Napolitano Law & Counsel

Bruce's Beach

The following is my statement on Bruce's Beach from the City Council meeting of September 1, 2020:

Yes, Black Lives Matter. Ultimately, how much that truth is recognized can only be answered by what’s in the hearts and minds and words and deeds across the lifetimes of those of us who aren’t black. While the issue has risen anew on a national basis since the injustice of George Floyd’s murder under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis, it has also risen anew here in Manhattan Beach regarding the history and legacy around Bruce’s Beach.

The story of Bruce’s Beach parallels the story of racism in America in the early part of the last century. Some of us knew it and willfully ignored it, while others have been woefully ignorant of it despite books and articles on it over the years. The result allowed it to just be for so many years, tolerated by those most unaffected by it.

That is no longer the case.

I want to thank everyone who brought this issue back to the forefront of our collective consciousness. There was a good faith effort to address it in 2007 but in today’s light, those efforts fell short. It is now our responsibility to address it in this new light, to fully recognize the entire truth of its history and underlying motives, to educate ourselves, so that we can make sure such a thing can never happen again, while also addressing any current issues of equity as we move forward as a tolerant, welcoming community.

We cannot fix or change the past. What we can do is learn from it. For me, that’s what this task force is about. To recognize the past, learn from it so it doesn’t happen again, and respect differences among people and viewpoints.

That said, I’m not a fan of creating false expectations or kicking the can down the road when discussing things that are currently being demanded. To be clear, we also need to talk about what the task force is not.

For me, the task force is not a settlement conference or negotiation for payment.

For those demanding reparations, these are typically considered by levels of government much higher than cities. In fact, the state of California has recently agreed to put together a task force regarding the subject and I encourage everyone’s participation at that level. The issue of reparations for historic wrongs against any group of people is much bigger than Manhattan Beach, and not the sole responsibility of our current residents.

For those demanding restitution, please know the City is precluded from making a gift of public funds for private purposes. Any such claims require a legal basis that can be pursued in the courts. There is certainly a moral claim to be made in this case, however, public funds can’t legally be used to pay such claims. (Ask Quinn)

For those demanding restoration of the former Bruce properties, these are currently under LA County ownership for use as a lifeguard headquarters. I support its continued use as a lifeguard station and leave it to others to ask that the County deed the property back.

The task force is not about defunding the police. I fully support our Police Department here in Manhattan Beach and this council has unanimously said it doesn’t support that. If changes need to be made to ensure an absence of discrimination in our policing, we’ll deal with those by changing our practices and procedures, not by defunding. I also agree that some of the things the police currently do should be done by others such as counselors, code enforcement officers and mental health clinicians.

Finally, the task force is not about checking a box and calling it a day. Equity and anti-racism efforts must be ongoing to be effective.

Yes, the City of Manhattan Beach is overwhelmingly white, in part because of the history of Bruce’s Beach, redlining and property covenants that kept African Americans and others from buying and owning property here. Those remnants of the Jim Crow era are no more and much has changed in our community and population since then. The barrier for entry these days, regardless of color or creed is money, not racism. Manhattan Beach is not a racist city. And just because it’s not as diverse as some would like it to be, that doesn’t make it racist. That’s not to say there aren’t or can’t be instances of racism here just like anywhere else, which again, is the reason for having a task force to begin with—to recognize, learn and respect as we move forward.