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Woman fighting for restitution of Santa Monica land seized from family on grounds of eminent domain

Woman fighting for return of Santa Monica property seized on grounds of eminent domain
Woman fighting for restitution of Santa Monica land seized from family on grounds of eminent domain 03:06

A local woman is seeking reparations from the city of Santa Monica, after her family's prized property was taken from them back in the 1950s. 

Where the Viceroy Hotel now stands, located on Ocean Avenue, is the property purchased by Silas White, a Black man back in the 1950s. He had intended to build a high-end beach club for Black people when he first bought the land, but had his dreams deterred when the city seized the property on the grounds of eminent domain.

Now, White's niece Milana Davis is fighting for restitution for her family for the wrongdoings of the past that robbed her family of generational wealth. 

"It's an open wound with no remedy," she said. 

White had already begun renovating in order to open "The Ebony Club" — a destination for Black people to escape segregation and enjoy the outdoors, when the city began to make moves to condemn the building in order to construct a parking lot. 

"From what I've been told, there were already 2,000 people signed up," Davis said, a list that included iconic Black singer Nat King Cole.

In order to fight city hall, White had even put up signs that declared the building's intention. The moves proved fruitless, as he eventually lost his property to the city. 

The situation mirrors that of Bruce's Beach, a Manhattan Beach property that was taken under similar terms in the 1920s. Similarly, the Bruce family had an opportunity of family wealth taken from them until 2022, when Los Angeles County transferred the property back to them, righting a century-old wrong.

That move was spearheaded by members of the Bruce family and the founder of "Justice for Bruce's Beach," Kavon Ward, who is now working alongside Davis in seeking reparations. 

"I think it opened up a lot of hope for Black people who have had their land stolen," Ward said. She is currently working on around 100 other eminent domain cases, more than half of which are in California. Her end goal is to earn financial restitution for the impacted families. 

"It means money," she said. "Money for the violation of civil and human rights, and money for taking land that could've gotten them more money."

Neither the City of Santa Monica nor the current owners of the property were available when contacted for comment on the pending situation. 

"It's frustrating. Disappointing," Davis, who is speaking on behalf of White's daughter, Connie, who now lives in Northern Califronia. "Maybe the right thing will finally be done and my cousin will receive some form of restitution for what was done to him."

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