Where the Sepulveda Pass spills into the San Fernando Valley, gridlock is a way of life.
So much so that this weekend's closure of the 405 Freeway — one of the Valley's chief arteries to the Los Angeles Basin — is a non-event to residents whose lives are already structured to avoid the freeway's notoriously heavy traffic. (Still available are the Hollywood and Ventura freeways, plus surface routes like Beverly Glen Boulevard, Coldwater Canyon and Laurel Canyon Boulevard).
With days to go before Friday's shutdown, for example, Hudson and Molly Shock aren't plotting how they will navigate around it. They say they only drive "over the hill" about once a month anyway. "I do a lot of driving but it's all east-west," Hudson, 43, said as they picked up pumpkin ale and decorations at a Cost Plus in Sherman Oaks.
Many Valley dwellers say they spend their lives largely removed from "the city" because of the time it can take to traverse the 10-mile stretch of the freeway connector across the pass. So this weekend's closure will not alter their plans.
"There's nothing you can't do without for a few days," said Molly, 43, a freelance TV editor who lives and works in North Hollywood, and has a seven-minute commute. She usually only drives to the city to show out-of-town guests the sights, or now and then to visit friends.
When Erick Fidell worked at UCLA, driving from his Van Nuys home was a daily frustration. Now that he's unemployed — laid off from his job at the university's Film and Television Archive — it's just too expensive. The closure won't affect him, he says, because he does everything he can to avoid the 405 and 10 freeways.
"I just don't have the money to waste gas and essentially sit in a parking lot," said Fidell, 41, carrying a jug of water after leaving the 24 Hour Fitness at the Sherman Oaks Galleria. He lives a mile away, and sometimes takes the bus.
That some residents feel they could survive without the rest of Los Angeles is not new. The Valley retains a sense of itself as a separate entity, much as it did a decade ago, when residents mounted an effort to make it a separate city.
"We do kind of get treated as the stepchild of L.A.," Hudson Shock said.
Or, his wife interjects, like Cousin Oliver in the Brady Bunch. This is the Valley, after all.
The rush hour peaks at Burbank and Sepulveda boulevards, where cars sit motionless at the green lights, seeming to mock motorists at the freeway's entrances. This is a familiar sight for Tim Wilkinson, 37, who lives wedged between Sepulveda Boulevard and the 405 Freeway entrance, less than a mile down the road. He knows all too well what a small wrench can do, thrown into the huge machinery that is Los Angeles traffic. On days with the worst gridlock, he sometimes can't get out of his cul-de-sac.
For Wilkinson, a supervisor at a nearby Trader Joe's, the Valley is enough. There's more open space, restaurants and parking, he says. Even the diversions of Universal Studios lie within the confines of the Valley. "If you're stuck in traffic five days a week, you don't want to be stuck in it on the weekends," he said.
But the disconnect isn't total. When asked, Wilkinson admits that he always says he's from Los Angeles.
In the end, he said, Angelenos are all the same: "We know it's going to take forever to get from A to B."