A statewide movement to end cruising bans moves to the state Capitol Monday and lowrider groups from across California, including National City, are sending a collective message to lawmakers: repeal decades-old cruise bans.
The groups have submitted letters in support of an Assembly resolution that urges municipalities with anti-cruise ordinances to lift the bans and work with local car clubs to restore a pastime that “is all about fun, the love of cars, the love of culture, and the craft of maintaining a vintage vehicle.”
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“They do a lot for our community and this is a hobby,” said Assemblymember Luz Rivas, D-San Fernando Valley, who introduced ACR 176 in April. “That’s why I wanted to introduce this resolution in the state Assembly so that statewide there is something on record that honors them and encourages the local governments to lift the cruising bans.”
The resolution is scheduled to come before the Assembly Transportation Committee on Monday and, if approved, move on to the Assembly floor.
ACR 176 is largely a symbolic gesture acknowledging that cruising is a cultural pastime largely for many Mexican Americans and that anti-cruise laws are outdated and discriminatory, Rivas said. Because cities “usually want local control, I wanted to start off with this resolution,” she said, adding that “we could change the state law.”
The Assembly member referred to the state law passed in 1982 that allowed municipalities to block cruising after declaring it “interferes with the conduct of business, wastes precious energy resources, impedes the progress of general traffic and emergency vehicles, and promotes the generation of local concentrations of air pollution and undesirable noise levels.”
Rivas said she was motivated to bring the proposal forward after hearing from car clubs in her district and about the National City-based United Lowrider Coalition’s efforts to repeal that city’s 1992 cruising ordinance. Soon enough, she learned that similar initiatives are happening across the state, including in San Jose, Santa Rosa, Modesto and Sacramento, which became the first California city to overturn its “no cruising” law after a unanimous City Council vote last month.
Lowrider groups are “helping each other build one strong voice in California that these laws are discriminatory,” said Flavio Huizar, community outreach liaison for the Sacramento Lowrider Commission.
“We went to Chicano Park and then to National City and met with (the United Lowrider Coalition) and found that we have allies there. We told them, ‘Man, we’re this close,’” said Huizar about the commission’s visit to San Diego County a month before the Sacramento law was lifted.
It was a win in Sacramento, but also celebrated in National City because “it’s the same culture anywhere and we’re all united,” said Jovita Arellano, a member of the United Lowrider Coalition.
“We all want the same thing and together we can do it. This resolution unites us even more and sends a message that, yes, we want a repeal of the ordinances but also of the stigma attached to lowriders,” she said.
Members of the United Lowrider Coalition have even reached out to cities outside California. Last weekend, members and National City Vice Mayor Marcus Bush flew to Albuquerque for the Lowrider Albuquerque Supershow, where they learned how the city was able to lift its cruising ban in 2018.
Lowrider communities said that underneath the effort to have the bans lifted is the desire to be respected and recognized as “positive influences,” said David Polanco, president of the United Lowrider Council of San Jose. “We are active in the community, we have a good relationship with police and we’re organized as a council so anyone can reach out to us.”
Though San Francisco has no cruising ban, the lowrider community there is supporting groups in other cities. The Bay Area city is considered a cruising haven after local lowriders sued the police and then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein in 1980 over civil rights violations. Since then, “we’ve been able to cruise,” said Roberto Hernandez, founder of the San Francisco Lowrider Council.
Besides drafting a support letter, the council has also been encouraging groups to elect candidates who understand and support lowriders, Hernandez said.
In National City, where elections will be held in November for two new council districts and the mayoral seat, the cruising debate is entering the political stage.
The United Lowrider Coalition said they plan to host a candidate forum later this year to learn where council hopefuls stand on the cruising topic. Members said they are motivated to host one following their decision to cancel a cruising pilot program that could have cost them thousands of dollars for city services.
Later this month, the South Area Caucus of the San Diego County Democratic Party is expected to consider whether the party supports the repeal of National City’s cruising ordinance.
“Lowriding is not political until it is. I think the community wants to know where people stand on this,” said Rafael Perez, who drafted the resolution for the party’s consideration.
On Tuesday, National City council members rejected 3-2 a motion to revisit a conversation about repealing the 30-year ban. Councilmembers Jose Rodriguez and Bush voted in support.
Councilmembers Mona Rios and Ron Morrison said that with public safety as a top priority, the city must follow a process to assess if cruising can safely work in National City. Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis said the city’s Lowrider Ad Hoc Committee, which includes herself, Rios, Police Chief Jose Tellez and members of the United Lowrider Coalition, will try to reconvene and continue the dialogue.