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Lowrider cruising is back | National City approves cruising for the first time in 30 years

National City council granted a permit to the United Lowrider Coalition to cruise once again. The cruises will take place on the first Friday, starting in May.

NATIONAL CITY, Calif. — Lea este artículo en español.

Dozens of lowriders are hoping May 6 will be the first of many legal cruise nights in the South Bay, after an ordinance banned it for 30 years. 

"It’s going to be like a parade going down Highland. You know, saying hello to many of our friends, people we haven’t seen in years,” said Marcos Arellano, who is a lowrider and part of United Lowriders Coalition.

In December, the city suspended the law for six months to allow cruising on the first Friday of every month from 6 p.m. -9 p.m. on Highland Avenue. Lowriders say it's a pilot program and after the trial period, the city will determine the events and whether to lift the ordinance. This past Tuesday the council agreed that it will take place between Sixth and 28th streets from May to October. 

“I mean it's been 30 years that we have been restricted and sometimes we cruise once down Highland, but that’s it,” said Arellano

The law prohibits riding low and slow on Highland Ave, if it's more than once, while cruising with lowriders, low bikes or classic cars. 

The ordinance was meant to alleviate traffic congestion, stemming from lowriders cruising and also to avoid crime. 

Lowriders say police have not enforced the law in years, but those cruising have established a relationship with officials to make this a safe environment.

However, with the ordinance put in place, dozens of lowriders were affected, like Arellano and Rosales who immediately gained a passion for lowriding in the early 90’s. 

Arellano says to them it was an expression of art and a cultural identity for many in Southern California. In National City, men and women were joining the low and slow cruise. 

“I mean I put a lot of money in my car, a lot of sacrifice. I mean I was a college student back then, I didn’t have a lot of money,” said Marisa Rosales, who is also a lowrider.

Still, as it gained popular attention, more crowds started to gather. Meaning wrong crowds were igniting problems that were causing crime during the cruise show. Crimes that had no relation to the low riders, but painted them in a bad light because of the issues. City leaders say crime was at an all time high, which is why the 1992 ‘no cruising' ordinance was passed.

“All the people that the cruising attracted were what caused a lot of problems and so we became kind of the crime capital of the county. And a lot of it was because of what was happening on Friday nights. Businesses were being killed,” said Councilmember Ron Morrison, who has said he supports lowriders but also supports regulations. 

With regulations having police patrol the events, it will avoid traffic congestion and any issues from crowds gathering to see the artistic slow cruise. 

Meanwhile other city council members say this ban was discriminatory in the early 90’s and argues that it was intended to profile people of color. 

“You can talk to some of the lowriders who have been ticketed dozens of times, without actually doing anything,” said Councilmember Marcus Bush, who opposes the ban. He says other cities in the South Bay have also seen cruising, but National City is still the one with a law that prohibits it on a street.

Arellano, like many other lowriders, recognizes that this art show attracts large crowds from Tijuana to even Sacramento, but argues that they are encouraging good behavior and policing themselves. The United Lowrider Coalition urged everyone who plans to participate in the cruise nights to follow traffic laws, avoid drinking and clean up after themselves.

This first cruise will be at Sweetwater High School, and vehicles will line up and cruise at 6 p.m. 

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