Carmageddon II: Bar mitzvah at Skirball will go on as scheduled
As overflow Carmageddon II traffic streamed onto Westside roads, local real estate agent Clifford Rowe said he was "conservatively optimistic" about the fate of his son's Saturday night bar mitzvah at the Skirball Cultural Center next to the 405 Freeway.
"We anticipate there will be some delays," Rowe said.
Rowe and his family have been planning the event for the last year and a half and guests were flying in from New York, New Jersey and Arizona. Things seemed to be going smoothly until last month, when they found out about the freeway closure.
After several conversations with guests and family, Rowe said they decided to move ahead anyway. The center is located in the Sepulveda Pass, where a key section of the nation's busiest freeway has been shuttered for the weekend.
"We said, 'You know what? Life's tough, so let's just go for it,' " Rowe said.
Rowe called Caltrans personally to get assurances that Sepulveda Boulevard would be open, emailed maps of alternate directions to the 200-strong guest list and asked everyone to drive safe and be patient. For the most part, the bar mitzvah looked to be well attended.
"One person canceled," Rowe said. "But now four more people are coming because they canceled their plans to go out of town. Now we have to rearrange the tables."
A 10-mile section of the 405 is closed until Monday morning as part of a $1-billion widening project that will add a carpool lane to a section of the freeway.
At noon Saturday in the courtyard of the Skirball, the event staff for the Rowe bar mitzvah were taping down cables, installing mood lights and wheeling arcade machines and photo sticker booths into place. Juancarlos Cortez, a lighting technician, said such preparations usually don't start seven hours early, but the freeway closure forced them to move up their plans
"We had to come early to beat the traffic," Cortez said.
Nearby, in one of the center's auditoriums, hundreds of doctors gathered for a conference on new topics in allergenic medicine. Organizer Cathy Pollak said the freeway closure hasn't affected attendance so far, but she's concerned about the drive home.
"It was a breeze getting up here, but I don't know what it's like out there because I've been huddled in this facility since 6 a.m," Pollak said.
Outside the center's windows, traffic moved briskly on Sepulveda Boulevard.
-- Frank Shyong
Photo: Construction crews work to demolish a portion of the Mulholland Drive bridge along the 405 Freeway Saturday. Credit: Jonathan Alcorn / Getty Images