Gardner Street Women’s Bridge Housing Center
In the middle of a homelessness crisis, this project serves as a noteworthy example of how underused historic buildings can serve an essential new purpose.
In 2018, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti introduced “A Bridge Home,” a $20 million program to open emergency homeless shelters in all 15 City Council districts. Known as “bridge” shelters, these emergency shelters are intended to give Angelenos experiencing homelessness a safe but temporary place to stay while they find more permanent housing.
In September 2019, L.A.’s seventh bridge shelter opened in a former library in Hollywood. Constructed of brick and stucco with a steel and wood roof, this Mid-Century Modern library opened in March 1959. It was first known as the West Hollywood Branch Library and was later renamed the Will & Ariel Durant Branch Library. In 2005, a larger Will & Ariel Durant Branch Library opened a half-mile to the east, replacing this branch.
The 4,000 square-foot library, which had served the community for decades, sat largely unused for years, awaiting a new purpose. That purpose came in November 2017, when Councilmember David Ryu introduced a motion proposing this site for bridge housing. The project was approved in May 2018, with funding provided by Measure HHH, a property tax increase approved by voters in 2016.
Now known as the Gardner Street Women’s Bridge Housing Center, the former library provides temporary housing for thirty women. The site’s amenities include beds, bathrooms and showers, a kitchen, a dining area, a common area with couches and books, a courtyard, and a garden. The location also provides on-site services to the residents, including mental health counseling, classes and programs, job and life skills training, and more.
City of Los Angeles crews completed the work to convert this former library into housing while keeping key historic details intact. On the interior, they preserved the original circulation desk and central clock, and shelves originally used for books were repurposed as residents’ storage. On the exterior, the City preserved the building’s Mid-Century features, including its honeycomb breeze screen wall and matching trellis.
Upon the center’s opening, Councilmember Ryu said to the Los Angeles Times, “The fact we were able to salvage this building, keep its historic integrity and help meet the crisis of our time is beautiful.”
We couldn’t agree more. In the middle of a housing and homelessness crisis, this project serves as an example of how underused historic buildings can serve an essential new purpose.
The Conservancy recognized the Gardner Street Women's Bridge Housing Center with the Chair's Preservation Award in 2020.