L.A. Traffic Meets Presidential Motorcade Gridlock

President Obama's motorcade caused gridlock in the Los Angeles area last night, although one wonders how people could distinguish it form the average Monday.

President Obama was out in Los Angeles last night for a fundraiser, and his presence didn’t go over too well with Southern California commuters:

With a quick visit to Los Angeles at rush hour, President Obama raised $1 million Monday for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

He also alienated some Angelenos, at least temporarily, as his motorcade mangled evening traffic en route from the Beverly Hilton to the Hancock Park home of producer John Wells, whose credits include “West Wing,” “ER” and “Southland.”

Onlookers lined Olympic Boulevard, snapping cellphone photos. One person held a small sign declaring, “We need jobs.”

Although it was a friendly crowd, the street closures snared not just vehicles but pedestrians — if calls, e-mails and posts to The Times’ website were any guide.

“I was an Obama supporter, but … was stopped by police from crossing Olympic to get home … during my daily dog walk,” Amy Christine said on the website. “I’ve lost all belief in his judgment. Can he really think he’s more important than the tens of thousands of people trying to get home to their families?”

The Los Angeles Police Department said that it had received several calls from people about the traffic and that the Secret Service had not shared street-closure information with the department.

Immigration rights supporters demonstrated in Hancock Park dressed in costumes from “The Wizard of Oz.” Their signs asked, “Obama, where is the reform?”

As some of the comments at the L.A. Times web site show, people weren’t happy about the traffic:

I just want to know what moron scheduled this so that all major e/w streets were closed for 7-10 miles and for about 3 miles n/s. Total and absolute gridlock. NO ONE is that important, especially when no offical business is being conducted. As usual, Democrats have absolutely no common sense. Then again, when you have a tenant in the White House whose never had a real job, and who has never been an “average” person, common sense doesn’t factor in too often. I will NEVER vote for a Democrat again if this is how they are represented.

Posted by: Michael, MPA | August 16, 2010 at 07:59 PM

I was stuck in this traffic and missed a doctor’s appointment. I have never seen anything like this in Los Angeles. Complete gridlock – no one knew where to go. I know this is petty, but it infuriates me that thousands of us are inconvenienced, with NO warning, so that Obama can have dinner with a rich Hollywood producer. Couldn’t they do Sunday Brunch? I support the Prez, but he owes LA an apology. Here’s a tip: DO NOT COME TO LA DURING RUSH HOUR AND CLOSE OUR MAJOR ARTERIES. YOU WILL LOSE FRIENDS VERY QUICKLY.

Posted by: Sam | August 16, 2010 at 08:07 PM

That’s it, I’m done. I even voted for him, but now I’m convinced that I’ll vote for anyone but him in the next election. If this is how he handles something as mundane as a visit to Los Angeles, I have zero confidence in his and his team’s ability to navigate the complex issues facing the country today. Who’s the incompetent who figured it was OK to shut down Santa Monica and Olympic during rush hour? And how about the radio traffic reporters who said that they couldn’t tell listeners which streets were closed because of “security.” Someone should lose their job over this…in addition to Obama in 2012.

Posted by: Steve | August 16, 2010 at 08:27 PM

But, this one made me laugh:

With all due respect, how can one tell whether rush hour traffic on the Westside is worse? On a good day, without Presidential visits, it’s a parking lot.

Posted by: Malby | August 16, 2010 at 09:10 PM

On some level I can’t help but find this all just a little funny.

For one thing, hearing Angelinos complaint about traffic due to one Presidential visit is, as the last comment above notes, a bit ironic considering what the average rush hour in L.A. is actually like.

For another, after living in the Metro Washington, D.C. area for twenty years, I’ve gotten used to the occasional traffic jam due to some security detail passing through. Is it a hassle ? Yea, especially when you’re caught up in it when you have to get somewhere or you just want to get home. But, it’s just something you deal with. So, you know, grow up Angelinos.

That said, I will agree that the Secret Service does seem to overdue security at times to a point that unnecessarily inconveniences ordinary citizens and, as someone said, if you’re going to schedule a Presidential Motorcade trip, rush hour in the second largest metropolitan area in the United States probably isn’t the smartest time to do it.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. James Joyner says:

    Official motorcades are something of a pet peeve of mine, since they presidential model has filtered down to mayors and other potentates. I understand the need for security, but it often borders on princely treatment.

  2. JKB says:

    Why should Angelinos grow up? Obama was not in LA for his day job. He was their as the headliner in to raise money for more elites to stay elite. Obama could have stayed home, put in a full days work and for the country nothing would have changed. In the end, I find it amusing that ll this disruption and all the could squeeze out of the fabulously wealthy Hollywood was a measly million dollars. On the other hand, at least people showed up. Obama has had string of visits where the local Dems scatter when he comes to town.

    Best way to show their displeasure is for all those “inconvenienced” by the Obama train is to vote against anyone supported by the funds raised. A little negative reinforcement would go a long way to stop the DCCC from scheduling an event at such a disruptive time in the future.

  3. James,

    Since I don’t spend nearly as much time in Downtown DC as you, I don’t run into the motorcades nearly as much. I can see how they’d quickly become a pain in the backside…….

  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    All we’re saying is if there’s going to be gridlock it should be because of a high-speed chase. Then at least there’s an entertainment value.

  5. Michael,

    Perhaps something featuring a white Ford Bronco followed by a caravan of police cars while being pursued by news helicopters ?

  6. Frustrated Bus Rider says:

    It’s not just about worse traffic than normal rush hour on a regular day. There were bus passangers everywhere, waited at bus stops for HOURS til it’s dark and cold out, got stuck on the road couldn’t get home after a hard day of work, because one person, ONE person decide to close the streets during rush traffic hour in the middle of LA city without communicating to the public. Random buses were all over the place but their regular routes because they didn’t know where they could go!

    Consider this visit a failure!

  7. MstrB says:

    It wasn’t so much the motorcade that was the issue us Angelenos can deal with a police cars going by, but the blocking of major streets in that area for several hours in the area around the fundraiser is something else. The other things is if you give people a heads up that streets are going to be closed for several hours they can plan ahead.

    I’ve got stuck in two of these “safety zone” closures in downtown before one involved getting patted down to go to work because Biden decided to have lunch in the building and the other was getting stuck on a bus for an hour because the bus route was blocked by the Secret Service. Both minor inconveniences that could be avoided with some planning with the locals.

    On a side note, they also shut down two runways at LAX for an hour and say there were no delays.

  8. BigFire says:

    Well, thank my lucky star that my business in Westside was in the morning, and not in the afternoon. My route goes directly through the ONE’s no-fly zone.

  9. Steve Plunk says:

    Typically the rush hour gridlock is on the freeways. The surface streets become congested but not to a standstill for hours like in this situation. They have a right to complain, his highness showed the people who mattered. Him.

  10. Mitchell says:

    Has it ocurred to anyone that the cost to taxpayers is probably far more than the $1 million raised for the Democratic party?

    It might be cheaper, and far more productive for taxpayers(and the President I might add) , if every time the sitting President decides to visit a major population center and tie up traffic, they just write a check instead!

  11. wr says:

    Funny, I remember sitting in gridlocked traffic when the former vice-president was visiting Los Angeles to raise money, and I didn’t see any conservative complaining about how this proved he hated America or was incompetent.

  12. MstrB says:

    @wr- There aren’t that many conservatives living in that part of LA.

  13. sam says:

    Snicker…and I’m from LA. West LA, at that. All you frustrated Angelenos, go see my comment @
    https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/parking-space-economics/, and weeeeeep.

  14. Brian Knapp says:

    JKB, Steve Plunk, et. al:

    This happens all the time for Presidents – all Presidents. Not just Obama. I worked a motorcade once that not only shut down 7-10 miles of highway and surface streets, but an airport as well. It also required, in addition to the usual Secret Service detail, city, county, and state officers all on overtime. Very expensive.

    This was in suburban-rural Kansas, where there is likely zero chance of any security threat (since the population of the area he was visiting is something like 15,000), especially to then President George Bush (who was supported by basically everyone). What was he doing? Visiting one guy. One lousy guy. A Republican-only matter that had nothing to do with his day-to-day job.

    Fair and balanced coverage? Doesn’t seem so.

    I echo James and Doug here, security is necessary and we will begrudgingly accept the headache that goes along with it, but it definitely borders on princely parade. For all presidents.

  15. JKB says:

    Brian, yes it was only Obama this time because he’s the one in the big bubble. However, as with all who require a security disruption, they should give some thought about their impact and that they will be held accountable for the disruptions in public opinion. And yes it is the protectee’s responsibility as they should ask the Secret Service about the level of disruption expected and make an informed decision. But in general people just want an opportunity to avoid so not announcing is always going to be bad PR. I wouldn’t expect Obama and his people to understand but having notice and a choice goes a long way to smoothing over disruptions.

    I was thinking of how much worse this’ll be a few years when all the Electric Vehicle batteries die while sitting in hot traffic running the A/C.

  16. Brian Knapp says:

    JKB – Agreed. I understand the need for security and leaking the route would certainly be a breach, but there must be some way to offer alternative routing prior to arrival. Faking a construction close-down would be easy enough. There’s usually days of advance notice that can be given in those cases.

    The EV cars comment is funny, but certainly valid.

  17. The Q says:

    The simple solution would have been to have the fundraiser at the hotel and not individual’s residence’s.

    This would have solved all the traffic problems since the streets shutdown (if any) would have been near the Beverly Hilton.