National City Leaders Confirm Lowrider Cruise Nights Sponsors Have to Pay Hefty Fee

The United Lowriders Coalition said it will not be able to afford the new set of fees proposed by the city of National City

Organizers of Cruise Nights say they aren't able to pay the $7,800 in security costs the city says it needs for each of the events to proceed in the future.

After the first lowrider cruise night was held in National City on May 6 following a 30-year-ban, the city of National City and National City Police Departments are proposing the event sponsor now foot a nearly $8,000 tab for each of its upcoming events.

The National City Police Department Chief of Police, Jose Tellez, said that the city engineer will also be making recommendations to an amended temporary use permit (TUP) if needed and the price may increase to up to $15,000 or more.

On April 5, National City approved a TUP for the United Lowriders Coalition to host six Cruise Nights on Highland Avenue, as a trial after the city repealed its cruising ban late last year.

The original permit was approved with the United Lowriders Coalition required to pay a nominal fee of a few hundred dollars to process the TUP with the city.

“It’s more or less the unity,” Deanna Garcia of the United Lowrider Coalition told NBC 7 the night of the first cruise. “When you come into lowriding, you’re coming into a family. You’re coming into having brothers and sisters. Everyone that you see, even if I don’t know you by name, you’re my family. I’m out here, you’re out here, we’re out here together. We try to push that unity.”

Several days after the first cruise, the organizers met with city officials to discuss the outcome of the event.

The National City Police Department provided the United Lowriders Coalition with a letter outlining several issues they say were encountered or observed during the event.

Some of the issues addressed included "extraordinary traffic congestion," a lack of "event-related traffic signage, and a need for dedicated police resources specific to the event."

The letter also stated that the estimated number of participants was "severely underestimated" compared to the actual number of vehicles, participants and spectators in attendance.

The original TUP signed stated, "an estimated audience of 50 people, and with up to 200 cars participating," said National City Mayor, Alejandra Sotelo-Solis.

Another concern raised was that "many vehicles were activating the hydraulics, causing the vehicle to rise off the ground and jump, riding on three wheels and purposely stopping and blocking traffic so others could take photographs," which are violations of the California vehicle code.

The United Lowriders Coalition said it will not be able to afford the new set of fees proposed by the city of National City.

The letter outlines that the National City Police Department wants event organizers to notify participants that drivers who violate the vehicle code during the event would still be subject to potential citations or having their vehicles impounded.

The National City Police Department said it believes six officers and one sergeant are required on an overtime basis for seven hours the day of each event, a cost of more than $7,800 per cruise night in police services.

The six assigned officers would be paid $152.33 per hour, and the sergeant would earn $202.21 per hour.

“The May 6th cruising event in partnership with the United Lowrider Coalition (ULC) was a great success with positive energy, a multitude of generations in attendance and hundreds of beautiful cars," Sotelo-Solis wrote in a statement sent to NBC 7. "As with any event, the city, in collaboration with our departments will partner with TUP (Temporary Use Permit) holders — in this case ULC — to make sure event needs are being met, including crowd management, safety and traffic congestion. Recommendations to assist in these areas were made to the ULC for future events."

“The agreement the city made with the United Lowrider Coalition in December 2021 did not have a financial cost to the Coalition, other than the $472 permit application and insurance," wrote National City Councilmember Jose Rodriguez when asked about the increased cost.

Rodriguez added in an emailed statement, "We need to keep our word as a city and not charge the United Lowrider Coalition the proposed $8,000 fee for every cruise."

Rodriguez also shared, "The coalition will be meeting with the lowrider ad-hoc committee soon. It’ll be an ongoing discussion. Likely resolved by next Council meeting on June 7."

The ad-hoc committee is expected to submit the TUP for an amendment to the National City City Council at its June 7 meeting, just four days after the second cruise night.

An organizer with the United Lowriders Coalition said that if the city council amends the TUP at its upcoming meeting to include the proposed increased fees, they will not be able to continue cruise night because they won't be able to afford the costs.

"We are hoping to come to an agreement with the city and police to remove the fees in order to continue the cruises," organizers said.

“It's part of our culture,” Henry Llamas, a National City resident told NBC 7. "This is something that goes many years back that was given to us. The lowriding scene is just art. Art that hopefully our younger generation can learn and keep the history going.”

"We can and have the possibility of the discussion of co-sponsorship or local sponsorships of local businesses or grants that may help offset these costs," said Sotelo-Solis. "Also, as we do with others, there are always payment plans."

Ongoing cruises are still going on, Sotelo-Solis confirmed Wednesday.

The next cruise night is scheduled for 6-9 p.m. on June 3 on Highland Avenue in National City.

A copy of the National City Police Department's letter to the United Lowriders Coalition can be read here:

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