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Santa Monica lawmakers approve motion to consider restitution for Black entreprenuer's descendants

The Santa Monica City Council unanimously approved a motion Tuesday to begin the process of exploring options for possible restitution for the descendants of Silas White.

In the late-1950s, the City of Santa Monica used eminent domain to take ownership of a property in which White, a Black entrepreneur, had entered a lease-to-buy agreement to purchase.

NBC4 recently reported on White’s plans to develop an old Elks Lodge that had sat vacant for over a decade into the Ebony Beach Club, a haven for Black beachgoers — a dream that never came to fruition.

The motion was set forth by Councilwoman Caroline Torosis after meeting with members of White’s family and the organization Where is My Land, which focuses on Black land theft across the country.

“I appreciate the council for actually coming together,” said Milana Davis, White’s niece. “We’re grateful for that because that has allowed us to now move forward.”

White’s parcel was one of six that now make up the footprint of the property where the Viceroy Hotel now sits at Ocean Avenue and Pico Boulevard. The city still owns the land and the hotel pays rent to the city in return.

The approved motion will give the city manager’s office 90 days to substantiate the White family’s claims to the land and offer recommendations for restitution, if any, to the city council.

Kavon Ward, who founded Where is My Land, previously spearheaded the effort that successfully saw the return of beachfront property in Manhattan Beach back to the Bruce family.

The Black family also had their land taken through eminent domain in the 1920s.

Ward called last night’s vote “a win.”

“People discounted the work, people minimized that. People said it was a one-off and that I got lucky, but this demonstrates that it wasn’t a one-off,” she said. “We are having success in California, but hopefully this sets a precedent and it keeps people hopeful from all around the country to fight, to fight like we fought here in California and to, you know, understand that it’s not going to be easy.”

Source: NBC Los Angeles

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