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California Assembly urges cities to repeal bans on cruising

Lowriders drive down a city street
Lowriders cruise down Highland Avenue after the San Diego Lowrider Assn.'s End of Summer Car Show in National City in 2019.
(Alejandro Tamayo / San Diego Union Tribune)

The California Assembly voted overwhelmingly Monday for a resolution encouraging cities to overturn their cruising bans and embrace the lowrider culture.

Assembly Concurrent Resolution 176, introduced in April by Assemblymember Luz Rivas (D-North Hollywood) passed with zero opposition, with 71 lawmakers of the 80-member Assembly signing on. The measure is now headed to the Senate.

Cruising in lowriders has long been a cultural pastime and artistic expression for many Chicano communities across California. Efforts to block cruising started in the 1980s after the state passed a law allowing municipalities to implement bans over concerns about traffic, noise and crime.

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The term “lowrider” then became synonymous with gang activity, but car club members say they’ve been fighting to rid themselves of the stigma to show the true values of the subculture: the love of cars, culture, community and hard work. They have worked to establish relationships with law enforcement and have participated in various community events, including charities, COVID-19 vaccine drives and the census.

“These laws wrongfully stereotype law-abiding car owners and conflate them with illegal street racers and sideshows who are and should be prosecuted for putting public lives in danger,” Rivas said. “It’s time for locals to follow these cities and repeal this archaic traffic law.”

Have you noticed? Every weekend, caravans of lowriders and custom cars are cruising and hopping in a resurgent ritual. Van Nuys Boulevard is one of the city’s oldest sites of this resilient SoCal obsession.

Several lawmakers, many of whom said they either own a lowrider or grew up in the culture, spoke in support of the resolution. Newly elected Assemblymember David Alvarez (D-San Diego), whose district includes National City, voted in favor.

Rivas said she “wanted to start off with this resolution,” largely a symbolic move, to preserve cities’ local control but motivate them to repeal their bans.

Members of the United Lowrider Coalition in National City, which is working to overturn that city’s 1992 cruising ban, said they hope the Assembly vote will sway city leaders to lift the ban.

“It’s exciting and it’s a great first step, but we’re still struggling here with our repeal because we haven’t gone back to the table [with the city] to discuss it,” said Jovita Arellano, a member of the coalition.

In May, the group held a test cruise as part of a pilot program in which the city would assess what to do with its ordinance after six cruises. After the May event, the coalition decided to end the program when the city said each cruise would cost the group thousands of dollars for city services.

City officials, including the police chief and a majority of the City Council, have said that the costs are to ensure public safety, particularly around traffic flow, and that they are open to settling the logistics of cruising with the coalition.

“As the official National City Lowrider Committee continues to meet and discuss next steps, we are encouraged to learn more about how communities around the state are working with law enforcement, city staff and the lowrider car clubs to create a safe cruising and family-friendly environment,” Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis said in a statement.

She said a date to meet with the coalition has yet to be determined.

The state Senate is expected to consider the resolution when it reconvenes in August.


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