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Carmageddon: For many it was a car-free weekend to savor

July 17, 2011 |  4:40 pm

Click here for more photos From Santa Monica to the Valley to Westwood Village, it was a weekend to savor.

Around the Santa Monica Pier and the Third Street Promenade, people sat on benches enjoying gelato, basking in the sun and taking in the slight breeze.

Anthony Scovotti of New York sat with longtime partner Gabriela on a bench near the entrance to Santa Monica Place. The two were on a weeklong tour of the California coast and said the 405 closure made everything run smoothly.

"Every day should be a 'Carmageddon' day," Scovotti said.

PHOTOS: Carmageddon closes the 405 Freeway

Sandra Cisneros, 35, who lives five blocks from the mall, sat on another bench, reading a book. She said her neighborhood was relatively crowd-free this weekend.

"It was like dead man's town," she said.

Cisneros said she moved to L.A. three years ago and traffic remains the main gripe. But this weekend, she got to forget about it.

Over on Sawtelle Boulevard near the Olympic offramp, Jesse Hendon, 31, finished off the Carmageddon weekend with a peaceful stroll.

The insurance salesman from Century City said he wasn't able to avoid driving because he has clients all over the city, "but everybody else did. Life was good."

He said he was shocked by how clear the roads were. "People in L.A. definitely changed their lifestyles for a weekend," he said. "Change can take place with the freeways and we're all still alive."

Hendon said he walked to the bars nearby Saturday night, and his buddies -- generally car commuters -- biked. "It's an easier way to get around and they were able to bike back, didn't have to worry about finding a taxi cab at the end of the night."

One West L.A. resident shrugged off the Carmegeddon hype and did a little bit more than usual Saturday -- traveling in just 10 minutes from West L.A. to Sunset Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway to go surfing.

"I usually don't go to the beach on Saturday because it's packed," Justin Wong said while studying for a computer science exam Sunday outside a restaurant in Westwood Village.

When the other half of the bridge comes down next year, he predicts it will be different. "They are going to expect it to be like this," he said. "So then they'll be going out more."

At Ronald Reagan-UCLA Medical Center, staffers on Saturday created their own community. Roughly 275 nurses and staffers bunked in the UCLA dorms and sections of the hospital. At Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center, 34 employees slept in the soon-to-be-open hospital wing, said spokesperson Roxanne Moster.


Carmageddon ends: 405 Freeway reopens

Why drivers stayed off the roads during Carmageddon

Carmageddon: JetBlue passengers, race participants describe experience

-- Andrew Khouri, Robert Faturechi and Nicole Santa Cruz

Photo: Chris Kanis, 29, relaxes on Rosie's Dog Beach in Long Beach with his dog Peanut, a Chihuahua mix. People and their animals enjoyed the day far removed from "Carmageddon" happening on the 405 freeway over the weekend in Los Angeles. Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times