What do business leaders think is the worst single thing about living and doing business in the Valley area?

It’s not taxes and regulations. It’s not the relative lack of cultural and entertainment amenities. It’s not even the intense heat (although that gets honorable mention).

No, it’s traffic.

Traffic got mentioned more often – far more often – than anything else by local leaders who were asked what they believe is the worst aspect of living and working in the Valley area. They were asked as part of this year’s Valley 200.

(The Valley 200, which is included with this issue of the Business Journal to paid subscribers, is a book profiling the 200 most influential leaders in the Valley area. Since we don’t want the book to be just a stack of résumés, we asked a few personal questions.)

In fact, the Valley 200 profilees mentioned traffic as the worst single aspect about this area more than 65 times. That’s well more than double the 27 mentions that heat got. Nothing else rated as high as those two. Taxes and regulations were cited six times. Other nettlesome aspects that got multiple mentions: the wind, the belief that the Valley area is ignored politically and the claim that we lack abundant cultural and entertainment amenities. I was surprised that “worrying about the next big earthquake,” was mentioned only once (by Erika Endrijonas of Los Angeles Valley College).

But traffic congestion so clearly vexes people that apparently there’s a belief that 100 percent of the folks agree. When Martin Cooper of Cooper Communications was asked his pet peeve, he said, “As the other 199 will respond: traffic/transportation.”

What’s interesting is that the scourge of traffic seems to be metastasizing. As least, traffic got mentioned even by folks in the Santa Clarita and Conejo valleys – far from the intersection of the 101 and 405 freeways.

I must admit this is a little puzzling to me. When I began working in the San Fernando Valley two and a half years ago, I was struck by the how much less congested the area is. Traffic is more intense in the Los Angeles basin.

I know what you’re thinking. Yes, I know the 101 Freeway through the San Fernando Valley has been rated the worst single commute in the United States. I agree that if Dante were with us today, he’d say, “OK, so there’s a tenth circle of hell and it’s called the 101.”

But two seemingly contradictory things can be true at once. In this case, the commute on the 101 Freeway may be the worst in the entire Los Angeles area (and the 405 through the Valley is no cakewalk) but the rest of the Valley area is less congested than the L.A. basin. If you can stay off the 101, or get off it quickly, your commute likely won’t be too bad because the surface streets are less congested than their counterparts over the hill.

The heat is what surprised me most when I started working in the Valley. I expected it to be 10 degrees hotter in the San Fernando Valley, but often it’s 20 or 30 degrees more than, say, Santa Monica. On Friday, July 6, the day we experienced crematorium-level heat, my car thermometer read 127 degrees. I have never been so hot.

In my view, the heat is the worst single aspect of living and working in the Valley area.

But we asked our Valley 200 profilees the opposite question: What’s the best aspect of living and working in the Valley area? And if you read through their responses, you’ll see there’s plenty to like.

Several mentioned the bounty of good stuff all around. Said Larry Haworth: “Proximity to the beach, desert and mountains.” “Access to anything and everything!” said Karen Gabler of the LightGabler law firm. “There’s nothing you can’t find within a few minutes or a few hours.”

And many said they really like the sense of community here, the tighter bond of neighbors. Fred Gaines said the best aspect of living and working in the area is “Friends and family – It’s small town in the big city.”

And finally, this interested me: A lot of our most influential people like to work odd hours.

We asked the Valley 200 what time they do their best work. A common answer was early in the day, such as 7 or 8 a.m. But a surprising number said earlier than that. CEOs including Todd Stevens and Ronald Tutor said their best work time begins at 6 a.m. Jonathan Fraser Light starts his day at 5 a.m. at Starbucks. Robert Scott and Kathryn Barger start at 4 a.m.

Some said they are at their best in the evening – sometimes well into the evening. For some reason, those in the Education chapter of the book tend to keep late hours. Dianne Harrison does her best work from 6 to 11 p.m. David Steele-Figueredo from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Gerhard Apfelthaler said “definitely past midnight.”

And then there are those who apparently need little sleep and are apt to work any time or really-off hours. Randy Witt said he’s at his best from 5 to 8 a.m. and then again from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Harut Sassounian is most productive from midnight to 3 a.m. That’s one way to stay out of the heat.

And then there are those who do their best work on the weekends. Stephanie Forman said: “Evenings and weekends – when it’s quiet.” And Horace Heidt said he’s at his best from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. – on weekends.

I guess to be considered among the most influential, you need to put in the hours. Odd though those hours may be.

Charles Crumpley is editor and publisher of the Business Journal. He can be reached at ccrumpley@sfvbj.com.