By Dan Hall

Before it became a liberal and progressive beacon under the leadership of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights and the Santa Monica Democratic Club, the City of Santa Monica officially promoted terrible policies of exclusion. Decades-long efforts by the Committee for Racial Justice (“CRJ”), historian Nina Fresco, and other community organizations and activists have brought to light the City’s use of eminent domain to target Black and Latino families and business owners in the Belmar Triangle and the Broadway and Pico Neighborhoods. As a community, we have since been on a path of learning, healing, and restitution with the ultimate goal of justice.

In 2021, then-Councilmember Kevin McKeown led a courageous first step to promote outreach and give priority to families displaced by the 10 freeway in a “right to return” to affordable housing. In 2022, thanks to the efforts of Robbie Jones and Sandra Trutt, leaders and members of the CRJ, and then-Mayor Sue Himmelrich, the City formally apologized for its past treatment of our Black community. Over the years we have commemorated our Black history with a plaque at “The Inkwell,” storytelling and art at historic Belmar Park, exhibits at the Santa Monica History Museum, honoring famed Black-Mexican American surfer Nick Gabaldón, and blocking the landmarking of a home once owned by an avowed racist who actively sought to exclude Black people from our community. I believe these were great steps — but they are not enough.

It is now time to take the next step on this restorative journey. Last week, Councilmember Caroline Torosis and City Manager David White met with activists from an organization called “Where is My Land” (you can learn more about them on their Instagram (@whereismyland) who were involved in the return of the South Bay’s Bruce’s Beach to the Bruce family. They are now seeking restitution for another terrible moment of racial injustice right here in Santa Monica: the destruction of the Ebony Beach Club.

The Ebony Beach Club was a proposed business by a Black Santa Monican leader, Silas White. He founded the club in 1957 intending to host Black families at the beach. Located at 1811 Ocean Ave. — now the site of luxury condos and the Viceroy Hotel — the Ebony Beach Club would have been a hub for Black culture and community. However, the City of Santa Monica used eminent domain — the process to seize private land for “the public good” — to take the property from Mr. White. Their stated purpose was to build a parking lot. It doesn’t take a historian or a diversity, equity, and inclusion professional to uncover the blatant racism behind the action.

In these early days of Black History Month 2024, consider joining the call of Where Is My Land and support Councilmember Torosis’s efforts to have the City explore opportunities to right this terrible injustice and return this land to the White family. Learn more at

Dan Hall is a certified diversity, equity, and inclusion professional and LGBTQ+ veteran who served under the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. He is a former Vice President of the Santa Monica Democratic Club and cares deeply about maintaining and restoring the diversity of our beachside community.

Image by Lesia Duchenko

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