Lowriders Look For the Right to Cruise Through National City Again

The South Bay city banned cruising in 1992. A coalition of lowriders wants to change that

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A cherry red ’62 Chevy Impala pulled into the parking lot super slow.

Then a mint ’49 Hudson rolled by super low.

Then a ’47 Chevy Fleetmaster.

A parade of lowriders filled the parking lot at National City’s Kimball Park on Thursday. Their cruise has been considered illegal in the city for decades. But, a group called the United Lowrider Coalition is trying to change that.

“This is part of National City’s history,” said Jovita Arellano of the coalition. “You’re going down the street and everybody’s honking at you and thumbs up. It’s a passion that we have.”

Arellano said the lowrider community is much bigger than the coalition and many of them used to cruise down National City’s Highland Avenue.

“I think people often forget that the Mecca of lowriding is Highland Avenue,” said Coalition member Aida Castaneda.

However, those days of cruising are over in National City. The city banned cruising in 1992 after large crowds congested traffic and even lead to several crimes. Arellano argued the crowds were the source of the crime, not the lowriders themselves. Either way, cruising has been banned in the South Bay city for almost 30 years.

“We were frustrated,” said Arellano. “It was very sad because it was a part of you ripped away.”

San Diego, Coronado, and Oceanside have similar bans.

Castaneda and Arellano said their coalition is working with National City to try to get the law repealed. The city is hosting a virtual forum from 5 to 7 o.m. Thursday.

Arellano said the lowrider community has changed.

“Take a look at who you’re dealing with now,” she said pointing to her husband’s Impala. “Take a look at the different car clubs all throughout San Diego County.”

Castaneda said the law goes way beyond worrying about traffic congestion.

“Having a law that discriminates against an activity that’s prominent within Black and brown communities, how else do you describe that but institutional racism?” she said.

National City Mayor Alejandro Sotelo-Solis said she looks forward to hearing from the community and believes changes could be made.

“Tonight’s forum is a great opportunity to hear directly from the community regarding the culture & history of lowriding in National City. I’m proud, and hopeful, that this is also the beginning of a broader discussion around the future of cruising including events, culture & ordinance in our city.” 

Arellano said she hopes the future includes a drive down Highland Avenue but it depends on working together.

“What are we going to do? How are we going to work together with the city?” she concluded.

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