They are located at 2600 The Strand, Manhattan Beach, California 90266, see map below. The original address was 2608 The Strand, Redondo Beach, CA. The Los Angeles County Lifeguard Training Facility is located directly on top of the land. The County offered to give them the exact two lots or two lots in the parking lot directly next to them. The County also offered to continue to use the land and just pay them rent. 

Below are the parcels circled in red and a satellite image of the same. I don't know exactly which two parcels they are so I'll assume they are interior lots and not a corner. Update, first lot was lot 8 of block 5. They bought lot 9 for $10 in 1920. Both interior lots. The legal description of the entire site today which includes six lots is PECK'S MANHATTAN BEACH TRACT  LOTS 5,6,7,8,9 AND LOT 10. The Los Angeles County Tax Assessor number is 4177-024-901.

Below is a satellite image of the site. It's at the red tiled Lifeguard Training Center building. The Center and its parking lot are six lots. Two of the lots are the lots in question. 

There is more land located on the other side of The Strand which meets the sand. This is the strip of land which used to be owned by George Peck. That land is now owned by the county and Federal government. I think they may have taken it by condemnation. It makes you wonder if the county would have taken Bruce's land by condemnation for the Lifeguard Center years later if Manhattan hadn't taken the land for a park. Of course the Lifeguard Center only took the land because it was a vacant park.

I've appraised a lot of property in this area on The Strand. I don't think the two lots are worth $75,000,000. I pity whoever does the appraisal  because if they don't come in around $75,000,000, they'll probably be called a racist, get negative reviews on their business, death threats and maybe even some complaints against their license. I know that sites right next to those lots are single family homes and duplexes. The lot would have ended up single family zoned if it wasn't condemned for a park. The Bruces were living at the property. It was sold as lots for homes. I pulled all properties located on The Strand right next to the site sold within the last two years. Obviously there are no land sales. If we look at the cheapest home, duplex sales on The Strand with similar sized lots we can get the land value. 

2316 The Strand 5,715 sf lot with 5,500 sf 6 bed, 7 bath home sold 09/2021 for $16.5M newer home.

2508 The Strand 4,556 sf lot with 5,328 sf 4 bed, 5 bath home sold 09/2021 for $12.2M newer home.

2804 The Strand 3,481 sf lot with 3,469 sf 4 bed, 4 bath home listed for $16.4M didn't sell older home. 

2722 The Strand 6,927 sf lot with 6,000 sf 8 bed, 9 bath duplex sold for $17.7M 11/2020 built 1951 sold for land value as a double lot. 

2508 The Strand

Just for a high ballpark figure we can use 2508 The Strand one block away. This has a newer luxury quality amazing house on it and it just sold. If it were only land, it would have sold for $2,677/ft. Obviously the land is worth less than that because it has an amazing house on it. 6,666 sf Bruce Beach site x $2,677 is $17.8M. This would be the maximum, maximum the site would be worth today if it were sold on the open market.

Fortunately 2722 The Strand sold 11/2020 for $17.7M as a double lot development for land value. It's two blocks away. This is slightly larger than the Bruce site. Based on all I've seen the current market value for the site is somewhere about around $17.7M. This is not an appraisal as I have not inspected the site and don't know all the limitations and issues with the site. It might not be possible to build anything on the property today because of the California Coastal Commission, it's in a tsunami zone and low laying area. There could also be an issue because there's a lifeguard tower in front of the site. There is also the other piece of county land that is between the property and the beach/ocean. This is not waterfront property. If that's the case, they should just rent the site to the County Lifeguard Center as is. If they try to develop it or sell it for development, I see a lot of litigation, costs and hassles by neighbors and government agencies. 

It'll be interesting to see if this opens up the flood gates for more people wanting back the land they sold, gave away, had condemned, stolen by the government years ago. I could really see Native American Indians asking for their land back. Their land was stolen outright except for a few who sold though not on fair terms. Some original Mexican owners who owned the land after Native American Indians would also be entitled to some land as well. They had their land stolen or swindled from them. I could see others just wanting to renegotiate or take advantage of the huge increase in real estate values. 

UPDATE: A recent article stated the Los Angeles County Tax Assessor will be reappraising the property with "no zoning restrictions as is." I assume this will be for tax purposes of the assessor is appraising it. If they charge transfer tax or capital gains, there will be a huge tax. They'd have to sell or lease it back instantly. No zoning restrictions means it could be used as commercial, retail, hotel ... anything. I appraised it as it's most likely zoning which is residential. It would be worth more with no zoning restrictions. As they are only two small interior lots bounded by the Life Guard building and parking lot there is no way they would really build anything like a hotel or restaurant. With the Coastal Commission, single family neighbors, NIMBYs and others I doubt they could build anything other than residential. At that point I think the Life Guard would have to move the center entirely. 

Just found this great history of the Bruce's and their land after I wrote the article.

Nice Powerpoint presentation

Here is a thesis someone wrote about Bruce's Beach from 1956.

Los Angeles County report on how the land would be returned. They suggest maybe swapping some land in the park for the two lots. Many suggestions.

Here's a map of tract 8867 which shows people used to own the lots basically on the sand west of The Strand. All that land now belongs to the government as the high tide lines have changed.

Another old plat map before the area was further subdivided

Mary Cummins of Cummins Real Estate is a certified residential licensed appraiser in Los Angeles, California. Mary Cummins is licensed by the California Bureau of Real Estate appraisers and has over 35 years of experience.

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